Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama to Continue Illegal Imprisonment of Inmates in Illinois

December 16, 2009

Barack Obama to transfer 100 Guantánamo Bay inmates to Illinois

Tim Reid in Washington

President Obama is to transfer at least 100 inmates inside the Guantánamo Bay prison to a jail in his home state of Illinois, the White House announced yesterday in the latest phase of his troubled effort to shut the controversial detention facility.

The move will be resisted by many on Capitol Hill and the US public, a majority of whom believe that Guantánamo should remain open. However, many in Illinois welcomed the announcement as they believe that it will create jobs.

Mr Obama has ordered the US Government to buy the Thomson correctional centre, a maximum-security prison in a rural area about 150 miles west of Chicago, from the state and turn it into a federal facility.

The jail, built in 2001 at a cost of $120 million (£74 million), has a maximum-security section that can house 1,600 inmates. Because of budget problems, that part of the facility remains empty. The minimum- security wing currently houses 200 prisoners. There are still about 215 detainees in Guantánamo, just over a month before Mr Obama’s self- imposed deadline to shut the facility by January 22.

He conceded last month that that deadline would not be met because shutting Guantánamo has turned into a major political and logistical problem for him and the White House.

Last month Greg Craig, the White House counsel put in charge of overseeing its closure, resigned after a classic Washington whispering campaign that made him the scapegoat for the failure to close Guantánamo within a year.

Congress has also passed a law banning any funding to close Guantánamo, except money to bring inmates to trial on US soil, and it is not clear how Mr Obama intends to pay for the security improvements that need to be made to the Thomson facility. One option would be to include the spending in a Pentagon funding Bill next year.

Mr Obama conceded in May that there are a significant number of detainees at Guantánamo who are too dangerous to release but who cannot be prosecuted because the evidence against them is so tainted.

Many of these detainees are expected to be sent to the prison, where they could be held indefinitely. Such an outcome has outraged not only opponents to having terror suspects on US soil but human rights groups.

The announcement last month that the US will try five al-Qaeda operatives, including Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, in a federal court near Ground Zero has sparked outrage among victims’ groups.

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