Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 14, 2009

FROM GITMO TO THOMSON?.... There's a near-empty prison in rural Illinois, in a town called Thomson. The federal government is reportedly eyeing the facility as "a leading option" to house suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay

Locals seem to think it's a good idea...

News that the federal government seems interested in transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Thomson Correctional Center was greeted warmly in this small, rural farm town along the Iowa border.

After holding out hope that the sprawling $145 million prison might improve the economic conditions in this remote area of the state, residents say any prisoners would be a welcomed sight.

...but a couple of Illinois Republican congressman have embraced the usual nonsense.

[Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.)] acknowledged "extraordinary unemployment" in northwestern Illinois--he put the rate at 17 percent -- but added: "The issue is: 'Are you going to exchange the promise of jobs for national security?' National security trumps everything. That's the safety of the people.

The lawmaker, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was concerned that "al-Qaida would follow al-Qaida" to northwestern Illinois if Thomson became the prison to replace Guantanamo Bay, which he believes is perfectly adequate. [...]

House Republican Mark Kirk of Northbrook, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, is circulating a sharply worded letter among the state's congressional delegation and state officials, urging the White House not to transfer suspected terrorists to the prison.

"If your administration brings al-Qaida terrorists to Illinois, our state and the Chicago metropolitan area will become ground zero for Jihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization," Kirk, a five-term congressman, wrote in the letter to President Barack Obama.

This is sheer idiocy. Maybe Manzullo and Kirk know better and want to create a panic for political reasons; or maybe they're just cluelessly popping off. Either way, there's really no excuse for federal lawmakers to be this wrong.

It's hard not to wonder if these guys are even listening to themselves. Locking up terrorists is bad for security? Federal prisons are "ground zero for Jihadist terrorist plots"? It's like listening to children.

Let's try to put this in a way that even Reps. Manzullo and Kirk could understand: the United States has already tried and convicted literally hundreds of terrorists. They're held in federal detention on American soil. The prisons have not become magnets for terrorism; there have been no escapes; there have been no attempted escapes; and there have been no efforts at breaking anyone out of any of the facilities. It's not an academic exercise -- it's reality.

[T]he apocalyptic rhetoric rarely addresses this: Thirty-three international terrorists, many with ties to al-Qaeda, reside in a single federal prison in Florence, Colo., with little public notice.

According to data provided by Traci L. Billingsley, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, "federal facilities on American soil currently house 216 international terrorists and 139 domestic terrorists. Some of these miscreants have been locked up here since the early 1990s. None of them has escaped."

A certain amount of political cowardice is to expected, but Manzullo and Kirk are just embarrassing themselves.

Steve Benen 4:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (48)

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If al Qaeda can dig itself into the rugged mountain fastnesses of remote northern Illinois, there'll be no stopping them!

Posted by: hells littlest angel on November 14, 2009 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

...but from the Al-Qaeda lairs and hideouts in Iowa, it'd just be a short foray to that prison in Illinois!

Posted by: wilson46201 on November 14, 2009 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

We have to fight the terrorists in Afghanistan so that we don't have to fight them in Moline!

Posted by: BGinCHI on November 14, 2009 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

I would turn it into a site for teaching remedial English to reporters from Chicago.

Posted by: Hazy on November 14, 2009 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

We were not holding prisoners in Guantanamo Bay because the were too dangerous to bring to the United States.

We were keeping them there because the Bush administration did not want to follow the laws we have upheld for over 200 years. As long as they weren't on US soil, they thought they could get away with anything.(Including murder)

And they did.

It's about time we had some sanity back.

Posted by: Atlliberal on November 14, 2009 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

same thing in Michigan - a maximum security prison in Standish Michigan now stands empty and all of the 300+ state employees laid off because Pete "Loose Lips Sink Ships" Hoekstra wet his depends and cried like the whiny a** t*tty baby he is. and the guy really thinks he is going to be the next governor.

Posted by: Loose Lips on November 14, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

As Arnold would say, girlie men. Maybe they need to be reminded, that is Obamas backyard too and he's not being a girlie man.

Posted by: Dave on November 14, 2009 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

News flash: Illinois Republican congressmen believe that their constituents are incompetent and cowardly, and would be unable to keep convicted criminals safely locked away.

There's your framing.

Posted by: josef on November 14, 2009 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Every time Kirk opens his mouth he loses more votes in Illinois.

Seems now he is abandoning the rural vote as well.

Posted by: donrcallmefrancis on November 14, 2009 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Up @TPM Sen. Jim Webb is now opposed to trials in U.S. favors military commisions.

Posted by: par4 on November 14, 2009 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Manzullo and Kirk are just embarrassing themselves."

If only Republicans had been capable of embarrassment over the last 20 years, the US and the world would be in better shape now.

Posted by: Decatur Dem on November 14, 2009 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Once again Repugnants (& Joey Lieberman) prove their loyalty to corporate america -- this time to the adult disposable diaper industry...

Posted by: neill on November 14, 2009 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Benen: "Embarrassed themselves"? Rubbish. Republicans are never embarrassed. Indeed, that fact is vital to their make-up, and would need be included in any description of a republican representative: "A politician incapable of suffering embarrassment".

Posted by: JW on November 14, 2009 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Brand new empty Thomson is a very sore spot for Illinois taxpayers.

Get this off our hands and create jobs?

Please Mark, keep talking. Alexi sends his best!

Posted by: Eric on November 14, 2009 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Court trials in lieu of military tribunals is a ridiculous idea, and will be a PR boon for terrorists. What the hell Eric Holder is thinking is a mystery. At a time when the public relations standing of Al Qaeda is at an all time low worldwide, we are voluntarily giving them the biggest stage with which to spout their propaganda. Absolutely a terrible decision.

Posted by: Pat on November 14, 2009 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Remember the "flypaper" theory of fighting terrorism embraced by some Iraq-war proponents? Perhaps imprisoning the Gitmo detainees in Illinois could be the 'bait' and then the FBI, DHS and etc could trap any Al Qaeda agents who show up in the region.

Posted by: meander on November 14, 2009 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Giving Al Q a stage? The rethugs are with their persecution of Islam and all Muslims in the Hasan Ft Hood matter. They are calling it Islamic terrorism and calling Hasan an Islamic terrorist. Now there's a recruiting tool, huh?

Posted by: Dave on November 14, 2009 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Manzullo is my supposed Representative.

This is actually the FIRST TIME EVER that I have EVER EVER EVER heard him do anything but just sit in the corner waiting for someone to tell him how to vote.

He has never done ANYTHING in Congress.

He was a rubber stamp, a completely silent rubber stamp, for anything and everything the BushCo Repub leadership told him to rubber stamp. And since BushCo is gone, he rubber stamps any stalling tactic he is told to rubber stamp.

Why my district keeps putting this worthless piece of crap back in office, I will never know.

There are Repubs, and then there are the guys who are only there to vote the way they are told to vote - and never participate in any other way.

I am ashamed to have this milquetoast come from my district.

If he knew how to garden, we might call him "Chance" (after Peter Sellers' character in Being There.


Posted by: SteveGinIL on November 14, 2009 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK


Obama is trying to bring some JOBS into his state.

WTF is THAT about?

When was the last time anyone from IL brought Federal jobs into IL? I think it was in the 1800s...


Posted by: SteveGinIL on November 14, 2009 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Just googled Thomas, Ill. Nice little town with a river view. Iowa on the other side. Mississippi River if my geoghraphy is right. I see Casey's General Store and Arnolds Bikes and Embroidery. Even has an Executive Inn.

Posted by: Dave on November 14, 2009 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

Write the dork a letter. Give him the facts.

Posted by: Dave on November 14, 2009 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

Hey let's not forget Al Queda is allied with Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom. Those guys got a flying fortress that blow a hole right thru those prison walls.

Posted by: thorin-1 on November 14, 2009 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Kirk and Manzullo are typical Republicans- they oppose, slander, and obstruct everything Obama tries to accomplish- Manzullo voted down healthcare reform and Kirk sides against it too. I can't think of a better place to hold terrorists than the brand new, empty prison in Thompson, IL. They'll enjoy being surrounded by the cornfields, cows, pig farms, and Republican rural Illinois- not far from Blackwater's northern operations and the Quad Cities.

Posted by: Carol A on November 14, 2009 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

What is increasingly clear is that most members of Congress are not the "Best and Brightest" but quite the opposite. They appear to be the dimmest bulbs in America.

Posted by: beb on November 14, 2009 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly, to use the vernacular of the spoof of my state's governor, Reps. Manzullo and Kirk are a couple of girlie-men, afraid of people in jail who might somehow acquire superpowers, break out of jail, hijack a passing car, and crash it into a skyscraper. Or something like that.

Why are Republicans such wimps? When did "cowering in fear" become an American trait? When did the American system of justice become so fragile, so inadequate, that our best option is to execute anyone and everyone suspected of being a terrorist without even bothering to determine whether they are guilty of anything?

I'm not a New Yorker anymore, at least not physically, but my gut response to the 9/11 plotters involves my middle finger. Yeah, I know these guys are good at traversing monkey bars -- I've seen the video -- but the bottom line is that they're murdering thugs who found a convenient label - "jihad" - to serve as a veneer for their abject depravity. I'm not afraid of them, and I'd be more than happy to see them in a facility in my home town. (That'd be Folsom Prison. Maybe they could get a country song out of the experience.)

Posted by: TheOtherJim on November 14, 2009 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

My parents live about 15 minutes from Thompson, on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River. This prison has sat empty for about 8 years, is falling apart, and has only a skeleton crew for upkeep. Thompson is a tiny farm town of less than 1000 people. Those people are still paying for this prison with their tax dollars and it's been nothing but a money suck for the last 8 or so years. No one is housed there. At least it would bring in some jobs for the community and tax payer money wouldnt go to waste. There are not many good paying jobs in that part of the country. I grew up there and moved away because of that. If nothing else it would supply employment for people who need it to support themselves and their families. If anyone is worried about escape, there is no need. The only things in the area are the river, corn, cows, pigs, and soybeans.

Posted by: Kim on November 14, 2009 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

I live in the South, and I've been visiting newpapers on web sites in this region of the country. The republicans will not rest easy tonight. Most of them are having conniption fits over Holder's decision to hold terrorists in prisons on American soil during their trials.
The fear is palpable, and the threats are flying hot and heavy. There are calls for Obama's impeachment, citizen insurrection by militia groups and the KKK, and calls for NIMBY. It would be laughable if it weren't so sad. I've never seen so many so afraid. These are the same people who have been calling for endless wars and praising America's exceptionalism. They have no confidence in our ability to try these men in American courts and house them in prisons on American soil. They have no idea that we already have hundreds of terrorists locked up in our prisons who will never ever go free again. They just want to do away with the Constitution and head straight to the gallows, and now Palin has decided to help spread the fear. It is amazing to me that the loudest and most supportive warmongers are now quaking in their boots. It is cowardice at its best. I believe the source of their fear is not related to the terrorists, but to the idea that the public at large will learn about how Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al tortured people when they could have gotten the information by allowing the FBI to use well- documented interrogation techniques.

Posted by: majii on November 14, 2009 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

After reading Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine I was left with an overwhelming sense of the gut-wrenching fear that saturated the Bush Administration in all its policies regarding, dealings with, and thoughts about, the "war on terror" and terrorists.

A great deal of this fear originated in the Vice President's office, but no one in that administration was unaffected As a result the Bush administration never was able to think at all, let alone coherently, about any long-term offensive strategy for dealing with terrorists as it spent its energy lurching from distracting activity (bombing Afghanistan) to distracting activity (Iraq War, saber rattling against "axis of evil") as if to avoid any time for thought that would allow their fear to overwhelm them.

The Republican Party as an institution and many politicians, not just members of Congress, are still paralyzed by cowardice. It is not only embarrassing, it is dangerous. Our enemies are thinking and planning. So must we - and it is impossible to plan and think with fear-induced panic paralyzing the mind.

If these Congressmen are truly frightened they must master themselves sufficiently in the safety of their Congressional offices to be quiet. If they are fear-mongering for political gain they should be denounced for endangering their constituents by diverting attention from the planning needed to defeat our intelligent and implacable enemies.

Posted by: clio on November 14, 2009 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

The way to get GOPers on board with this is for IL to sell the prison for a song to one of those TX-based private incarceration firms.

Joking aside, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's give the gitmo torture victims fair trials before concluding that we need yet another prison for them.

Posted by: Disputo on November 14, 2009 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Why should they let "facts" stand in the way of a good "talking point?"

Seriously, the GOP has only one goal at this point: Try like hell to legitimatize Obama.

Lying, cheating, and stealing is not only permitted, but encouraged, in this pursuit.

Posted by: Ranger Jay on November 14, 2009 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Ya know, if I was one of those big, bad,Republican teabaggers, screaming at people who disagree with my political views...raising hell at townhalls and in Washington, D.C....I don't think I'd want my name associated with these Repub chickensh!ts who are quaking in their ballet slippers over the prospect captured terrorist suspects being brought to the U.S. mainland to stand trial. Just think...their fathers and grandfathers fought in WW II and Korea to protect the USA. I'll bet they are justly ashamed of their progeny these days.

Posted by: Bob/SoCal on November 14, 2009 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

IIRC, Harding, Montana, has the first dibs on housing the Gitmo transplants...

Posted by: exlibra on November 14, 2009 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

If I were a prison guard, I'd much rather watch over terror suspects. Think about it. They probably haven't even committed a crime outside of conspiracy. And if they killed anyone, it was with a bomb -- and that for political (or religious) reasons. Compare that to a multiple murderer with a mental illness and lot of cultural and psychological damage plus drug addiction... terrorists pose slightly more physical threat to their jailers than pot smokers.

Posted by: inkadu on November 15, 2009 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

"Why should they let "facts" stand in the way of a good `talking point?`

Seriously, the GOP has only one goal at this point: Try like hell to legitimatize Obama."

What the hell are you on? Does everything a libiot says always have to be the EXACT opposite of reality? EXACTING hypocrisy? Here you are talking about parties while theyre handing Constitutional rights to the 9/11 massacre proponents. MIRANDA rights to black plague rats, the Constitution IS NO MORE and you traitors still have your eye on winning an election to FURTHER the socialism?

Nazi jack boots my ass. You kiddies were overrun by poofy pink bunny slippers.
Well guess what, morons. NO ONE in this country is obliged to an unconstitutional republic. Just a matter of time before people realize that and start again. This time giving idiots like you ZERO significance.
In grabbing power, your idiot messiah dropped most of it.

Posted by: zK on November 15, 2009 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone else just smell something rancid?

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on November 15, 2009 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

FlipYrWhig -- Someone left their freedom fries out in the sun too long.

Posted by: inkadu on November 15, 2009 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

Educate the detainees on the local population. Ask them: do you want to stay inside the prison, or should we just drop you outside the prison so you can hitch a ride out of the country?

My bet is that they will not trust they can survive outside of prison.

Posted by: tomj on November 15, 2009 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

First - seriously? A five-term Congressman actually said that? And you people elected him for four more terms? Perhaps it wasn't evident what an idiot he is during his previous terms, but there can be no doubt now.

Second, stop this nonsense that a judicial trial in a courtroom is going to "give the terrorists a stage to spout their propaganda", right now. Have you ever actually attended a jury trial? There's no part in there where the judge says, "Why don't you tell us a little about yourself? Take your time; we're all listening". Often you as the defendant are not on the stand at all, and so get to say nothing; the talking is done by witnesses and lawyers, and the former are often asked to confine their answers to "yes" or "no". When the defendant does take the stand, anything that doesn't bear on the question is usually shut down fairly quickly. Terrorists do not get to just stand up and spout off about the things that make radical Islam so much fun.

And, zK? "legitamatize" is a word only in the George W. Bush and Other Tools from Texas By Way of Connecticut Dictionary. It's "legitimize". Notice that a little squiggly red line appears underneath words that nutjobs make up, to notify them that they have stepped beyond the bounds of their education.

Posted by: Mark on November 15, 2009 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

I would suspect that these terrorists will be too busy guarding their cornholes to worry about escaping and/or attacking the US.

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain on November 15, 2009 at 4:47 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, that was the obligatory prison rape joke....

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain on November 15, 2009 at 4:48 AM | PERMALINK

Basically Kirk and his ilk, many of them chicken hawks, are cowards. They are willing to surrender at the slighest chimera of a threat.

Why doesn't anyone call them what they are lily-livered cowards.

Posted by: John Tomas on November 15, 2009 at 5:56 AM | PERMALINK

Same old crap from the Right - "Be scared - the boogyman is gonna get you!" Oh, please... When GWB was "in charge" they practically fell all over themselves gurgling about how SAFE he was keeping us, holding up the fact that there wasn't "another" terrorist attack on our soil. Seems to me Obama has kept us JUST AS SAFE. This is what tears them up, so they're constantly having to play Chicken Little, hoping and praying that the sky really does fall.

Otherwise, my dears, their party is F*CKED! :D

*OBAMA 2012*

Posted by: Limbaughs Diabetes on November 15, 2009 at 7:16 AM | PERMALINK

But wait Limbuagh, it's already been concluded that the Ft Hood killer was an Islamic Terrorist. We've been attacked!!!! Oh my, run for the hills.

Posted by: Dave on November 15, 2009 at 7:37 AM | PERMALINK

By Kirk's own reasoning, he would be holding up photos of the 20 car bombings of our Gitmo facility! Oh, al Qaeda hasn't attacked Gitmo? How will these mysterious terrorists of ill-repute attack Thomson, IL?

Rabid stupid has come over the GOP! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on November 15, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Obama is making a big mistake to bring the terrorists into US terrority even though that is what the Left wing of the Democrat Party desires. Although the Left has sentimental feelings for the plight of the terrorists, the vast majority of Americans do not share that sympathy.

Public opinion against this move is huge and there is no sense in taking this big of a political hit when GITMO can serve as the prision for convicted terrorists. This is one charged circus ring Obama does not need in his administration's show, especially following on the terrorist attack at Fort Hood last week.

Posted by: Sara on November 15, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

"According to data provided by Traci L. Billingsley, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, "'federal facilities on American soil currently house 216 international terrorists and 139 domestic terrorists. Some of these miscreants have been locked up here since the early 1990s. None of them has escaped.'"

And bin Laden attached the economic symbols of the US not small communities around federal prisions.

Posted by: Marnie on November 15, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

What's really bad about this is that in the past we spent a lot of money trying to capture al-Qaeda members and bring them back to the US where they could be tried.

Posted by: MichMan on November 15, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

The fake christian party is really just filled with pussies isn't it. Poor scared bastards.

Posted by: Patrick on November 16, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK



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