U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder pledged under oath Tuesday that the Obama administration under no circumstances would seek to transfer Guantanamo terrorism detainees to the vacant Thomson prison. Holder testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in answer a question from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Durbin said the state and federal government have agreed to a purchase price for the long vacant prison, but money appropriated to the Department of Justice needed to be reprogrammed for the sale to go through.
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“We want to acquire the Thomson facility,” Holder said, after agreeing to the pledge sought by Durbin. “It would really be a welcome addition to our Bureau of Prisons.”
Durbin wants the federal government to buy the prison to ease overcrowding and spur the local economy. He said the sale would create 1,100 jobs and “inject at least $1 billion into the region’s economy.”
Durbin said that Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) joined him last year in making clear that support in Illinois for the prison purchase hinged on the guarantee that no Guantanamo Bay prisoners be shipped to the facility.
A controversial proposal from the Obama administration in 2009 would have transferred suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to the Illinois facility, but it was quickly shot down amid complaints it would become “Gitmo North.”
Durbin, after Holder’s testimony, said it was time to move forward on a bipartisan basis and open Thomson prison for federal inmates.