Here’s what we face with Guantanamo Bay terrorists being housed in the United States.
After the state prison in Thomson, Ill., has been transformed (at taxpayer expense) into a federal “Super Max” facility, the detainees will begin to arrive.
They will include the worst of the worst.
They are the terrorists that no one wanted. Certainly, not the Saudis with their vaunted extremist rehab centers. The Europeans, who were so vocal about closing the Guantanamo Bay facility, gave them a polite “non, merci.”
Even the Pacific Islanders, who depend on us for their economic existence, took a pass on the stimulus opportunity being afforded Thomson.
Each day guards will return home to their friends and family and recount the feces and urine attacks. The day I visited Guantanamo, recently, guards were assaulted seven times with al-Qaida excrement.
Physical attacks also are common. A favorite detainee tactic is to grab the hand passing food through a cell door slot, yank it into the cell and attempt to break the guard’s arm by leveraging it against the door.
Our young soldiers and sailors simply take it. No “hole,” hard labor, or reduced rations for the offenders. Such punishment would raise cries that the United States is not following our international obligations to the detainees.
It will be interesting to see whether the guards at Thomson are willing to put up with the same abuse heaped on our service men and women at Gitmo.
Protesters will be a permanent fixture in town. Think of Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, Texas, but worse. The protesters who descend on Thomson will demand the release of terrorists caught on the battlefield trying to kill American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.
Allied to the protesters’ cause will be the lawyers. Some work for a noble purpose — preserving the adversarial nature of our military justice system. They are usually JAGs defending detainees under orders.
Others are simply naïve, perhaps equating these terrorists with some wrongfully convicted prisoner obtaining help from a law school’s innocence project clinic.
A sad few will provide more than legal services. The New York Times has reported that certain lawyers representing detainees were investigated for showing images of clandestine CIA agents to the detainees. (Interestingly, the report lacked any of the outrage shown by the press when Valarie Plame's name supposedly was leaked.)
Politicians, journalists, and tourists will add to the circus like atmosphere. The real danger, however, is that Thomson (or Gitmo North as the ACLU has already dubbed it) will instantly become a top-drawer target for our enemies.
Unlike our isolated naval base in Cuba, Thomson is merely a short drive from our porous Northern border.
Residents might start thinking twice any time a stranger walks into a crowded Starbucks carrying a backpack or wearing a long jacket on a warm day.
Finally, if the detainees can find the right judge, one willing to ignore President Obama’s commitment that none of the Thomson detainees will ever be released in America, the people of Thomson could find themselves with new neighbors.
Such new residents of the town would be terrorists released in response to a habeas corpus petition that the government could not defend against without betraying important intelligence assets or because the detainee’s confession was thrown out for having allegedly been obtained by coercion (real or made up).
To be certain, the construction and prison-guard jobs; hotel, restaurant and bar tabs run up by visiting lawyers, politicians and journalists; and homeland security projects to protect the town will all stimulate the local economy.
Notwithstanding any short-term economic gain brought about by their new detention facility, my guess is that the citizens of Thomson (and America) will wish the terrorists were back at Gitmo, sooner rather than later.
Robert C. O’Brien is the partner-in-charge of the Los Angeles office of Arent Fox LLP. He served as a U.S. representative to the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
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