While Mr. Obama has acknowledged that he would miss the Jan. 22 deadline for closing [Guantanamo] that he set shortly after taking office, the administration appeared to take a major step forward last week when he directed subordinates to move “as expeditiously as possible” to acquire the Thomson Correctional Center, a nearly vacant maximum-security Illinois prison, and to retrofit it to receive Guantánamo detainees.Well, of course. Why throw way $150 million — or $200 million — building another facility when these people are already safely and securely detained in Guantanamo? Symbolism? Too expensive! And also politically unpopular. I think Obama knew when he announced the Thomson plan that the Democrats in Congress would oppose him. He didn't want the transfer to happen and he didn't think it would happen. He has never intended to close Guantanamo. I was pretty sure of that last January. He has only intended to appease the folks who wanted him to and to make it possible to claim that he really tried.
But in interviews this week, officials estimated that it could take 8 to 10 months to install new fencing, towers, cameras and other security upgrades before any transfers take place. Such construction cannot begin until the federal government buys the prison from the State of Illinois.
The federal Bureau of Prisons does not have enough money to pay Illinois for the center, which would cost about $150 million. Several weeks ago, the White House approached the House Appropriations Committee and floated the idea of adding about $200 million for the project to the military spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year, according to administration and Congressional officials.
But Democratic leaders refused to include the politically charged measure in the legislation. When lawmakers approved the bill on Dec. 19, it contained no financing for Thomson.
December 23, 2009
So the Guantanamo detainees won't be moved to Illinois after all? I am so not surprised.