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Republicans vow to block Obama's plan for Gitmo prisoners

John Shovelan reported this story on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:31:00

ELEANOR HALL: Republicans in the US Congress say they are still determined to stop President Obama
from shutting down the controversial US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

President Barack Obama today ordered the Federal Government to acquire a prison in the state of
Illinois which could hold the terrorism suspects now at Guantanamo.

The decision is an important step towards closing the prison set up in Cuba by the Bush
administration and it has the support of Illinois locals because of the 3,000 jobs it will
generate.

But Republicans say they will block the closure of Guantanamo in the Congress.

From Washington John Shovelan reports.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Republican Congressman Don Manzullo represents the 16th district in Illinois and the
sleepy small town near the Mississippi River, home of the Thomson correctional facility and soon to
be home to as many as 100 Guantanamo Bay inmates.

DON MANZULLO: I don't know if it's stoppable or not, it is the President of the United States. Also
George Bush wanted to have it close and there've been no new detainees there since 2007. The big
problem is that the security threat has yet to be addressed.

JOHN SHOVELAN: He knows the decision will bring jobs to the depressed area of western Illinois.

But he says economic doesn't trump security and the danger posed by the terrorist prison is too
great.

DON MANZULLO: Gitmo is surrounded by waters and sharks and Thompson, Illinois is surrounded by
melon fields, soy beans and corn.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Republicans say the decision has turned the American heartland into a terrorist
target. Under the proposal the Thomson prison will be purchased by the Federal Bureau of Prisons
and run primarily as a federal prison. But a section will be leased to the Defence Department to
house a number of Guantanamo detainees.

Another Republican Congressman Tim Johnson says as many as 75 will be detainees who cannot be tried
because evidence has been tainted in the interrogation process, yet they're considered such serious
security risks they can't be released. He says indefinite detention without trial on US soil is
illegal.

TIM JOHNSON: Now for 200 years under our constitution, the executive branch has been prohibited
from holding persons in the United States indefinitely without charge or trial. It's our right of
habeas corpus.

Under what legal authority can the Federal Government now indefinitely hold persons on US soil
without judicial process?

JOHN SHOVELAN: The idea has been sold the area as a huge jobs boost and has a lot of local support.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says the state is carrying out its patriotic duty.

PAT QUINN: It's something that our country needs. Federal prisons are overcrowded; it's important
that we make sure that we incarcerate anyone who commits a crime against the people in a proper
way.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Administration officials say they can't outline a schedule for the transfer because
laws will have to be amended in the Congress and funds appropriated. Thomson won't be home to all
of Guantanamo detainees.

There are dozens and dozens who the administration would like to repatriate but haven't been able
to find countries willing to accept them.

John Shovelan, Washington.