The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Obama Administration Announces Plans To Move Guantanamo Detainees To Illinois Prison

Creating A 'Gitmo North' An Alarming Step, Says ACLU


Obama administration announced today that it will purchase the Thomson
Correctional Center in Illinois for the purpose of holding some of the
detainees currently remaining at Guantanamo. Though the administration
is leaving unsaid which detainees will be moved there and for what
purposes, the information it has provided indicates that some detainees
might be held for military commission proceedings in Illinois while
others might be held at Thomson indefinitely without charge or trial.

The administration has stated that
"any detainees at Guantanamo who continue to be held, and for whom no
prosecution is planned, will be held only under authority granted by
Congress in 2001 under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, as
informed by the law of war." However, the so-called war on terrorism
is not a traditional war, having no temporal or geographical boundaries.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:

"The creation of a 'Gitmo North' in
Illinois is hardly a meaningful step forward. Shutting down Guantanamo
will be nothing more than a symbolic gesture if we continue its lawless
policies onshore.

"Alarmingly, all indications are
that the administration plans to continue its predecessor's policy of
indefinite detention without charge or trial for some detainees, with
only a change of location. Such a policy is completely at odds with our
democratic commitment to due process and human rights whether it's
occurring in Cuba or in Illinois. In fact, while the Obama
administration inherited the Guantanamo debacle, this current move is
its own affirmative adoption of those policies. It is unimaginable that
the Obama administration is using the same justification as the Bush
administration used to undercut centuries of legal jurisprudence and
the principle of innocent until proven guilty and the right to confront
one's accusers.

"It is also greatly disturbing that
the administration will continue the use of military commissions, which
are no more acceptable in Illinois or any other U.S. state than in
Guantanamo. Despite some improvements, the commissions still fall far
short of the legal standards necessary to comply with constitutional
and international standards, allowing, for example, the use of coerced
and hearsay evidence that would not be allowed in federal court. The
proceedings will achieve neither reliable justice nor a restoration of
America's credibility around the world.

"The administration must also make
very clear what category of detainee will be transferred to Thomson in
the future and what kind of prison conditions will apply. Detainees not
charged with a crime should not be subject to punitive conditions meant
for sentenced prisoners who have been found guilty in a court of law,
and all conditions must comply with the Geneva Conventions.

"The administration will no doubt be
looking to Congress for legislative buy-in for this facility, and as
both branches work together, we strongly urge lawmakers to legislate
responsibly and not set any policies or precedents for indefinite
detention on U.S. soil, or create any violation of the Geneva

"The Obama administration's
announcement today contradicts everything the president has said about
the need for America to return to leading with its values. American
values do not contemplate disregarding our Constitution and skirting
the criminal justice system. After detaining hundreds of individuals
without the basic due process rights that define our justice system for
almost eight years, it is time to charge suspects where evidence exists
and repatriate and transfer the rest to countries where they won't be

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666