Town Supports Transfer of Gitmo Detainees

President Obama promised early in his presidency to close the prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Today, the President ordered the federal government to buy a state prison in Thomson, Ill. If Congress goes along, less than half of the 210 remaining Guantanamo inmates would be transferred there. CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds has more.

White House officials said the move to Illinois is key to the president's plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

"In taking this action, we are removing from terrorist organizations around the world a recruiting tool," said National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones.

And yet Republicans attacked the plan as an unnecessary risk.

"With the busiest airport in the world and the tallest building in North America, I do not think that we should make Chicagoland the center of Jihadi attention in the world," said Republican Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois.

But in Thomson - where the prison stands three hours west of Chicago and the hope is that new jobs will come with the prisoners - reaction to the plan is almost uniformly popular.

Village President Duke Hebeler called the popularity "about 98 percent" and said he envisions an economic boost for the town - "housing and groceries, gas … construction work."

Indeed, Illinois estimates the move will create some 3,000 new jobs and inject possibly $1 billion into the battered local economy over the first four years of operation.

With only 200 minimum security inmates in a facility built to house 1,600, the prison has a modern surveillance system, enough room to segregate terrorists and hold them indefinitely, plus a courtroom for trials.

And though it's only a mile from Main Street, not many in Thomson are worried.

"I think the town will probably be safer than ever before because of the prison," said store manager Bev Smith. "I think it'll be very safe. I don't have any concerns about that at all."

Intelligence analysts say questions about the prisoners' legal status persist.

"You do have the potential of simply shifting those problems and issues to Illinois from Guantanamo," said CBS News national security consultant Juan Zarate.

Officials say this will be the most secure prison in the country, that the terrorists inside will be totally isolated, and the only visitors they will see are attorneys and representatives of the Red Cross.
  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.

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