WASHINGTON, US - The Obama administration is considering relocating some Guantanamo detainees to a mostly vacant prison in the president's home state of Illinois, US media reported Saturday.
The Thomson Correctional Facility, a maximum-security state prison about 150 miles (240 kilometers) west of Chicago, Illinois, has emerged as the administration's "leading option" to house the terror suspects, the Chicago Tribune reported.
CNN said senior officials from the Defense, Justice and Homeland Security departments would visit the 1,600-cell facility on Monday, along with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.
The reports came a day after President Barack Obama's administration announced it would try five accused plotters of the September 11, 2001 attacks - including self-proclaimed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - in a civil court in New York City, just steps away from the scene of their alleged crime.
In a sharply-worded rebuke of the prison plans, Republican Representative Mark Kirk urged the White House "to put the safety and security of Illinois families first and stop any plan to transfer Al-Qaeda terrorists to our state."
Among the officials planning to visit the detention center are representatives of the federal Bureau of Prisons, which would purchase the site if chosen and lease a portion of it to the Defense Department to house the Guantanamo detainees, CNN said, citing an administration official.
"If your administration brings Al-Qaeda terrorists to Illinois, our state and the Chicago metropolitan area will become ground zero for jihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization," Kirk, a Senate candidate, said in a letter to Obama circulated among state lawmakers and officials.
Quinn stressed in a statement that his "first priority is public safety and security, an issue that will definitely be part of any future discussions with federal prison authorities regarding Thomson."
But the move could also bring much-needed funds to this depressed part of Illinois.
The government's purchase of the prison could bring an estimated 2,340 to 3,250 direct and indirect jobs, with an economic benefit to the region of between 790 million dollars(1,097 million dollars) and to 1.1 billion dollars over four years, according to a preliminary administration analysis cited by the Quad-City Times.
It estimated that the unemployment rate in Carroll County, home to the prison, could be halved.
"It would help the businesses here, and God knows we could use that," Thomson resident Kay Lawton told the Tribune. "It doesn't matter to me who they bring here."
Some 215 prisoners remain at Guantanamo, a US naval base in southern Cuba.