* Obama aide: moving toward Guantanamo closure, no date
* Illinois eyes new jobs from federal use of prison
* Kansas, Michigan locations also being considered
(adds details, comments)
CHICAGO, Nov 15 Obama administration officials
will visit a virtually empty Illinois prison this week as a
possible location to house foreign terrorism suspects moved
from the Guantanamo Bay prison President Barack Obama has vowed
to shut, the state's governor's office said on Sunday.
"They are weighing their options and Illinois is among
them," said Robert Reed, a spokesman for Illinois Governor Pat
Quinn, a Democrat.
The plan being considered for the Thomson Correctional
Center, pitched by Quinn in a recent meeting with Obama, calls
for the Federal Bureau of Prisons to operate it as a
maximum-security prison and lease a portion to the Defense
Department to house fewer than 100 Guantanamo detainees.
The plans could include a purchase of the facility by the
federal government, Quinn said.
The Thomson Correctional Center, located about 150 miles
(240 kilometers) west of Chicago, was built by the state in
2001 and has 1,600 cells, but houses only about 150
minimum-security prisoners. The facility sits on 146 acres (59
hectares) and is enclosed by a 12-foot (3.6- meter) exterior
fence and 15-foot (4.6-meter) interior fence.
A preliminary economic impact analysis found that federal
operation of the facility could generate between 2,340 and
3,250 ongoing jobs. The analysis estimates that the overall
injection of funds into the local economy would be between $790
million and $1.09 billion over the first four years.
"This is an opportunity to dramatically reduce
unemployment, create thousands of good-paying jobs and breathe
new economic life into this part of downstate Illinois," said
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.
There are 215 detainees at the controversial prison at the
U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison which Obama has
vowed to close by Jan. 22. However, political and legal hurdles
are making it difficult for his administration to meet that
"We may not hit it on the date, but we will close
Guantanamo. And we are making good progress toward doing that,"
White House senior advisor David Axelrod said on CNN's "State
of the Union."
"I'm not going to put a deadline on it ... But we are going
to get it done," Axelrod added.
Many Republicans have been harshly critical of the idea of
moving Guantanamo prisoners to the United States, saying it
could encourage further terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
"I can't imagine the people of Illinois would like to have
these prisoners incarcerated in their state. There may be some
local officials who are going to support it, but I expect it
will be a huge issue up in Illinois, probably in the U.S.
Senate race up there next year," U.S. Senate Republican leader
Mitch McConnell told "Fox News Sunday."
Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and a facility in Standish,
Michigan, were other sites officials have said were also being
The White House declined comment on the Thomson facility,
and a White House aide said multiple options are being
The United States has faced international criticism for
holding foreign terrorism suspects indefinitely, many without
charges, and for using interrogation techniques that critics
call torture at the Guantanamo facility.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam, additional reporting by Andrew
Stern in Chicago and Alister Bull in Washington; Editing by
Will Dunham and Jackie Frank)