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Gitmo debate moves to heartland
House Republican Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, accused the president of putting liberal special-interest groups ahead of the safety and security of the American people.
“The American people don’t want dangerous terrorists imported onto U.S. soil,” he said.
When asked about Mr. Boehner’s remarks, Mr. Gibbs appeared annoyed.
“Here’s what I would suggest for John Boehner. Call up [CIA Director] Leon Panetta or [Director of National Intelligence] Denny Blair,” he said. “Ask them if he can come down and watch a video put out by al Qaeda senior leadership. … Thirty-two times since 2001 and four times this year alone, senior al Qaeda leadership in recruiting videos have used the prison at Guantanamo Bay as a clarion call to bring extremists from around the world to join their effort.”
“Closing Guantanamo Bay makes this country safer,” he said.
Opponents of a Guantanamo detainee move to an empty maximum-security prison in rural Standish, Mich., expressed relief Tuesday upon learning that the prisoners would not be coming to their state. But they also were dismayed that the White House would consider bringing the detainees anywhere on U.S. soil.
“It doesn’t change the fact that it’s not good for our country,” said Standish businessman Dave Munson, who ran a write-in campaign for mayor as the prisoner-transfer issue bitterly divided residents of his small town. “These people don’t belong here,” he said.
Standish emerged as a possible relocation site when Mayor Kevin King proposed using the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility, a major source of economic activity for his town that is scheduled to close.
Mr. Munson had worked since August to block the detainees from coming to Standish, fearing their presence would create security risks. He noted the proximity to the U.S. border and to the nation’s largest Islamic population, in Dearborn, near Detroit, less than 150 miles away.
The reception has been more welcoming in Thomson, near the Illinois border with Iowa, in the northwestern corner of the state.
The town, which calls itself “the Melon Capital of the World” because of its watermelon crop, and its roughly 550 residents have remained stuck in hard times.
Residents say that bringing the Guantanamo detainees to the prison will give the economy a desperately needed boost.
That boost was expected when the Thomson Correctional Center was built in 2001, but the prison never fully opened and the promised jobs never arrived.
“We’ve struggled for nine years, and it’s truly been a struggle,” said Donna Opheim, manager of the Station, a dinner and truck stop in Thomson.
Ms. Opheim said the decision to bring the Guantanamo detainees to Thomson is “the best news I’ve heard in a long time.”
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