Sen. Durbin told a local Illinois paper that “the decision to move ahead came directly from President Barack Obama” and that he had secured the green light during a discussion on Air Force One earlier in the spring. But this gift to Obama’s Illinois homeboys wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill campaign favor.
Obama’s unilateral and unprecedented decision steamrolled over bipartisan congressional opposition to the purchase. That opposition dates back to 2009, when the White House first floated the idea of using Thomson to house jihadi enemy combatants detained in Cuba. As you may recall, the scheme caused a national uproar. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department’s budget, blocked the administration from using unspent DOJ funds for the deal. With bipartisan support, Congress passed a law barring the transfer of Gitmo detainees to Thomson or any other civilian prison.