Liotta called Guantánamo "a recruitment tool" for terrorist organizations and said its closure and the subsequent transfer of detainees to Thomson will eliminate it as a stigma for "people who have not yet made up their mind about Al Qaeda."
Activists from local "tea party" and veterans' groups denounce the idea of bringing 100 to 150 terrorist detainees here, which they say would be a threat to national security and an insult to those fighting the war on terror.
Some say risk outweighs benefit
"Not one job [gained from the prison move] is worth losing one American life," says Beverly Perlson, founder of the Band of Mothers, a group advocating for troops who've served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mrs. Perlson, who lives about 115 miles away in Aurora, Ill., calls the Thomson site "an easy target" for terrorists to attack.
"They couldn't get close to Gitmo, but they can get close to this place," she says. "My mind goes on and on with the problems, the dangerousness of what they want to do."
But for many residents in Thomson and the surrounding towns of Carroll County (population 15,841), economics outweighs the fear of the unknown regarding Guantánamo prisoners.
Rural beauty may draw Chicago tourists to drive two hours to hike the palisades in the local state park or go antiquing in downtown Savanna, but the local economy is in peril.