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June 19, 2014

U.S. aims for trial of Benghazi suspect

WASHINGTON — The capture of an alleged leader of the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, gave U.S. officials a rare moment of good news. Now, they are preparing to try the captured Libyan in the U.S. court system and pledging to double down on catching others responsible for the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in the attacks.

U.S. officials said Ahmed Abu Khattala was being held on the USS New York, a Navy amphibious transport dock ship in the Mediterranean Sea. The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the Libyan’s whereabouts publicly by name.

Abu Khattala, who was captured Sunday on the outskirts of Benghazi by U.S. special forces, was headed to the United States to face what President Barack Obama called “the full weight of the American justice system.”

The Benghazi attacks, and the Obama administration’s conduct in the aftermath, have long been a source of festering political discord. And some Republicans on Capitol Hill were quick to voice skepticism about the administration’s plans to try Abu Khattala like a civilian.

They urged the administration to get as much intelligence out of him as possible before anyone reads him his rights to remain silent, supplies him with a lawyer and prepares him for trial in a U.S. courtroom. In fact, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said interrogation of the Libyan already was underway and “we hope to find out some positive things.”

Some Republicans said Obama should be sending Abu Khattala to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, instead of U.S. soil, so that he could be interrogated at length.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., countered that Abu Khattala can be brought to justice in U.S. courts “just as we have successfully tried more than 500 terrorism suspects since 9/11.” He said sending the Libyan to Guantanamo would be taking “the easy way out.”

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