On June 15, special operations forces in Libya captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the suspected mastermind behind the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya – an attack which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. Following his capture, Khatallah was transported via Naval ship to New York. During his ten day ride across the Atlantic, Khatallah was interrogated heavily – both before and after he was read his Miranda Rights. Now, Khatallah currently awaits trial in a civilian court – a decision which has brought much controversy in Washington.
The prosecution has charged Khatallah with the conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, a claim to which Khatallah has pleaded not guilty. If found guilty, Khatallah will not face a death sentence for this offense. However, the US Justice Department has not shown all of its cards yet. Khatallah is still expected to face charges of murdering Americans and discharging a firearm in the commission of the attack – charges for which Khatallah could be executed.
It’s not the charges which have brought controversy in this case, but rather the means by which Khatallah is being tried.
The first spark of controversy came with the decision to read Khatallah his Miranda Rights. When President Obama decided to try Khatallah in a civilian court instead of a military tribunal, it meant that he must be granted his legal rights granted by the Constitution of the United States. The decision to Mirandize Khatallah was a mistake, according to most Republicans:
“We do know that he’s been talking, but ten days is not sufficient to fully debrief a terrorist in terms of the intelligence value. Rather than prosecuting a war, we’re prosecuting criminal cases,” stated House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas.
For McCaul, “… the military intelligence value outweighs a criminal case.”
Many Republicans, such as Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have corroborated McCaul’s opinion: “If they bring him to the United States, they’re going to Mirandize this guy, and it would be a mistake for the ages to read this guy his Miranda rights.” For many, that mistake is the loss of intelligence which could be gathered through harsh interrogation.
“I have serious concerns that conducting a rushed interrogation onboard a ship and then turning Abu Khatallah over to our civilian courts risks losing critical intelligence that could lead us to other terrorists or prevent future attacks,” remarked Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire.
— Fox News Poll (@foxnewspoll) June 25, 2014
For most, the solution is simple – try Khatallah in a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay. However, since he has been in office, President Obama has not sent one person to Gitmo due to his belief that the United States justice system will do the right thing regardless.
Fortunately for Khatallah, US Attorney General Eric Holder believes the same: “Now that Ahmed Abu Khatallah has arrived in the United States, he will face the full weight of our justice system. We will prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant’s alleged role in the attack that killed four brave Americans in Benghazi.”
The controversy comes as campaigning for the 2016 presidency heats up. Hillary Clinton, who many people criticize due to her handling of the Benghazi situation during her tenure as Secretary of State, continues to press toward a Democratic nomination, despite the challenge from Elizabeth Warren. If Khatallah is fond guilty of all three counts and receives the death penalty, then perhaps Clinton will be relieved of the Benghazi monkey on her back. If the justice system does not sentence Khatallah to death, though, Clinton will most likely see an end to her presidential run, as the GOP will continue to rail the Benghazi gaffe as the reason as to why Clinton is unfit for the presidency.
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