Capture of Benghazi Ringleader Ignites New Political Drama

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A vehicle and the surrounding area are engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. (STR/AFP/Getty)

U.S. commando forces have captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected leader of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The attack left four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, dead.

Khattala will now stand trial in U.S. criminal court. And the Obama Administration will set a new precedent with the Khattalla trial—instead of trying him at Guantánamo Bay, a Washington, D.C. judge will hear the case in U.S. District Court.

The Obama Administration tried to set this precedent with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2009, but politicians in New York City and across the country eventually came out against a U.S. trial. As Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich reports, members of Congress believe Khattala should be tried in a military commission, as KSM eventually was.

Karen Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, discusses the Administration's decision to charge the case in U.S. criminal court, and explains what Khattala's trial will mean for terrorism cases in what President Obama hopes will be a post-Guantanamo era.


Karen Greenberg and Todd Zwillich

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger


T.J. Raphael

Comments [4]

Michelangelo from Miami FL

People are afraid of Khattala as if he is patient zero to some new pandemic flu. He's just a man. Not a super-villain and not endowed with mystical abilities. The moment he's caught and in a courtroom Khattala is no more dangerous than anyone else. I think we have inmates way more dangerous than him, serial killers and the like.

Let them build a case and put him on trial. Khattala's world of admirers will watch his demise not in a blaze of martyr glory but in a long, boring procedure follow by a long, boring life sentence in a super-max prison.

It will be so dull that Hollywood won't make a movie about him.

Jun. 19 2014 08:41 AM
Chris O'Connell from Redwood City, CA

Hello? Earth to The Takeaway. Is anyone home? Constitutional Rights make convictions more difficult. Hello? This has been true since 1789.

Khattala is a local who may have never been out of Benghazi. And Graham wants to waterboard him and terrorize him to get "information" about the terrorists. (I now hear John asking this question which totally debunks Commander Graham's objections.)

Let's face it: Republicans are not joyous. This is the first real news out of Benghazi since the attack and it debunks the Republican narrative TOTALLY. The video was an important factor in the attack. al Qaeda and international terrorism apparently played NO role. This is the party of "Oops" that never has to say it, except during a live debate over a ridiculously petty mistake.

Jun. 18 2014 03:15 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

The cruise that Abu Khattala is on now, is no "Love Boat."

Jun. 18 2014 02:06 PM

Khattala has been living openly and even giving interviews since the embassy attack. Why did President Obama suddenly decide to take action???

First Greenberg claims the US must follow the law by trying Khattala in federal court. In the next breath she admits the court will have to be "flexible" because the rules really are not for this type of situation. Hardly a ringing endorsement for bringing the terrorist into the US.

Jun. 18 2014 10:42 AM

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