WH rules out Gitmo for Benghazi suspect
By Kristina Wong - 06/17/14 05:16 PM EDT
The White House has ruled out sending Benghazi attack suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala to Guantanamo Bay, saying they intend to try him in U.S. federal court.
"Some have suggested that he should go to GTMO. Let me rule that out from the start," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement Tuesday.
"The Administration's policy is clear on this issue: we have not added a single person to the GTMO population since President Obama took office, and we have had substantial success delivering swift justice to terrorists through our federal court system,” she continued.
Khattala, accused of being one of the ringleaders behind the deadly 2012 attack which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, was captured over the weekend in a secret raid.
Republican lawmakers hailed his apprehension, but pressed the Obama administration to declare him an enemy combatant and interrogate him without Miranda rights.
"If they bring him to the U.S., they will Mirandize this guy, and it will be the biggest mistake for the ages to read this guy his Miranda rights,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday.
"I think he should be taken to Guantánamo,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
“It's where our detention facilities are," he added. "It's totally inappropriate to keep him anyplace else."
The administration, though, said Gitmo was not an option and expressed confidence they could successful bring Khattala to justice in a federal trial.
"Indeed, since 9/11, we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists,” Hayden said.
“The effective use of the criminal justice system has resulted in the debriefing, conviction and incarceration of U.S. citizens and non-citizens for acts of terrorism committed inside the United States and around the world," she continued.
Hayden cited five cases where terrorists were successfully tried and convicted within the U.S., including the Times Square bomber in 2010.
"The system has repeatedly proven that it can successfully allow us to gather intelligence, handle the threat that we continue to face, and prosecute terrorists," she said.
Khattala is currently in custody at an undisclosed location and the administration has not provided a timeline for him to be brought to the U.S.
GOP lawmakers have urged that military interrogators be allowed to question Khattala to gain intelligence.
"As to whether Abu Khattalah will be debriefed for intelligence purposes, I can’t comment on the specifics, but as a general rule, we will always seek to elicit all the actionable intelligence and information we can from terrorist suspects taken into our custody," Hayden said.