Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the captured suspect considered to be a “key figure” in the Benghazi, Libya, attack, will not be sent to Guantanamo, White House officials insisted today.
“Abu Khatallah is currently in U.S. custody in a secure location outside the United States, and en route to the United States to face the charges against him,” National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in a statement today.
“Some have suggested that he should go to [Guantanamo Bay]. Let me rule that out from the start. 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,” Hayden added.
Khatallah is currently in a location outside of Libya and the United States and will ultimately be tried in federal court in Washington, D.C., officials said. But Republican critics are calling for the president to send the captured Benghazi suspect to Guantanamo.
“Khatallah has been openly defying the United States for more than twenty months. Now that he is in custody, the proper authorities should be given ample time to assess what intelligence he may have about ongoing terrorist operations against Americans,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said today.
“Khatallah is a foreign terrorist, captured by our special forces overseas for his violent attack on a U.S. facility. He belongs in Guantanamo and in the military justice system, not in the U.S. civilian court system with the constitutional protections afforded U.S. citizens,” Cruz added.
“The Obama Administration should immediately transfer him to the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay for detention and interrogation,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. ”In order to locate all individuals associated with the attacks that led to the deaths of four Americans, we need intelligence. That intelligence is often obtained through an interrogation process.”
“At times, this Administration has been more interested in the politics of the war on terrorism than the execution of it, and we have not had an articulable detention policy in six years,” Rubio added.
Despite criticism from Republicans, Democrats maintain that the U.S. judicial system will successfully try Khatallah.
“We will try Khattala just as we have successfully tried more than 500 terrorism suspects since 9/11,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“We all should be proud of America’s courts — the best in the world, and the envy of the world, where scores of terrorists have successfully been tried and convicted,” Leahy added. “Arguing that Khatallah should be sent to Guantanamo is the easy way out. We can and will demonstrate to the rest of the world that we are proud of our criminal justice system, and Americans are not afraid to use it.”
The administration declined to discuss the interrogation process Khatallah will undergo, but Hayden said “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.”