Lawmakers: If CNN Can Interview Benghazi Suspect, Why Can't the FBI?

Thursday, 08 Aug 2013 01:10 PM

By Joel Himelfarb

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A CNN correspondent’s interview with a top suspect in the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack that killed four Americans is raising questions about the Obama Administration’s handling of the investigation.

“One of the pertinent questions today is why we have not captured or killed the terrorist who committed these attacks,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) told reporters. “News out today that CNN was able to go in and talk to one of the suspected terroristshow come the military hasn’t been able to get after them and kill or capture these people? How come the FBI isn’t doing this and yet CNN is?”

Chaffetz was referring to the network’s recent interview with Ahmed Abu Khattala, described by U.S. and Libyan officials as the Benghazi leader of the al-Qaida-affiliated Ansar al-Sharia group one of many that filled the authority vacuum after the ouster of veteran dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Although Khattala has been termed a “person of interest” in the investigation, the jihadist told CNN’s Arwa Damon that he hadn’t been contacted by American or Libyan officials. Khattala said he would be willing to meet with investigators but would not agree to “an interrogation.”

Damon interviewed Khattala for two hours at a Benghazi hotel. She said he appeared relaxed and he allowed her to audio record the conversation. But he refused to be interviewed on camera.

Damon said his account of events in Benghazi that night appeared contradictory. He admitted being at the U.S. diplomatic mission compound and seeing men carrying rocket-propelled grenades and guns, but denied any involvement in the violence.

Khattala and the two men who accompanied him to the CNN interview “burst out laughing” when asked about allegations he may have masterminded the attack.

Khattala “does not appear to be a man who is in hiding, having granted interviews to the New York Times, Reuters and other news agencies in the weeks following the Benghazi attack,” CNN reported.

“The FBI continues to add pictures of potential assailants to its website and asks the Libyan people to assist with identifying the alleged perpetrators,” said House and Senate lawmakers who signed a letter initiated by Chaffetz and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to incoming FBI director James Comey. “We struggle to understand why we don’t know more about those who attacked two U.S. compounds and murdered four brave Americans.”

Other signers of the letter included Republican Sens. John McCain (AZ), Kelly Ayotte (NH), and Ron Johnson (WI). House signatories included House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and fellow Republicans Jim Jordan (OH) and Trey Gowdy (SC).

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