Captured Benghazi Mastermind Talking Freely with Interrogators

Friday, 20 Jun 2014 08:46 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The FBI has been questioning the Libyan suspect believed to be the mastermind of the Benghazi terrorist attack who was captured Sunday by U.S. forces and remains on a Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea on its way to the United States.

According to The New York Times, Ahmed Abu Khattala is speaking openly with American interrogators, senior American officials have said, as they seek to find out what he knows about planned or past attacks, the Islamic militia that he helped lead and the levels of security in Libya.

The government has resisted bringing Khattala to the United States by plane so as not to disrupt intelligence gathering. As of Thursday, he had not been read his Miranda rights, a sign that officials are more focused on gathering terrorism intelligence as opposed to seeking evidence admissible in court, the Times reported.

New details have also emerged about the capture of Khattala after the military learned of his intent to leave a safe house in Benghazi and move to a villa near the Mediterranean. A small group of Navy SEALs and at least two FBI agents went to the Libyan coast in darkness to meet Army Delta Force commandos on land.

Commandos snatched Khattala upon encountering him alone. After an initial struggle during which he sustained minor injuries, he was taken by boat to the New York, a landing ship, the Times reported.

Officials are required under criminal law to present a suspect to a magistrate judge for an initial hearing usually within 48 hours, though failure to comply carries limited penalties.

"There is a rule requiring presentment without unnecessary delay," Daniel Richman, a Columbia University law professor and former federal prosecutor, told the Times. "That said, sanction for violation is unlikely to be dismissal of the charges, and at most the suppression of statements made during the period of unnecessary delay."

Charges were filed in U.S. District Court in Washington last year against Khattala and at least a dozen others in connection with the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. None besides Khattala — who is expected to be arraigned in Washington — has been apprehended.

A plan to capture Khattala more than a year ago was aborted at the last minute after plans for a raid in Tripoli to capture suspected terrorist Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai was revealed on Twitter.

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