The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that officials shouldn’t be rushing the interrogation of the suspect in the Benghazi attack, who arrived on U.S. soil at the weekend, since he may have intelligence that could help the U.S. in other national security matters.
“If he doesn’t give us anything and we get to put him in jail, what have we accomplished? I argue we’ve spent a lot of money and have not gained anything valuable,” Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Ahmed Abu Khatallah is suspected of being behind the 2011 bombing at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
The suspect was captured two weeks ago and transported to the U.S. on a Navy ship over 10 days, when he was interrogated by FBI officers. But Mr. Rogers says the FBI needs more time and that 10 days isn’t enough time to build rapport with the suspect.
If officials aren’t given more time to properly interrogate him, it opens up questions about whether the expense, manpower and planning required to capture him and bring him to the U.S. were worth it, Mr. Rogers said.
Because of the high cost and the high potential to collect important information, terror suspects should be treated differently from ordinary criminals, especially in their questioning, Mr. Rogers said.
“Are these folks just ordinary criminals to be brought back to the U.S. at huge expense?” Mr. Rogers said. “You need the opportunity to gather the intelligence he has.”
Mr. Rogers said Mr. Abu Khatallah was “compliant, but not cooperative” during questioning aboard the Navy ship, suggesting officials have yet to collect any meaningful intelligence from him. Special Operations Forces captured him during a June 15-16 nighttime raid in Libya.
Mr. Abu Khatallah, a Libyan national thought to be around 43 years old, was flown to D.C. by helicopter from the USS New York on Saturday morning and is being kept in an “appropriately secure” facility in the Washington area, Mr. Rogers said.
The terror suspected went before a federal magistrate judge in his first court appearance on Saturday afternoon. He pleaded not guilty to the attack and will be represented by an attorney funded by taxpayers.
The grand jury indictment accuses him of taking part in the plan to consulate attack on Sept. 11, 2012, providing material support and resources to terrorists.
In addition to Stevens, the attack also killed information officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
“Now that Ahmed Abu Khattalah has arrived in the United States, he will face the full weight of our justice system,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. “We will prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant’s alleged role in the attack that killed four brave Americans in Benghazi.”
According to the Justice Department, he initially was charged in a criminal complaint that was filed under seal last July and became public June 17. The indictment was secured Thursday and the charging document unsealed Saturday.
There has been discussion about whether Mr. Abu Khatallah should be tried in the U.S. criminal court system or in the military tribunal system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mr. Rogers said he thinks the Libyan should be sent to Gitmo, since that facility is already secure enough for terror suspects.
He said the U.S. doesn’t have the resources right now to treat terrorists around the world in the same way its treating Mr. Abu Khatallah, bringing him to the U.S.
“If we’re going to do this to everyone around the world, we better start building prisons by the dozens,” he said.
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