So divisive is just about anything pertaining to the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that even good news sparks debate in our nation’s capital.
The good, or at least somewhat satisfying, news is that U.S. special forces captured a Libyan said to be the mastermind of the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
The suspect is Ahmed Abu Khatallah; he’s now aboard a U.S. warship being interrogated. Said to be a leader of Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan terror group, he is the only person thus far apprehended in connection with the attack. If he truly did plan it and is an influential member of Ansar al-Sharia, then what he knows and who he knows are important. If he is tried and convicted of the crimes for which he’s charged, he could be sentenced to death.
Barely had news of his capture been made public than congressional Democrats and Republicans renewed a debate that has existed as long as the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Most Republicans want Khatallah sent there, perhaps eventually to face a military tribunal. Most Democrats, including President Barack Obama — who continues to want to close the detention center — want Khatallah tried in a civilian federal court.
Another point of contention is the length of time it took to capture Khatallah. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Since that attack, we have conducted a thorough, unrelenting investigation, across continents, to find the perpetrators.”
As conscientious as that sounds, it’s understandably curious to Republicans. They point out that Khatallah, against whom charges were filed last year, has been living in the open, even conspicuously, for many months, and could have been captured long before now. He’s given interviews to American and other Western news outlets, not surprisingly denying any involvement in the attack.
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who’s chaired numerous hearings on the Benghazi attack, called Khatallah’s arrest “long overdue.” He said the White House should turn over any information the United States gets from him to the new select committee chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican. Democrats object to the select committee. They contend, with some validity, that it’s politically motivated and will revisit sensitive issues largely to discredit former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Thus, Abu Ansar Khatallah, whose capture ought to unite contentious factions in this country, instead widens the internal rift. We’re continuing to make it too easy on our enemies.