The trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala is proceeding in Washington, DC. He is accused of being the mastermind of the attack in Benghazi in September 2012. Why did it take so long to arrest Khattala and bring him to stand trial in the US? It is because the FBI and the Department of Justice wanted to build a rock solid case against Khattala and any of his associates involved in the attack on the US diplomatic mission and CIA compound in Benghazi. They are going after the top dog who planned the attack, and not the many followers. Excellent!
It really looks like the time was well spent. The New York Times reports the prosecution is presenting a strong case against Khattala in federal court. They must show that Khattala was more than just a leader of a group who hated Americans and Western influence in the country. They have to show he was part of the attack.
The case relies on the testimony of two Libyan who provided damaging details about Mr. Khattala before and after the attack. The really critical details comes from a third Libyan, who befriended Khatttala in 2012, with the objective of collecting damning evidence to be used against Khattala. It was a very slow process to gain Khattala’s trust. Any slip up by this informant would have meant certain death for him and likely his family. He testified on Tuesday, November 7 under the pseudonym of Ali Majrisi.
Khattala slowly opened up to Majrisi on the attack. Khattala revealed one critical element – he had planned to attack and kill the American rescue team. His words, recalled by Majrisi were, “I intended then to kill everyone there – even those who were at the airport.” There was no saving the two Americans who died at the diplomatic mission; they died of smoke inhalation approximately 15 minutes after the attack. The rescue mission would have been directed at saving lives at the CIA mission, in which two Americans died. The Republicans have been making a case that not enough was done to save lives at Benghazi. The reality is that the delay at the Benghazi airport was likely a fortuitous event, as many more would have been in harm’s way had a rescue attempt been made.
Majrisi was able to provide the vital evidence to link Khattala to the attack, and also a second leader, Mustafa al-Iman. Iman appeared on surveillance videotape on the night of the attack. The attack was well planned. It was not a spontaneous angry reaction to a video about the Prophet Mohammed, as originally speculated by National Security Adviser Susan Rice. The Obama administration quickly backed off from this assertion, but it was later reported that the leaders were able to recruit others for the attack, because of the anger generated by the release of the video. Hopefully the trial may clarify this issue.
Over the years, Majrisi was well paid for his services, up to 7 million dollars. This fact is being used now to discredit Majrisi’s testimony as being financially motivated. In my opinion, it was money well worth it, as nothing could be worse than being unable to make a case against Khattala for lack of evidence. Hopefully both Khattala and Iman will be convicted.
Both the Obama and Trump administrations deserve credit for what appears to be a highly successful investigation. It is extremely difficult for the FBI or the CIA to conduct an investigation without total cooperation of the Libyan government, or at least the part of the government now controlling Benghazi. The credit goes to the Department of Justice and the FBI. During most of this investigation, Director James Comey was in charge of the FBI, and there was never a single leak to the media. It would have been devastating to the investigation if Khattala knew he was being spied on.
The Libya witnesses who came forward, provided the real hard evidence and are my heroes. I am hoping for life sentences for Khattal and Iman. Up until President Trump took office, the people of Benghazi were extremely grateful for the support of the US, as we helped them in 2011, when Qaddafi was certainly going to bomb their city. Obama was able to push through UN Resolution 1973, essentially grounding Qaddafi’s air force. Now, I think this support is being lost as Trump includes Libya as one of the countries in his travel ban.
I really hate this headline, as the print version has the headline “Libyan Informant Describes His Role in the Benghazi Suspect’s Capture.” I believe the trials of Khattala and Iman will provide new details on what was transpiring outside the compounds, for a long time prior to the attacks.