|FBI ID's Benghazi Suspects but Holder Won't Arrest Them|
|WASHINGTON -- The U.S. has identified five men who might be responsible for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year, and has enough evidence to justify seizing them by military force as suspected terrorists, officials say. But there isn't enough proof to try them in a U.S. civilian court as the Obama administration prefers.|
Waiting to prosecute suspects instead of grabbing them now could add to the political weight the Benghazi case already carries. The attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans weeks before President Barack Obama's re-election. Since then, Republicans in Congress have condemned the administration's handling of the situation, criticizing the level of embassy security, questioning the talking points provided to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for her public appearances to explain the attack and suggesting the White House tried to play down the incident to minimize its effect on the president's campaign.
The FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies identified the men through contacts in Libya and by monitoring their communications. They are thought to be members of Ansar al-Shariah, the Libyan militia group whose fighters were seen near the U.S. diplomatic facility prior to the violence.
U.S. officials say the FBI has proof that the five men were either at the scene of the first attack or somehow involved because of intercepts of at least one of them bragging about taking part. Some of the men have also been in contact with a network of well-known regional Jihadists, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
"The war on terror, I think, is a war and at times I get the feeling that the administration wants to treat it as a crime," McKeon said Tuesday.
"Regardless of what happened previously, we have made very, very, very substantial progress in that investigation," Attorney General Eric Holder told lawmakers last week.
But options for dealing with the men are few and difficult, U.S. officials said, describing high level strategy debates among White House, FBI and other counterterror officials. The U.S. could ask Libya to arrest the suspects, hoping that Americans would be given access to question them and that the Libyans gather enough evidence to hold the men under their own justice system. Another option is to ask the Libyans to extradite the men to the U.S., but that would require the U.S. to gather enough solid evidence linking the suspects to the crime to ask for such an action.
Asking other countries to detain suspects hasn't produced much thus far.
Tunisia allowed the U.S. to question Tunisian suspect Ali Harzi, 28, who was arrested in Turkey last October because of suspected links to the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack, but a judge released him in January for lack of evidence.
Finally, the U.S. could send a military team to grab the men, and take them to an offsite location such as a U.S. naval ship -- the same way al-Qaida suspect Ahmed Warsame was seized by special operations personnel in 2011 in Somalia. He was then held and questioned for two months on a U.S. ship before being read his Miranda rights, transferred to the custody of the FBI and taken for trial in a New York court. Warsame pleaded guilty earlier this year and agreed to tell the FBI what he knew about terror threats and, if necessary, testify for the government.
The option most likely off the table would be taking suspects seized by the military to Guantanamo Bay, the facility in Cuba that Obama has said he wants to close.
"Just as the administration is trying to find the exit ramp for Guantanamo is not the time to be adding to it," said Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor for Guantanamo.
|Egypt nabs terror suspect linked to Benghazi attack|
|[Al Ahram] Egyptian authorities have a suspected terror network ringleader whose operatives are believed to have carried out a deadly attack on a US mission in Libya, a report said Friday.|
Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad -- a former member of the Egyptian , who was freed from prison in March 2011 following the ouster of Egyptian leader -- was captured in the past week, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed US officials.
When asked about the report, one US official confirmed to AFP that Ahmad , without providing further details.
US intelligence played a role in the detention, one official told the Journal. It was not immediately clear where or how the suspect -- who is thought to be about 45 years old -- was caught.
The US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in the September 11 assault on the US mission in Benghazi.
Since his release from prison, Ahmad has been assembling a team of operatives, with training camps in Libya and Egypt, and he has received funding from Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen, the Wall Street Journal said.
Egypt has yet to announce Ahmad's capture. US officials have not yet been able to question the suspect, the report said.
|Zawahiri's Brother Defends Benghazi Suspect|
|Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that fighters "linked to" an Egyptian terrorist named Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad took part in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Ahmad was freed in 2011, after the fall of Hosni Mubarak's regime. The WSJ's account has clearly angered one of Ahmad's friends -- Mohammed al Zawahiri, who helped lead the protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo the same day as the attack in Libya. Mohammed al Zawahiri is the younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri.|
No one should take Mohammed al Zawahiri at his word. As a commander in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) organization, a core part of the al Qaeda joint venture, he has established a web of nefarious ties that go far beyond his brother. In fact, according to the very same WSJ article Mohammed al Zawahiri objects to, he helped put Ahmad in touch with Ayman al Zawahiri.
"U.S. officials believe [Mohammed al Zawahiri] has helped Mr. Ahmad connect with the al Qaeda chief," the WSJ reported.
The WSJ explains: "Western officials say Mr. Ahmad has petitioned the chief of al Qaeda, to whom he has long ties, for permission to launch an al Qaeda affiliate and has secured financing from al Qaeda's Yemeni wing."
Given that Ahmad's forces are suspected of taking part in the Benghazi attack, which reportedly involved other al Qaeda parties (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar al Sharia, etc.), it would be a mistake to assume that nothing came of Ahmad's petition of Ayman al Zawahiri. Not just anyone receives financing from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), as Ahmad reportedly has.
This brings us back to Mohammed al Zawahiri. He denies everything, of course. Mohammed al Zawahiri denies that he has resumed his terrorist career. He also denies having anything to do with the ransacking of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, claiming that he only meant to launch a protest outside the compound's walls.
U.S. intelligence officials, judging by the WSJ account and other reporting, clearly don't believe Mohammed al Zawahiri's denials. So the question becomes, what (if anything) is Morsi's government going to do about him and his ilk?
A source with direct knowledge of Egyptian government talks with jihadists in the Sinai says al-Zawahiri is helping negotiations. The source says al-Zawahiri has the respect of the Islamists and the trust of the new government.
So while U.S. intelligence officials believe that Mohammed al Zawahiri is helping to put terrorists in touch with the head of al Qaeda, the Egyptian government "trust(s)" him to help negotiate with terrorists in the Sinai.
It is safe to say there is a major disconnect here.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies