WASHINGTON — The capture of a suspected ringleader in the fatal 2012 siege of U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya, reopened political debate Tuesday over how best to interrogate terrorism suspects. But the seizure appeared to resolve none of the questions that Republicans are primarily focused on about the attacks.
The Obama administration called the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala a result of a "painstaking" investigation and evidence of U.S. commitment to bring those who sacked a U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA station to justice.
Abu Khattala is to be tried in federal court, the administration said.
On Tuesday, hawkish Republicans swiftly called for Abu Khattala to be held and interrogated at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "Obviously he should be put on trial. I'd bring him to Guantanamo," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "Where else can you take him to?"
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a leading critic of the administration's handling of the Benghazi episode, praised the capture on Twitter but quickly followed up with a broadside.
"Holding Khattala on a ship shows the haphazard approach which comes from not having rational detention & interrogation policies," Graham tweeted.
"Naval vessels were never meant to be detention and interrogation sites," Graham added.
That prompted Tommy Vietor, a former Obama aide and current adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to tweet in reply: "Nor was Cuba."
The Bush administration opened Guantanamo as a holding site for terrorism detainees in 2002, choosing the Cuban island site largely because it was outside the United States and not subject to the automatic rights accorded to prisoners on U.S. soil.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also criticized the administration's plans for a federal trial.
He said in a statement that the suspect should immediately be transferred to Guantanamo "for detention and interrogation."
CLINTON REACTS: There are still too many unanswered questions about the attacks in Benghazi, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday, even as she welcomed the capture of a suspected mastermind of the assaults.
"There are answers, not all of them, not enough, frankly," she said of the September 2012 attacks on a diplomatic and CIA compound.
"I'm still looking for answers, because it was a confusing and difficult time," Clinton said.
Her remarks, delivered during a CNN interview in Washington to promote her new book, appeared to lend credence to a central claim by Republicans that there is more to learn about the tragedy.