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Under pressure, Obama administration files first charges in Benghazi attack
Question of the Day
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, acknowledged that the investigation had not moved ahead as fast as lawmakers would like.
“Its been frustrating for many of us that it hasn’t moved faster,” he told CNN, which broke the news Tuesday afternoon that sealed charges had been filed in the case.
As a former prosecutor, Mr. Schiff said, he recognized how difficult it would be to build a case. “Security is a paramount concern” in any operation in Libya, he said. “Collecting evidence is very difficult, [and] finding and interviewing witnesses is extremely difficult.”
But he said the probe, which he called “a joint intelligence and law enforcement investigation,” was “moving forward. We have identified many of the parties involved and we’re still trying to identify what the command and control structure was,” he said.
The Associated Press reported in May that American officials had identified five men who might be responsible for the attack. The FBI released photos of three of the five suspects, asking the public to provide more information about the men pictured.
The images were captured by security cameras at the U.S. diplomatic post during the attack, but it took weeks for the FBI to see and study them. 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-Sharia, the Libyan militia group whose fighters were seen near the U.S. diplomatic facility before the violence and which quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.
Waiting to prosecute the suspects instead of grabbing them now could add to the political burden the Benghazi case already has placed on Mr. Obama and any Democrat who wants to succeed him.
The New York Times interview with Mr. Khatallah cited unidentified witnesses to the attacks as claiming that he was a leader of Ansar al-Sharia, a local group in Benghazi that is not on any official U.S. list of terrorist organizations but has long advocated for the implementation of Islamist law in Libya.
Sources and analysts have told The Washington Times that the attacks most likely were carried about by a collection of Benghazi militants, including low-level members of Ansar al-Sharia, an Egyptian group known as the Muhammad Jamal network, and members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
But in The New York Times interview, Mr. Khatallah insisted that he was not part of the attack. While he praised Ansar al-Sharia and said he was close to the group, he claimed that he was not a member, but rather the commander of an Islamist brigade known as “Abu Obaida ibn al-Jarrah.”
• Shaun Waterman contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Guy Taylor rejoined The Washington Times in 2011 as the State Department correspondent.
As a freelance journalist, Taylor’s work was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Fund For Investigative Journalism, and his stories appeared in a variety publications, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to Salon, Reason, Prospect Magazine of London, the Daily Star of Beirut, the ...
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