Republicans question handling of Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khatallah

Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khatallah, pictured here, was captured by U.S. Special Operations forces in June.

Now that the U.S. has captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a suspected leader of the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, the Obama administration plans to try him in the American court system. Several Republican lawmakers, however, are suggesting that Khatallah's interrogation and trial should be handled by the military rather than civilian law enforcement.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called Khatallah's capture "welcome news" but said in a statement that the administration should "immediately transfer him to the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay for detention and interrogation."

"At times, this Administration has been more interested in the politics of the war on terrorism than the execution of it, and we have not had an articulable detention policy in six years," Rubio said. "America remains at war and a return to the failed law enforcement approach of the 1990s is not an adequate response to the very real threats we face."

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, similarly said in a statement that Khatallah "belongs in Guantanamo and in the military justice system, not in the U.S. civilian court system with the constitutional protections afforded U.S. citizens."

Last year, Khatallah was the first person charged in connection with the attack by federal prosecutors. CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports that he has been put on a ship to the U.S. and is being interrogated.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Twitter that "holding Khattala [sic] on a ship shows the haphazard approach which comes from not having rational detention & interrogation policies."

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden on Tuesday argued the administration has been clear in its opposition to adding any more prisoners to the Guantanamo Bay facility. The federal criminal justice system, she said, "has repeatedly proven that it can successfully allow us to gather intelligence, handle the threat that we continue to face, and prosecute terrorists."

Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she gave her full support to the administration's plan to gather intelligence from Khatallah and then prosecute him in federal court. She noted the federal system has successfully convicted over 500 terrorists since Sept. 11, 2001.

"Past cases against terrorists like Abu Khatallah have shown that we can obtain intelligence, convict terrorists and lock them away for a very long time," she said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, similarly said that arguing to send Khatallah to Guantanamo Bay is the "easy way out."

"I look forward to his prosecution in the U.S. court system. That is what Americans do when faced with murderers and terrorists - we prove their guilt and hold them accountable for what they have done," he said. "We all should be proud of America's courts -- the best in the world, and the envy of the world, where scores of terrorists have successfully been tried and convicted."

Greg Doherty, whose brother Glen Doherty was killed in the 2012 attack, said he supports the decision to try Khatallah in civilian court, the New York Times reports. "I think that's what we should do with criminals, which is try them," he said.

Some conservative pundits and former lawmakers, meanwhile, suggested that the timing of Khatallah's capture was potentially politically motivated. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh suggested it was "fortunate" for President Obama that Khatallah's capture comes as Republicans continue to hound the administration over missing emails pertaining to the IRS scandal.

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