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Why is Obama hesitating to arrest the Benghazi suspects?
The FBI has identified five suspects, but the U.S. has refrained from apprehending them
Libyan men protest in Benghazi shortly after the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Libyan men protest in Benghazi shortly after the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon
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he Federal Bureau of Investigation has identified five suspects believed responsible for last year's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Investigators believe they have enough information implicating the men — thought to be members of the Islamist militant group Ansar al-Shariah — to justify having the military seize them as suspected terrorists.

The U.S., however, hasn't made a move to apprehend them. The Obama administration would reportedly prefer to put them on trial in a civilian court, and so far there isn't enough evidence to ensure a conviction.

The news prompted a fresh round of criticism from conservatives already seething over the administration's handling of security in Benghazi, as well as the aftermath of the attack. "Am I reading this correctly?" asked Allahpundit at Hot Air. "President Dronestrike, who's been known to liquidate people from the air in places like Pakistan with no more evidence than that their movements show the 'signature' of a terrorist, now won't go in and grab five jihadis whom the feds have reason to believe murdered a U.S. ambassador?"

Not for a minute do I believe that O really wants these guys tried in federal court. His whole counterterror M.O. has been to kill suspected jihadis on sight precisely so that he doesn’t have to deal with the headache of housing and trying them. If he sends in the SEALs to grab the five and they succeed, suddenly Gitmo and military tribunals are back front and center and the headache starts anew. [Hot Air]

There are very real reasons for holding back, though. RT.com notes that senior Obama administration officials want to make sure they don't fray relations with the fledgling government in Libya by nabbing the suspects in a unilateral mission.

In the meantime, the U.S. is keeping the suspects under electronic surveillance while the FBI gathers more evidence against them. The agency has released photos of three of the five suspects in the hope that locals will step forward with more information.

The decision to hold back could, of course, change at any minute. Barbara Starr at CNN reports that the U.S. military has plans to "capture or kill" the Benghazi suspects any time President Obama issues the order. The plans were drawn up immediately after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, but the White House didn't sign off, partly for fear that an American military intervention could weaken the fragile Libyan government, and even cause it to collapse, Starr says.

One option that's probably off the table, however, is sending the men to the detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. President Obama is renewing an effort to close the facility, a 2008 campaign promise he dropped in the face of GOP opposition. "Just as the administration is trying to find the exit ramp for Guantanamo is not the time to be adding to it," Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo, tells The Associated Press.

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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