(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama said at a White House press conference on Friday afternoon that the administration has a “sealed indictment” of unnamed and unnumbered terrorists involved in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Amb. Chris Stevens, State Department Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and CIA security personnel Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
CNN had reported on Tuesday that the administration had charged “several suspects” in the Benghazi attack and that one of them was Ahmed Abu Khattala, reportedly a leader of the Ansar al Sharia militia.
Ansar al-Sharia publicly took credit for the Benghazi while it was still unfolding.
The fact that the administration is indicting people it believes were involved in the terrorist attack in Benghazi suggests the administration is planning to try the terrorists responsible for the attack in U.S. civilian court as if they were domestic criminals—as opposed to treating them as unlawful enemy combatants who committed an act of war against the United States.
Obama said the administration was "intent on capturing" the perpetrators of the Benghazi terror attack.
At Friday’s press conference, Fox News’s Ed Henry asked Obama: “On Sept. 11, we’ll have the first anniversary of Benghazi, and you said on Sept. 12 ‘make no mistake we’ll bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.’ Eleven months later, where are they, sir?”
“Well,” Obama said, “I also said that we would get Bin Laden, and I didn’t get him in eleven months. So, we have informed, I think, the public that there is a sealed indictment. It’s sealed for a reason. But we are intent on capturing those who carried out this attack. And we are going to stay on it until we get them.”
“Are you close to having suspects in custody?” a reporter followed up.
“I will leave it at that,” said Obama. “But this remains a top priority for us. Anybody who attacks Americans, anybody who kills, tragically, four Americans who were serving us in a very dangerous place, we’re going to do everything we can to get those who carried out those attacks.”
At 6:07 p.m. Washington, D.C. time on Sept. 11, 2012, while the terrorist attack in Benghazi was still unfolding, the State Department sent out an email to officials in the White House and the Defense Department and elsewhere in the government stated that the Benghazi-based Libyan militia Ansar al-Sharia was already taking credit for the attack. The email was obtained and reported by CBS News.
The subject line on the email said: “Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack.”
The text said: “Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”
The attack on the U.S. State Department compound in Benghazi had begun at about 3:42 p.m. Washington, D.C. time that day, so the State Department email saying that Ansar al-Sharia was using Facebook and Twitter to take credit for the attack came only about 2 hours and 25 minutes after the attack started. It also came more than five hours before CIA security personnel Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by the terrorists.
In April, the chairman of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Oversight, and Judiciary committees released an “interim report” on their own investigation of Benghazi. “The attackers were members of extremist groups, including the Libya-based Ansar al-Sharia (AAS) and al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)," said the report.
“The attackers included members of Libya-based Ansar al-Sharia (AAS) and al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), among other groups,” the report reiterated.
“The U.S. government immediately had information that the attacks were conducted by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists, yet Administration officials downplayed those connections, and focused on the idea that provocation for violence resulted from a YouTube video,” said the report.
On Oct. 19 of last year, the New York Times interviewed Ahmed Abu Khattala at what it called a “luxury hotel.” The story was datelined Benghazi. In the interview Khattala praised al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia, but claimed he was not a member of either group—saying he was “close” to Ansar al Sharia “but was not an official part of it.”
“But Mr. Abu Khattala insisted that he had not been part of the aggression at the American compound,” the Times reported. “He said he had arrived just as the gunfire was beginning to crackle and had sought to break up a traffic jam around the demonstration.”
“But just days after President Obama reasserted his vow to bring those responsible to justice, Mr. Abu Khattala spent two leisurely hours on Thursday evening at a crowded luxury hotel, sipping mango juice on a patio and scoffing at the threats coming from the American and Libyan governments,” the Times reported in that story published ten months ago.