The “not guilty” plea entered Monday by Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khatallah in U.S. federal court in Washington D.C. hardly comes as a surprise.
The suspect is now facing an additional 17 charges added to the original indictment filed by the government on July 26which accused him of support for a terrorist group and conspiring murder of Americans. If convicted of the new charges, Khatallah could face the death penalty for the brutal deaths of the four Americans killed in on the night of Sept. 11, 2012.
The indictment is interesting both for what it contains and what it does not contain. It contains, for instance, no mention whatsoever of the YouTube video “The Innocence of Muslims,” which according to the Obama White House, was responsible for a demonstration that supposedly turned violent. This version of the events, concocted mainly in the National Security Council, was recognized immediately within the U.S. government, including by then- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, as nowhere close to the truth and has helped create mistrust of the government’s veracity.
The superseding indictment filed last week tells a very different story of a terrorist leader wanting to expel the U.S. from Benghazi, suspecting an intelligence gathering operation.
According to the Justice Department’s press release, Khatallah was the leader of an extremist militia group and conspired to attack the Benghazi consulate and the CIA Annex. His intent was to kill Americans, destroy the buildings and plunder materials including documents and maps, as well as computers with sensitive information.
Indictments that carry the death penalty listed one count of murder of an internationally protected person –that is,U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens; three counts of murder of an official and an employee of the United States; four counts of killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility involving the use of a firearm and two counts of maliciously damaging and destroying U.S. property by means of fire and explosives causing death.
The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9. Dealing with terrorism as a law enforcement matter, which has been the policy of President Obama as it was of President Clinton before him, is not swift. Nor does it seem to offer much of a deterrent to enemies of the United States in the Middle East.