Editorial | Captured Libyan may shed light on Benghazi

The following editorial appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday:

The capture and opportunity for interrogation of Benghazi accused assassin Ahmed Abu Khattala, announced by President Barack Obama during his visit to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, have gone smoothly so far and are a credit to American authorities.

What happened in Benghazi, Libya, the night of Sept. 11, 2012, which included the deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues as well as the destruction of the American office there, have been engulfed in the fog of Washington politics and a strange war that continues in that country.

A suspected architect of the fatal attack was Abu Khattala. Regardless of the absence of a Libyan government, American security officials have been determined ever since to bring the attackers to justice.

There is room for complaint that it has taken so long – nearly two years – but the capture Monday of Khattala was carried out smoothly by U.S. special forces, with no loss of life by Americans or Libyans.

The government’s intent is to try him in civilian court, appropriately, rather than cart him off to the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and add him to the 149 prisoners who are still being held there for years without trial.

Beyond ascertaining Khattala’s role and obtaining justice, the United States could learn from his interrogation information that might offer clarity on what occurred that fatal night.

Was the attack planned in advance? Was it a relatively spontaneous response to the U.S.-made, anti-Muslim film making the rounds of the Islamic world at that point? To what degree was the assault a result of the attackers’ awareness of the Americans’ inadequate protection?

“Benghazi” – now an issue in American politics – would definitely benefit from the application of a solid coat of facts. Khattala may be able to offer them.