All-Star Panel: Benghazi terror suspect to be tried in civilian court?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 19, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finally, this guy on the ship, Khatalla, is he being held under the law of war? Are we doing lawful interrogation of this man?

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Khatalla is under the control of the Department of Justice.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, R - TX: As with any terrorist you capture, you can get great intelligence. I would say the intelligence-gathering far outweighs a criminal prosecution.


BAIER: Abu Khatalla, suspect in the Benghazi attacks picked up over the past weekend. He is now, as you heard from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in the custody of the Department of Justice. But he is on a slow boat to the U.S. He is actually on the USS New York. And he is making his way to the U.S. He has not -- we have been told -- been read his Miranda rights, and he is talking. We're back with the panel. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: We're having a big argument over whether he should be tried by the military or civilian court. That's the wrong argument. It doesn't matter. What matters is we learn what he knows. The idea that we capture a terrorist who we believe was one of the ringleaders of an attack on our embassy, and then he goes on cuss today the Department of Justice as if he is a burglar outside the Libyan embassy is quite insane. He is a prisoner of war. He has no Miranda rights. Miranda rights are meant for Americans. They are not intended for non-Americans, unlawful combatants, which he is.

He needs to be under the military, where he can be interrogated like a prisoner of war and kept in interrogation until we squeeze everything that we need out of him. He is on a slow boat, but, you know, at some point they are going to land in New York, in which case all of that is over. Who cares how -- who tries him at the end? It's what you do at the beginning.

And just one more thing. We apparently waited for months to apprehend him because we needed to gather the evidence that we could show in a civilian court. This is insane. This is a terrorist on the loose. Instead of grabbing him at the first opportunity, we're going around, what, collecting shells around the consulate in Benghazi so we could have a good trial? This is war. It's not a criminal investigation. Did we learn nothing from 9/11?

BAIER: Juan, isn't this having it both ways, you know, saying that we're against this War on Terror but still interrogating him on a ship and he has not been read his Miranda rights? If you are going to try him in a civilian court, it's essentially a floating black site.


BAIER: And what is this? It's kind of a hybrid.

WILLIAMS: Well, there is something called a public safety exception. And that's what's being done here. It's much as if someone committed an act of terrorism here in the United States, which is you say before you read the Miranda rights, here is the deal. We need some information. We want to know if there is anything imminent, anything further about where weaponry may be hidden, et cetera.

And this is an important point, because remember, there has been a failure on the part of American intelligence to link this fellow directly to Al Qaeda. So they couldn't just kill him in the way that we kill bin Laden. And they couldn't use drones and other devices that were used to kill others who we have linked directly to Al Qaeda. So under U.S. law, what we did was extract him and now we are questioning him, again, having built what we think is a strong case about his guilt.

BAIER: George?

WILL: We talk about the law that's germane here. I'm not sure the law is anything other than soft wax at this point. We are dealing with entities and conflicts with which we have no experience. You talked about the slow boat. One terrorist was on a boat for two months. You can do an awful lot of chatting with him in two months. Getting him convicted, as Charles says, is not the problem. He has seen his last day of freedom ever, and we have convicted more than 500 terrorists.

BAIER: Remember they have video of him at the site. That's probably good evidence.

WILL: That's right. And Pat Leahy says we have convicted 500 people in civilian courts. It is very curious that we are making distinctions. And frankly, I think it speaks rather well of us that we are making distinctions, that the authorization of use of military force does not cover this person because certain connections have not been established between him and other entities, therefore, he could not be attacked and killed -- the therefores continue. But we don't know what the answer is yet. But, again, I think it speaks rather well of us that we are asking the questions.

BAIER: Well, quickly, Charles. You know, a lot of people are calling for him to go to Gitmo. We saw that report tonight. They do have it pretty good there with the health care and everything else.

KRAUTHAMMER: Gitmo is the slowest of all boats. That's the point of Gitmo. At some point the boat arrives in New York and the questioning ends. He gets a fancy lawyer, a nice comfy suite, and we never hear another word again. There are bad guys out there in North Africa. He knows a lot of them we have to know a lot about. Stick him in Gitmo and question him for a year, or two, or three if you have to.

BAIER: That is it for the panel, but stay tuned for an inspiring story of a wounded war hero.

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