Fox News personalities are questioning the timing of the Obama administration's capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, suspected leader of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, ignoring the complicated logistics involved in carrying out the dangerous apprehension in an unstable foreign country.
U.S. Special Forces Capture Suspected Leader Of Benghazi Attack
Wash. Post: Alleged Benghazi Ringleader Khattala Captured In Secret Raid. The Washington Post reported on June 17 that the suspected leader of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Ahmed Abu Khattala, has been captured by U.S. Special Operations forces:
U.S. Special Operations forces captured one of the suspected ringleaders of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi in a secret raid in Libya over the weekend, the first time one of the accused perpetrators of the 2012 assaults has been apprehended, according to U.S. officials. [The Washington Post, 6/17/14]
Fox Pundits Question The Timing Of Benghazi Suspect's Capture
Fox's Scott: "The Obvious Question ... Why Now?" During the June 17 edition of Happening Now, Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry reported that a suspect in the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks was captured by U.S. Special Operations forces. Fox News host Jon Scott responded by speculating on the timing of the capture:
SCOTT: The obvious question now, Ed, and I'm guessing you're not in a position to answer it yet, is why now? I mean, as you point out, this guy Khattala was out sitting in sidewalk cafes, meeting with reporters and, as you say, bragging about his role in all of this. Why did they pick him up now?
HENRY: Well, we're gonna have to get -- fill in more details on what intelligence they got in the last days, weeks, to move in on him. You're right that the administration was facing criticism last year after they named this suspect, Khattala, in a sealed indictment, the Justice Department did. And then, as you say, he was openly doing various media interviews, boasting about his role in all of this, and the question was, why hasn't the U.S. been able to bring him in if various U.S. media outlets had been able to interview him. I remember asking President Obama last year at a news conference as to why he had not been able to get any of these suspects. He said at the time, "This is difficult business, we're trying very hard," and I remember him telling me at that news conference, "Look, it took us a long time to get bin Laden, we ended up getting him, we're gonna get these suspects as well." Well, they've gotten one of them at least, Jon. [Fox News, Happening Now, 6/17/14]
Fox's Carlson: "Families Of The Four Dead Americans" Probably Wonder Why Khatalla Capture Took So Long. On the June 17 edition of Fox News' The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson wondered why reporters were able to talk to Khattala before he was apprehended, claiming "the four families of the four dead Americans probably were wondering why it took 642 days" to capture Khatalla. [Fox News, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, 6/17/14]
Fox's Rosen Asks State Dept. Spokeswoman About The "Egregious Delay" In Capturing Benghazi Suspect. During a June 17 State Department press conference, Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen asked State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, "would you in fact agree that there has been a rather egregious delay seen in this case in finally apprehending this individual?" [Mediaite.com, 6/17/14]
Fox's Hegseth: "We All Have Questions About The Timing." On the June 17 edition of Outnumbered, Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth claimed that "we all have questions about the timing" of the Abu Khattala capture. Guest co-host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery (Kennedy) speculated that the timing of the capture is "convenient" for Hillary Clinton "to shift the talking points from some of the things that she's been discussing." [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/17/14]
But U.S. Officials Confirmed Apprehension Took "Months Of Planning"
Wash. Post: Benghazi Suspect Captured "Following Months Of Planning." The Washington Post reported that the suspect in the Benghazi terrorist attacks was captured by U.S. Special Operations forces "working alongside the FBI, following months of planning":
The officials said Ahmed Abu Khattala was captured near Benghazi by American troops, working alongside the FBI, following months of planning, and was now in U.S. custody "in a secure location outside Libya." The officials said there were no casualties in the operation, and that all U.S. personnel involved have safely left Libya.[The Washington Post, 6/17/14]
Wash. Post: Previous Capture Plan Was Postponed After Violent Uprisings In Libya. The Post further explained that an earlier plan to capture the Benghazi suspect was "postponed because of violent uprisings against the Libyan government, which had approved the abductions." [The Washington Post, 6/17/14]
FBI Director Comey Testifies To House Committee On Difficulty Of Capturing Khattala. During a June 11 House hearing on FBI oversight, Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) asked FBI director James Comey why the FBI had not apprehended Khattala after a New York Times journalist spoke with him during a 2012 interview in Libya. Comey pointed out that journalists can gain access to people that law enforcement does not:
COBLE: Let me refer to a Huffington Post article which states that on October 18th, 2012, New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick spent two leisurely hours with a guy named Abu Khattala in a crowded luxury hotel sipping a strawberry frappe on the patio and scoffing at the threats coming from American and Libyan governments. Do you share my frustration, Mr. Director, in that the media can gain access to this guy and we can't lay a glove on him?
COMEY: Yeah, I wouldn't express it as frustration, because I've been in this business a long time and I know that sometimes journalists can get access to people that we in law enforcement can't. And so, frankly, it doesn't -- it doesn't move -- it doesn't surprise me. [House Committee on the Judiciary, 6/11/14, via Nexis]
NY Times: Senior American Diplomat "Rebuffed Any Notion That The Timing Of The Raid Had Been Arranged By The Obama Administration." The New York Times, reporting on the capture of Abu Khattala, quoted a senior American diplomat who disputed the suggestion that "the timing of the raid had been arranged by the Obama administration to divert public attention" from other foreign policy matters, instead explaining that "There was a significant degree of planning":
A senior American diplomat briefed on the operation rebuffed any notion that the timing of the raid had been arranged by the Obama administration to divert public attention from the Sunni militant offensive now convulsing Iraq, more than two years after Mr. Obama completed the withdrawal of American forces from that country.
Noting that Mr. Abu Khatalla had been under surveillance by American intelligence officials for months, the official added, "None of these kind of things are executed casually. There was a significant degree of planning." [The New York Times, 6/17/14]
CNN Military Expert Explains Why Khattala's Arrest Took Time. On June 17, retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona appeared on CNN's At This Hour With Berman and Michaela to explain why Khattala's arrest took time and why it was important to apprehend him alive:
FRANCONA: You have to have perfect intelligence. You have to know where they're going to be, what company they're going to be in, how fast can the security forces react, what is, you know, all the situation around you. And sometimes you have to call it off because the police will be there, because the last thing you want to do is get involved in a firefight inside another country, especially a country that's not friendly to you. So for them to set up everything would take time. They may have aborted this several times, we don't know that.
PEREIRA: They did get him alive. The hope is they'll get more intelligence about the other players in this scenario from him?
FRANCONA: Absolutely. It's always better to take these guys alive, and I think that's one of the criticisms a lot of people have of the drone program is you don't get the opportunity to debrief these guys. So we may have had the opportunity to go in and kill this guy, but now we've got him. [CNN, At This Hour With Berman and Michaela, 6/17/14]
CNN Pentagon Correspondent Lays Out Complicated Logistics Of Khattala Capture. On the June 17 edition of Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr explained the numerous factors that the military needed to consider and plan in order to apprehend Khattala:
STARR: They are releasing almost no details, Ashleigh, other than to say it happened and he is somewhere not in Libya. We have every reason to believe that Abu Khattalah, at this hour, is most likely on board a U.S. Navy warship in the Mediterranean. This is what they have done in the past when they have captured people. They have to, for law enforcement reasons, get them on to basically what is U.S. soil, and that, in this case, is a U.S. navy warship, so they can proceed with the right law enforcement procedures.
Having said all of this, what we can tell you is, back in October, there was an effort to go after Khattalah and it fell apart basically due to some internal political anxiety and situations inside of Libya. They weren't able to carry through on the mission. But U.S. special operations forces, the intelligence community, the CIA, the FBI, they have all been keeping an eye on this guy for months.
How is it that a news reporter can get to him and the U.S. military can't? You have to sort of think your way through this. He is in a part of Libya that is not friendly to the United States. He is on the move. To be able to go after him, what U.S. commandos would have had to have known is where he was at the instant in time they were out to get him. They would have to know what kind of defenses, other fighters, might be around him. Did he have any weapons? How were they going to get into Benghazi to get him? How were they going to get out? How were they going to get him on to U.S. Navy warship? They would have to get to helicopters.
To have this level of precise intelligence is really the hallmark of Delta Force SEAL Team 6, the CIA, the FBI. This is what they do. They've been trying to get him for a long time. It looks like this time they did. [CNN, Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield, 6/17/14]