The capture of Ahmed Abu
The answer, of course, is that they can be both — just as Certs is a breath mint and a candy mint. And sometimes they are neither. In defending his trading of five
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) want Khatallah sent to Guantanamo for questioning. The Obama administration reportedly plans to try Khatallah as a criminal defendant in this country — after he is questioned on a Navy ship.
That replicates the administration’s treatment of another prisoner captured in Libya — Abu Anas al Liby (whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed Ruqai), a suspected Al Qaeda figure indicted in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. The
An act of terrorism on foreign soil can also be a violation of U.S. criminal law. Khatallah is charged with "killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility involving the use of a firearm and dangerous weapon." When most of us think of a federal facility, a post office comes to mind. But the diplomatic annex in Benghazi was also a federal facility.
So Obama is on firm legal ground in seeking to try these defendants in criminal court, despite Republican complaints. (He also has political motives for doing so: He thinks that providing suspects with the protections of American law enhances this country's image.)
Still, the hybrid nature of these offenses does complicate matters. With ordinary criminal suspects, the overriding purpose of interrogation is to obtain information about the crime for which the suspect is in custody. When the prisoner is a suspected international terrorist, the government also wants to plumb the depth of the suspect's knowledge about other plots. That can be hard if you expeditiously read the prisoner his Miranda rights.
Adapting this “public safety exception” to terrorist cases, the department had
Some civil libertarians worry (with good reason, I think) that this expansion of the public safety exception could migrate into ordinary criminal cases and weaken Miranda protections. They argue that, if the government is concerned that Mirandizing a suspected terrorist will cause him to clam up about ongoing plots, it should be willing to pay the price of not being able to use his incriminating statements in court.
The debate between the administration and Republicans like Graham would be easier to adjudicate if terrorism suspects could be pigeonholed as either enemy combatants in a global conflict or as criminals. Sadly, it's not that simple.