ISTOOK: Benghazi needs a military approach, not a circus trial

The Obama Administration treats Benghazi as a court case, not as terrorism. It's like treating Bernie Madoff as just a purse-snatcher.
Photo: Associated Press / Janet Hamlin

WASHINGTON, August 7, 2013 — The Benghazi terrorists should face our military, not twelve jurors in a Washington, DC, federal courtroom. But by filing regular charges against them, the Obama Administration is treating this as just another criminal case.

It is like treating Bernie Madoff as just a purse-snatcher.

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A civilian Benghazi trial could become a circus that makes the military trial of Fort Hood’s admitted killer Maj. Nidal Hasan seem tame. A Benghazi trial would be an irresistible publicity platform for terrorists, as bad as giving free texting privilidges to Anthony Weiner.

Terrorists killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 2012, leading to White House stonewalling about what happened that night.

We have had too many Benghazi delays already, thanks to President Obama. Involving the civilian justice system could add years of delay, just as it did in the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM”), the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

In KSM’s case, a military tribunal was convened at Guantanamo Bay in 2008 during the George W. Bush Administration and KSM said he would plead guilty. Everything halted when the Obama Administration dismissed military charges in 2009 and filed criminal charges against him insteaad. After public and political backlash, those charges were dismissed and a military tribunal was restored in 2011. But military proceedings are still delayed.

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The Benghazi delays also trace back to the Obama White House, even while the perpetrators are said to move freely and openly in Libya.

An intense propaganda effort has concealed much of what President Obama has done—and failed to do—regarding the September 2011 Benghazi assault. But his attitude that it’s a law enforcement matter was clear from the start when he assigned the FBI rather than the military or the CIA to investigate. Obama contradicted Libyan President Mohammed Magarief’s immediate statements that it was a pre-planned terrorist attack. Libya responded to the insult by delaying the FBI from entering the country. Media and others quickly found evidence and witnesses, but the FBI both started late and moved slowly.

Then in May, the Associated Press reported that investigators “had enough evidence to justify seizing them [the attackers] by military force as suspected terrorists,” but they didn’t do it because “there isn’t enough proof to try them in a U.S. civilian court as the Obama Administration prefers.”

That was May. Now it is August and we have criminal charges, but no suspects in custody and no known plan to bring them to America to face those charges.

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When the President was forced to back down on trying KSM in federal court instead of Guantanamo, Attorney-General Eric Holder was peeved: “As the president has said, those unwise and unwarranted restrictions (imposed by Congress) undermine our counterterrorism efforts and could harm our national security. Decisions about who, where and how to prosecute have always been—and must remain—the responsibility of the executive branch.”

Holder also said, “in disrupting potential attacks and effectively interrogating, prosecuting, and incarcerating terrorists — there is, quite simply, no more powerful tool than our civilian court system.” Evidently, he never heard of Navy Seal Team Six.

Now that President Obama is past re-election, he downplays terrorist threats, except when he needs the imagery. When back stories surfaced about Benghazi, we suddenly witnessed the closing of embassies, as though to challenge accounts about disregarding diplomatic security. Last week’s breathless “revelations” that suicide bombs might be implanted in human bodies were old news; such stories have surfaced multiple times since at least 2009.

What is dangerous is the refusal to accept that terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants and held in the military prison like Guantanamo. Holding them elsewhere is unsecure.

Last month, Al-Qaeda attackers freed 1,200 of their people from jail in Benghazi. 600 were freed by attacks on prisons in Iraq. Another 250 were loosed by a Pakistan jailbreak. And after security was turned over to them, the Afghan government turned loose a third of 4,000 detainees who had been captured by U.S. forces.

The supposedly-decimated Al-Qaeda is recycling its people back into terrorist action via jailbreaks.

President Obama always has a snappy comeback, though. As he told TV host Jay Leno, “Odds of dying in a terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident.”

Mr. President, we call those “accidents” because other drivers are not deliberately trying to hit us head-on. But terrorists are trying to kill us or at least put us in constant fear. Talk to the Benghazi victims’ families. They know it wasn’t just “workplace violence.”

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Ernest Istook

Ernest Istook spent 25 years in public office, including 14 years in Congress. He was rated one of the top 25 conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Then was a Heritage Foundation fellow and a fellow at Harvard's Insitute of Politics, where he led a study group on Propaganda in American Politics Today. 

Now as a radio host and a commentator, Ernest aims to expose Washington's gimmicks--to help you avoid the pitfalls. He brings clarity out of the confusion. 

Native to Texas, Ernest transplanted to Oklahoma after graduating from Baylor University.

Contact Ernest Istook


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