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Jury to resume deliberations in Benghazi trial

The 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in Libya killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens. Tomorrow, a jury will continue deliberating in the case of Abu Ahmed Khattala, who is accused of organizing the attack. Adam Goldman of The New York Times joins Megan Thompson with more details.

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  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Tomorrow a jury in Washington D.C. resumes deliberations in the first trial stemming from the September 11th 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That attack killed four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. For the past seven weeks federal prosecutors have tried to prove defendant Abu Ahmed Khattala was a ringleader of the attack. Yesterday I spoke with New York Times reporter Adam Goldman who's been covering the trial. Can you tell us who Abu Ahmed Khattala is and what is he accused of?

  • ADAM GOLDMAN:

    Well Abu Ahmed Khattala is a militia leader who lived in Benghazi and he's simply accused of orchestrating the attacks on September 11th, 2012 on the U.S. diplomatic mission in which the ambassador was killed and another State Department employee, and a secret CIA base about a mile away in which two CIA contractors were killed.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    I understand that building the case against him was a very complicated. There was even an informant that was who was paid $7 million. Talk to us a little bit about that.

  • ADAM GOLDMAN:

    Sure. This was an extraordinary difficult case for the FBI to build against Khattala mainly because the FBI couldn't get into Benghazi to handle the informant. Typically in these types of situations the FBI agents who actually handle the informant. But in this situation they actually had to hand it off to military commanders who snuck into Libya and debriefed the informant every four months. They started working with the informant the end of 2012. It took took a long time for him to get what he needed from Khattala before they were satisfied they could move forward with the prosecution.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    You attended several days of the trial. Can you just talk to us a little bit about what it was like? I understand that some of the witnesses had to testify in disguise?

  • ADAM GOLDMAN:

    A couple of the guys who work for the CIA wore wigs and mustaches. Their identities were classified and they're protected so they were able to take the stand and under disguise. Khattala is there every day. He's not in shackles – he sits quietly at his table with his lawyers. And you really see the power of federal courts on display when you're watching this trial.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    He is being tried in civilian court in a military court. Why was that decision made and what's the implication?

  • ADAM GOLDMAN:

    Well I think it would be difficult to try Khattala in a military commission. He's not affiliated with Al Qaeda – these people haven't presented the case that he is. But he was prosecuted and charged by the Department of Justice with 18 counts – involved in the murders of these four Americans. And I think it was important to the Department of Justice and the FBI to hold somebody responsible and bring him back and prosecute him in civilian court. You know it's sort of a canard this idea that civilian courts aren't adequate to deal with terrorists but they've been dealing with terrorists for a very long time and Khattala is one of many foreign born terrorists who have been brought back to face trial. And in fact that was successfully prosecuted.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    So if he is found guilty where will he end up?

  • ADAM GOLDMAN:

    He will probably end up at the supermax in Florence, Colorado. It's a maximum security prison. The worst of the worst are there and he'll probably spend the rest of his life, 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Are there any other people accused of having a role in the Benghazi attacks who are going to be tried?

  • ADAM GOLDMAN:

    The Department of Justice and FBI have charged more than a dozen people who were involved in the attack. On October 30, First Delta Force, an elite military unit working with the FBI once again apprehended one of the suspects near Misurata which is in Libya along the coast, and they brought him back and in fact they intend to prosecute him. It was Khattala himself who identified Mustafa al-Imam, the one who was picked up recently.

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