Fox News reacted to reports that a suspect in the September 2012 Benghazi attack has been indicted by attacking the Obama administration. This included pushing the narrative that terror suspects should be tried in military courts, ignoring the far more successful record of civilian courts in such trials.
Obama Administration Files Criminal Charges In Benghazi Attack
WSJ: Authorities File Criminal Charges Against Suspect In Benghazi Attack. The Wall Street Journal reported that federal authorities had filed charges against several suspects in the attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya:
The Justice Department has filed sealed criminal charges against a number of suspects in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, according to people familiar with the matter.
One of those charged, according to these people, is Ahmed Abu Khattalah, founder of Libya's Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia. Mr. Abu Khattalah was seen at the compound when it was overrun, according to intelligence officials. In interviews with reporters, Mr. Abu Khattalah has admitted being at the scene but denied involvement in the attack.
The exact nature of the charges wasn't clear, nor was the number of suspects named in the investigation. Investigators and prosecutors are continuing to pursue the case, and they plan to charge additional suspects, according to the people familiar with the case. [Wall Street Journal, 8/6/13]
Fox Reacts To Announcement By Bashing Obama Administration, Pushing For Military Trials
Fox's Peter Johnson Jr.: “They Could Have Done This A Year Ago.” On Fox & Friends, Fox analyst Peter Johnson Jr. claimed that the government's investigation is “a purely political determination. There is no will in this government today to bring people to task in a military sense.” He added, “they could have done this a year ago in terms of military intervention.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/7/13]
Fox's Hayes On Benghazi Investigation: “This Has Not Been A Top Priority Of The U.S. Government Over The Last Year.” On America's Newsroom, Fox contributor Stephen Hayes attacked the Obama administration, claiming the investigation has not been “a top priority” :
Let's be clear about one thing. This has not been a top priority of the U.S. government over the last year. We know what it looks like when the U.S. government makes something a top priority and it doesn't take 11 months to basically just file charges. If this were a top priority of the U.S. government, we would have been on the ground apprehending or maybe killing the people involved in this attack early on. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 8/7/13]
Fox's Bolton: “Criminal Law Approach” To Benghazi Attack Is “So Inadequate.” On Happening Now, Fox contributor John Bolton claimed that the “criminal law approach to the attack on Benghazi [is] so inadequate.” He went on to say that Department of Justice's investigation into the Benghazi attack “reflects the inadequacy of treating attacks by terrorists as criminal events rather than acts of war.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 8/7/13]
Fox Host Camerota: DOJ Indictment Has “The Whiff Of Political Damage Control.” On America Live, guest host Alisyn Camerota cited Fox's campaign of misinformation relating to the Benghazi attack, saying the indictment “does have the whiff of political damage control given that Fox News has been on this virtually every day for 11 months.” [Fox News, America Live, 8/7/13]
Civilian Courts Have Proven More Effective Than Military Courts At Prosecuting Terrorists
DOJ: Criminal Justice System Has Provided Intelligence While Successfully Prosecuting Terrorists. A Department of Justice fact sheet argued that the “criminal justice system provides powerful incentives for suspects to provide accurate, reliable information” while successfully prosecuting terrorism suspects:
The criminal justice system has been the source of extremely valuable intelligence on al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. The criminal justice system provides powerful incentives for suspects to provide accurate, reliable information, and the Department of Justice and FBI work closely with the rest of the intelligence community to maximize information and intelligence obtained from each cooperator.
Hundreds of terrorism suspects have been successfully prosecuted in federal court since 9/11. Today, there are more than 300 international or domestic terrorists incarcerated in U.S. federal prison facilities. Events over the past year demonstrate the continuing value of federal courts in combating terrorism. In 2009, there were more defendants charged with terrorism violations in federal court than in any year since 9/11. [Department of Justice, 1/26/10]
CAP: “Criminal Courts Hand Out Tougher Sentences Than Military Commissions.” According to a report by the Center for American Progress, civil courts are “a far tougher and more reliable forum for prosecuting terrorists than military commissions.” The study further found that access to lawyers has not restricted intelligence gathering:
The sample size of military commissions' sentences is very small, but there are some analogous cases in the criminal justice system to compare the length of sentences in the two forums. The allegations against David Hicks in a military trial were quite similar to those leveled against John Walker Lindh--the so-called American Taliban--in a criminal court, while comparable charges to the material support for terrorism conviction for Salim Hadman can also be found in criminal courts.
Hicks pleaded guilty to the charge of material support for terrorism with the underlying allegations that he trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and that he was an armed participant in numerous engagements with American and Northern Alliance forces. Lindh pleaded guilty to serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons. Hicks received a nine-month sentence while Lindh got 20 years. Even if all of the time Hicks served prior to his plea bargain is counted, his total time in custody was only six years, less than one-third of the sentence Lindh received.
Hamdan was convicted of providing material support for terrorism for being Osama bin Laden's chauffer. In 2006, Ali Asad Chandia was convicted in a criminal court of material support for terrorism for driving a member of Pakistani extremist group Lashkar-e-Taibi from Washington National Airport and helping him ship packages containing paintball equipment back to Pakistan. Hamdan received a five-month sentence while Chandia got 15 years. Even if all of the time Hamdan served prior to his conviction in a military commission is counted, his total time in custody would be only eight years.
At most, Osama bin Laden's driver got a little more than half the sentence from a military commission that a criminal court doled out to someone for driving a low-level Pakistani extremist. [Center for American Progress, 1/20/10]
ACLU Head Anthony Romero: “The Record Amply Shows That Our Federal Courts Are Well Equipped To Handle National Security Cases.” In a U.S. News & World Report op-ed, ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero pointed out that there “have been hundreds of successful terrorism prosecutions in our courts, before and after 9/11,” further noting that military tribunals “have delivered only three convictions, two resulting in sentences of less than a year” :
As to trying suspected terrorists, the record amply shows that our federal courts are well equipped to handle national security cases while providing due process. There have been hundreds of successful terrorism prosecutions in our courts, before and after 9/11. These include the cases of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who pled guilty in 2002, and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, who was convicted in 2006. Both are serving life sentences.
Military commissions, on the other hand, despite recent improvements, remain a second-class system of justice that fails to meet both domestic and international legal standards. They have never been used for a murder trial, much less cases as complex as the pending terrorism prosecutions of the 9/11 suspects. The commissions have been mired in legal challenges and controversy, and, since 9/11, have delivered only three convictions, two resulting in sentences of less than a year (plus time at Guantánamo, in one case). [U.S. News & World Report, 2/16/10]
LA Times: “The Case For Civilian Trials Is A Strong One.” An October 23, 2011, Los Angeles Times editorial argued that civilian courts are appropriate for terrorism trials, pointing out that the “notion that the civilian criminal justice system can't handle terrorism cases is a canard.” The editorial went on to note that civilian courts have a better record at convicting terrorists:
The notion that the civilian criminal justice system can't handle terrorism cases is a canard. Defenders of the civilian system point to the guilty pleas of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber,” and Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, two of many terrorism suspects successfully prosecuted in civilian court.
But the case for civilian trials is a strong one. They provide more due process than military commissions. To the extent that the war on terror is a battle for hearts and minds, they show the world that the United States is willing to accord even its enemies the full panoply of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Last and most important, through trial after trial the civilian justice system has demonstrably withstood the challenges posed by terrorism, whatever its source, whereas the military commission system has much less of a track record. As Congress continues to fashion the defense authorization bill, the president should speak up for what was once a priority. [Los Angeles Times, 10/23/11]