As a congressional committee questioned Hillary Clinton for hour after hour after hour about Benghazi, the man under indictment for leading the attack sat in a jail cell minutes from the Capitol.
Ahmed Salim Faraj Abu Khatallah has also been attending hearings concerning the events in Benghazi, most recently last week.
Only these hearings are in a U.S. District Court, where prosecutors are seeking to hold him criminally responsible for the killings of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and State Department employee Sean Smith, along with security experts Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
In the courtroom, Khatallah has been invariably addressed with courtesy, as somebody who is presumed innocent until proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.
The overall tenor of these proceedings has been that of a deliberate and determinedly fair effort to determine the truth.
The Khatallah trial is not expected to commence until 2017. That will be after we learn whether Clinton has become our next president despite the attempt by a badgering crew of Republicans to use a congressional committee not so much to determine the truth as to scuttle her candidacy.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is deciding whether to seek the death penalty for Khatallah.
As described by indictment CR-00141, Khatallah is the commander of an Islamist militia called Ubaydah Bin Jarrah, which merged with another Islamist group called Ansar al-Sharia with the aim of establishing Sharia in Libya.
“On or before September 11, 2012, Khatallah informed others that there was an American facility in Benghazi posing as a diplomatic post, that he believed the facility was actually being used to collect intelligence, that he viewed U.S. intelligence actions in Benghazi as illegal, and that he was therefore going to do something about this facility,” the indictment says.
The indictment continues, “On the evening of September 11, 2012, Khatallah drove to the Mission with other attackers… At approximately 9:45 pm, conspirators, consisting of a group of about twenty armed men, including close associates of Khatallah, violently breached the main gate of the Mission.”
Details of what followed on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks were apparently gleaned from Khatallah during the dozen days he spent aboard the USS New York after Delta commandos grabbed him in Benghazi in June 2014. He was questioned by the FBI’s High Value Detainee Interrogation Group while steaming toward the United States and justice aboard a vessel whose prow had been fashioned with 7.5 tons of steel salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
When the ship neared our shores, Khatallah was placed on a helicopter. He made his first appearance in district court in Washington, D.C., wearing a dark tracksuit and sandals.
“Will the defendant please stand, sir,” the clerk said, setting the tone.
Khatallah pleaded not guilty and was appointed a team of very able public defenders who will seek to keep the prosecution from proving otherwise.
Last week, Khatallah was back in court for a hearing. He then returned to his cell, where he remained on Thursday as the congressional committee grilled Clinton into the night. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wondered aloud whether the committee Republicans were trying to grind her down until they got a “gotcha moment.”
“We’re better than that, we’re a better country,” Cummings said. “We’re better than using taxpayer dollars to try to destroy a campaign.”
During the ninth hour, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) made mention of Khatallah.
“Who is sitting in a prison cell not far from where you and I are sitting this evening,” Pompeo said to Clinton.
Pompeo added, “I’m glad we pulled one of the terrorists involved.”
With those words, there arose a question without anybody asking it, an altogether legitimate question about the Benghazi attack, a question everybody should be asking.
What about the rest of the murderers?
But that is a question for President Obama, not for Hillary Clinton, not now, anyway.
Not unless she becomes our next commander-in-chief.