Benghazi 'on scene commander' found guilty on terrorism charges
The man described by the government as the "on scene commander" of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was convicted on four terrorism-related counts.
But the jury found Abu Khattalah not guilty on the four murder charges relating to the attack.
Kattalah was convicted of:
- Conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists.
- Providing material support and resources to terrorists.
- Using, carrying, and discharging a semi-automatic assault rifle during a crime of violence.
- Maliciously destroying and injuring dwellings and property, and placing lives in jeopardy within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and attempting to do the same.
The government announced last year that it would seek life in prison for Kattalah and not the death penalty in the case. Cumulatively, Kattalah faces up to 60 years in prison.
The defense insisted that Kattalah was just an innocent bystander. But video of the attack clearly shows him directing some of the attackers. Not mentioned during the trial was the reason for the attack given by the Obama administration: that people were demonstrating in front of the annex because of an anti-Muslim video on YouTube. Testimony from surviving Americans and from Libyan eyewitnesses tells a different story: that the attack was planned and carried out because Kattalah believed that the annex was a "nest of spies." The American eyewitnesses knew well that it was a coordinated terrorist attack. Despite this, President Obama – in the midst of his re-election campaign – lied to the American people about the attack to cover up the inadequate security at the annex.
Some of the most compelling testimony of the trial came from special agent Scott Wickland, a regional officer with diplomatic security who was living at the mission.
Wickland recalled the events of September 11, 2012, as the first witness to testify in the trial and was visibly emotional as he described Stevens as "very personable" with a warm manner that was "not normal" for an ambassador.
Around 9:45 p.m. on September 11, Wickland said, he heard chanting down the street from the mission and then calls of "Allahu Akbar."
As guards scrambled to put on their protective gear and get their guns, Wickland said, he went to notify Stevens -- who had already gone to bed -- of a possibly escalating security situation.
Wickland then said he had directed Stevens and IT official Smith to a safe room in one of the compound's villas.
There were gunfire, explosions and "bloodcurdling screams" on the radio, according to Wickland, who told the jury, "I knew we were under attack."
The doors of the villa were then blown open, and attackers entered the compound armed with AK-47s and other assault rifles, he said.
When the attackers could not blast open the gates of the safe room, they set the villa on fire, Wickland said.
With smoke filling the safe room, Wickland told the jury, he tried to lead Stevens and Smith to the bathroom so they could get some air but quickly realized they were not behind him.
He tried to feel around and yell for them but couldn't find them, though he kept searching until he was out of air and almost collapsed.
As Wickland went outside to escape the smoke, he said, he was fired upon by grenades.
He repeatedly entered the compound to search for Stevens and Smith until he was out of breath, only to be met with a barrage of grenade fire each time he exited the compound.
Unable to locate Stevens and Smith, Wickland told the jury, he said to himself, "I'm going to search for them until I'm going to die."
Wickland then said he waited for a lull in the gunfire and climbed a ladder to the roof, where he stayed alone for a very long time and continued to take fire -- unable to make contact with anyone on the radio.
What was constantly referred to by Democrats as a "right-wing conspiracy theory" turns out to be true. In fact, there was a conspiracy within the Obama administration to hide relevant details about the attack in order to protect the president's re-election campaign. The White House, the State Department, and even U.S. intelligence promoted a false narrative about the attack that gave the American people an inaccurate and deliberately false impression of what the attack was all about.
During the trial, Kattalah frequently demonstrated his contempt for the proceedings and the witnesses against him. This made it much easier for the prosecution to paint him as an anti-American extremist.
In addition to blowing up the Obama administration narrative on Benghazi, the verdict shows that it would have been better if Kattalah had been sent to Gitmo and tried by a military tribunal. Different rules of evidence prevented the federal court from convicting Kattalah of murder, which would have carried the death penalty.
One additional suspect is currently in U.S. custody. Mustafa al Imam has been charged with three terrorism-related offenses and will make an appearance in federal court next month.