Quite a chain of events took place today. First, CNN’s John King reported that Arwa Damon, a CNN colleague of his went to Benghazi and interviewed a ‘lead suspect’ in the attacks for two hours. During this interview, King did not name the suspect but relayed that this individual said he had not been contacted by either the FBI or the Libyan government.
Here is King, via the Weekly Standard:
A bit later, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked by Fox’s Ed Henry how CNN was able to talk to a suspect and the FBI was not. Carney demurred and told Henry to talk to the FBI.
We wonder… Isn’t the job of Carney’s boss to ask the FBI why the FBI hasn’t interviewed a lead suspect but CNN has?
Not long after Carney’s press conference, John King was back on CNN and spoke with Wolf Blitzer. During this interview, Kind did identify the name of the ‘lead suspect’ that Damon spoke to. It was Ahmed Abu Khattala, who is the head of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya.
Moreover, it appears that Henry’s question to Carney is indeed quite valid, though Damon isn’t the first reporter that Khattala interviewed with. Back in October, Reuters reported on its interview with him:
In an interview, Abu Khattala told Reuters he had only heard he was a suspect through news media and was surprised that officials had told journalists he was at large.
“These reports say that no one knows where I am and that I am hiding,” he said. “But here I am in the open, sitting in a hotel with you. I’m even going to pick up my sister’s kids from school soon.”
Sitting with a friend in the restaurant of a Benghazi hotel, the 41-year-old, sporting a red felt hat and a full salt-and-pepper beard, laughed gently.
The Global Post reported back in October that Khattala interviewed with the AP as well:
“All this talk is baseless,” Khattala told the AP. “I am in Benghazi, have a job and live my life normally. I have not been accused by any party with any allegations … I am not a fugitive or in hiding.”
Meanwhile, US government sources told Reuters that Khattala is being probed as a suspect in the attacks, though investigators are not clear what role he played.
Khattala’s involvement notwithstanding, the buzz being caused by Damon’s ability to interview Khattala while the FBI and Libyan government have not, perhaps should have been front and center last October. Again, via Reuters:
A Libyan interior minister official close to the investigation told Reuters that a photograph was taken of Abu Khattala at the consulate at the time of the September 11 attacks but there was not enough evidence to arrest him.
“There were many people there from Ansar al-Shariah, from other brigades and from the general public,” the official, who refused to be named, said, referring to the hardline Islamist militia group which has been blamed for the attack.
“Just because someone is there doesn’t mean they were behind it.”
Not enough evidence to arrest him?
Apparently, being at the scene of a crime as well as having a rap sheet, a prison record, and involvement with a group named in the attack doesn’t even constitute enough evidence to question him.
It is curious that Damon’s interview with Khattala is getting this kind of attention now, when Khattala was interviewing with media one month after the attacks. While Damon’s interview with Khattal seems a bit newsworthy, there does seem to be a bit of an old news angle to it.
Here is King’s interview with Blitzer after Carney’s press briefing, via Jason Chaffetz: