US interrogating captured AQ leader without Miranda rights

posted at 10:41 am on October 7, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Looks like the Obama administration learned from its past handling of terrorists — or perhaps the circumstances of a rare capture have forced them to a war footing rather than a law-enforcement approach. NBC News reports that the terrorist captured in Libya by a special-forces raid will not be given Miranda rights, at least not immediately. Instead, the intelligence services will have time to extract any information about potential future operations targeting Americans from Abu Anas al-Libi, one of the US’ most-wanted terrorists for 15 years:

United States interrogators who specialize in so-called high value targets will question a suspected al Qaeda operative aboard an American warship without reading him his rights, U.S. officials told NBC News on Monday.

The suspect, Abu Anas al-Libi, was whisked off the streets of the Libyan capital of Tripoli over the weekend. He will be taken to the United States to stand trial in the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the officials said.

The interrogation will be conducted by a team including representatives of the CIA, the FBI and the military aboard the USS San Antonio, an amphibious helicopter carrier in the Mediterranean Sea, the officials said. …

By interrogating al-Libi, U.S. officials hope to get information about al Qaeda activities or pending operations in or outside of Libya, the officials said.

Richard Engel states that the US will likely try al-Libi in the US for his role in the 1998 twin embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. That case has been waiting for nothing other than al-Libi’s capture, which may be one reason why the US government isn’t terribly concerned about Miranda rights in this case. His arrest and interrogation may have little to do with the 1998 case, so there is little risk in poisoning evidence presented in civil court.

On the other hand, the manner of his “arrest” could potentially become an issue in court. Libya certainly has an objection to it:

The Libyan government on Sunday condemned what it called the “kidnapping” of one of its citizens after Ruqai, known by the alias Anas al-Libi, was forced out of his car and bundled away by men his brother described as foreign-looking “commandos.”

Addressing the Libyan complaints, Secretary of State John F. Kerry called Ruqai “a key al-Qaeda figure.”

“He is a legal and an appropriate target for the U.S. military,” Kerry said, and will face trial in an American court.

Theoretically at least, being an appropriate military target doesn’t necessarily mean that his arrest will pass muster in a civilian court. The two have different sets of rules, and a judge could get persnickety about the difference. In reality, one would have to search a long time for a federal judge willing to let a high-ranking al-Qaeda leader out on such a technicality, of course, and we have other precedents — the most dramatic of which was the capture and trial of Manuel Noriega, then-dictator of Panama.

If Libya objects, then perhaps they should have arrested and extradited al-Libi themselves over the last two years. After all, he was living in Tripoli, which is one of the few areas of Libya even under their nominal control.

Engel describes the dramatic snatch-and-grab operation:

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Kudos to the special-forces team that carried this out. But that raises another question: why haven’t we done the same with those who sacked the Benghazi consulate last year?


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