The case represents the Obama administration’s attempt to find a middle ground between open-ended detentions in secret prisons, as practiced by the George W. Bush administration, and its commitment to try as many terrorism cases as possible in civilian courts.

With the capture of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, the administration appeared to split the difference, with military and intelligence officials interrogating him secretly for two months before bringing in law enforcement officials to question him for purposes of an indictment. He is the first foreign terrorism suspect captured by the administration outside the United States and moved to this country for trial.

In flying Warsame to New York before announcing his capture, the administration circumvented likely congressional objections to his transfer here. Congress has barred the administration from moving detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States for trial.