Tuesday, August 6, 2013

U.S. Files Sealed Charges in Benghazi Attack

U.S. Files Sealed Charges in Benghazi Attack
Move Marks First American Response to Assault That Killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya

WASHINGTON—The Justice Department has filed sealed criminal charges against a number of suspects in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others, according to people familiar with the matter.

The exact nature of the charges wasn't clear, nor was the number of suspects named in the case. A Justice Department spokesman, Andrew Ames, said the investigation is ongoing.

"It has been and remains a top priority," he said, declining to comment further.

The lack of public charges has led critics of the Obama administration, particularly Republicans in Congress, to challenge the administration's handling not just of the immediate response to the attacks, but of the long-term response as well. Some conservatives have accused the administration of covering up its failures on the night of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, and beforehand—accusations the administration has strenuously denied.

In May, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released images of three men who were at the compound and who were being sought for questioning. It's unclear if any of those facing criminal charges are the same as the ones in those FBI images.

The question of when to charge individuals in the Benghazi attack—and whether to make such charges public while the FBI engages in a worldwide hunt for suspects—has been the subject of internal debate among counterterrorism officials in the months since the attack, according to multiple people familiar with the case.

Some officials wanted charges filed earlier, and made public earlier, to reflect the progress investigators believe they have made in the case, those people said. Others argued for a more cautious approach, in part out of concern that revealing too much about the probe could hurt its chances of gathering more evidence and apprehending potential suspects.

Corrections & Amplifications
The U.S. filed sealed charges against a number of individuals related to last year's attack on U.S. diplomatic posts in Benghazi, Libya. A headline on an earlier version of this article incorrectly said the U.S. filed sealed indictments.

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