OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Benghazi capture reignites Gitmo debate

THE TOPLINE: The Obama administration on Tuesday announced that U.S. Special Operations forces captured one of the suspected masterminds of the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

The raid, conducted over the weekend, marks the first time the U.S. has caught a suspect in the attack that left four American citizens, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, dead.

ADVERTISEMENT
The successful operation also could prove to be a desperately needed national security victory for the White House, which is still reeling from congressional blowback over the prisoner swap that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.

But news of Ahmed Abu Khattala’s capture also reopened the long-running debate over what to do with the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Several GOP lawmakers called for Khattala to be sent to Gitmo and tried as an enemy combatant and not in federal court.

“If they bring him to the U.S., they will Mirandize this guy, and it will be the biggest mistake for the ages to read this guy his Miranda rights,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.

“I think he should be taken to Guantanamo,” added Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “It’s totally inappropriate to keep him anyplace else.”

The White House quickly shot down the idea.

“The administration’s policy is clear on this issue: we have not added a single person to the GITMO population since President Obama took office, and we have had substantial success delivering swift justice to terrorists through our federal court system,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

Khattala is currently in an undisclosed location in U.S. custody.

 

IRAQ HUDDLE: President Obama will confer with congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the growing chaos in Iraq.

The president will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The meeting comes as the administration, and lawmakers, struggle to find a plan to halt a Sunni insurgency that has roiled the Middle East country and threatens its capital city of Baghdad.

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said the U.S. must take “direct action” against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an extremist group that has captured a number of key cities before they take over Baghdad.

Feinstein and other Democrats have said they are open to action involving airstrikes. The White House has said Obama will consider all options except for boots on the ground.

A new survey from Public Policy Polling finds that 74 percent of the American public is against the idea of sending combat troops back to Iraq.

 

ON TAP WEDNESDAY: National security developments look to dominate Capitol Hill again on Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will appear before the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee in the morning to discuss the Pentagon’s budget request.

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will convene to hear about healthcare veterans can seek outside the traditional Veterans Affairs Department network.

Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee will receive a classified briefing from administration officials on Iraq and the Bergdahl prisoner exchange.

In the afternoon, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Republican are likely to cite the turmoil in Iraq in criticism of administration’s plans to have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

The full House also plans to begin consideration of its $491 billion defense appropriations bill on Wednesday but likely won’t finish until Thursday. Many amendments are expected as members debate the annual spending bill.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

-Boeing, Lockheed move to replace Russian rocket

-Sanders pushes to get VA bill quickly to Obama

-Levin blocks resolution to investigate prisoner swap

-Senator presses FBI for information about Americans in Syria

-Who wants to be the new VA health chief?

 

Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Martin Matishak, mmatishak@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill, @kristina_wong, @martinmatishak