By Rebecca Shabad - 06/18/14 09:04 AM EDT
Former deputy CIA director Mike Morell on Wednesday suggested the sooner Ahmed Abu Khattala gets to the United States, the more likely he will have provided intelligence to U.S. officials.
“So I think the longer he spends at sea, the less he’s talking. The faster he gets to Washington and gets charged, the more he has talked. I think that will be the signal,” Morell said on “CBS This Morning.”
Khattala is being held on the ship USS New York, according to multiple reports. On Tuesday, it became known that U.S. Special Operations forces captured him near Benghazi on Sunday in a secret raid.
“So the suspicion is that he was one of the leaders, not that he was the mastermind. But, you know, there’s a lot about this we don’t know. So he could turn out to be more significant. But right now it’s felt that he was one of the leaders, not the leader,” said Morell, who served as deputy director at the CIA from 2010 until 2013.
Morell said U.S. officials will try to find out if militant group Ansar al-Sharia is planning any additional attacks now, who was involved in the attack in Benghazi and what was their motivation.
Last year, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia charged Khattala and at least a dozen others with playing a role in the attack. One of three criminal charges could make Khattala eligible for the death penalty.
The surprise capture, Morell said, demonstrates President Obama’s commitment to bringing to justice those responsible for killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens.
“It sends a message to anybody who might do this that we’ll find you.”