Republicans want President Barack Obama to send the first suspect arrested in the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead to the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona was among a group of Senate Republicans urging for Ahmed Abu Khatallah to be sent to Guantánamo — even as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. put out a statement declaring his intent to try Khatallah in U.S. courts.
"That's where the detention facilities are. ... It's totally inappropriate to keep him anywhere else," McCain said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Guantánamo has yielded significant intelligence over the years.
"We're turning war into a crime and it's going to bite us in the butt," he said.
Democrats, however, dismissed the idea, and Holder made clear Khatallah would stand trial.
"Khatallah currently faces criminal charges on three counts, and we retain the option of adding additional charges in the coming days," Holder said. "Even as we begin the process of putting Khatallah on trial and seeking his conviction before a jury, our investigation will remain ongoing as we work to identify and arrest any co-conspirators."
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., noted the record of convicting more than 200 people on terrorism related charges in federal courts, versus a handful of trials in military courts at Guantánamo.
"We should arrest these people, bring 'em back here, try 'em. ... All these people that we've arrested like that and brought back, we've convicted them, and we've shown the rest of the world our system works. I think that, that is the important thing that we don't give up," Leahy said.
He scoffed at the idea that Khatallah should be sent to Guantánamo.
"Oh, for God's sakes. ...We go to Guantánamo, the rest of the world says, 'How can you lecture us about secret prisons?' ... We got to our federal courts, we show the rest of the world we're brave, we can do it.
We don't have to run and hide. I like our justice system. I'm not afraid to try these people."