United States v. Abu Khatallah

2017 WL 3534989 (2017)

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United States v. Abu Khatallah

United States District Court for the District of Columbia
2017 WL 3534989 (2017)

  • Written by Tammy Boggs, JD

Facts

In 2012, an extremist Islamic terrorist group attacked a United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. In June 2014, a U.S. special-forces team captured the terrorist group’s leader, Ahmed Salim Faraj Abu Khatallah (Khatallah) (defendant), who was brought onboard a naval warship and transported to the United States over 13 days. Khatallah was initially interrogated without Miranda warnings by an intelligence team using coercive tactics. The intelligence team’s questions touched upon the Benghazi attack but primarily focused on the extremist group’s current activities and future plans. Two days later, a second round of interrogation occurred by a separate team of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, who purposely had no contact with the first team and no knowledge of what Khatallah had previously disclosed. The FBI agents were unarmed and dressed in civilian clothing. The second interrogation occurred in a different, gentler setting, in which Khatallah was allowed to pray, was given regular meals and breaks, and was well rested. The FBI agents repeatedly read Khatallah his Miranda rights, translated into Arabic by an Arabic translator. The FBI agents also advised Khatallah that he did not have to speak to them merely because he had spoken to other government officials. Khatallah repeatedly waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak to the FBI agents, reserving his right to an attorney at trial. Khatallah also signed written waivers. The agents’ questions focused on the Benghazi attack, and Khatallah declined to answer certain questions. Khatallah implicated himself and was charged with crimes relating to the Benghazi attack. Before the district court, Khatallah moved to suppress the statements he gave to the FBI, contending that his Miranda waivers were not voluntary due to the government’s two-step interrogation process.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cooper, J.)

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