On November 15, the defense rested in the trial of terrorism suspect, Abu Khattala, the alleged conspirator behind the 2014 attack in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The evidence against Khattala presented before the D.C. federal court includes reports of his anti-American statements, videos from the attack, and information provided by a witness who claims to have been paid $7 million to help befriend Khattala and arrange his capture. The jury in his trial is likely to produce a verdict some time this week.
Given the notoriety of Khattala’s case, one might think it would garner greater notice. Yet his trial lasted seven largely uneventful weeks. Jury selection, evidence presentation, witness testimony—all proceeded with the recognizable regularity of criminal trials in federal court. The press and the public took scant notice.
Once, terrorism trials in America like Khattala’s stoked considerable fear. In 2011, the Department of Justice moved the trial of the 9/11 co-conspirators from a federal court in New York City to Guantanamo Bay’s military commissions, following a public outcry and protest from then-mayor Michael Bloomberg and then-police commissioner Ray Kelly and a subsequent congressional ban restricting the defendants from leaving Guantanamo for their trial. In hindsight, their fuss was unnecessary: Since then, terrorism trials in New York and elsewhere have proceeded efficiently under standard courtroom procedures, from jury selection through sentencing. Meanwhile, the trial for the 9/11 defendants has yet to receive a starting date.