United States interrogators who specialize in so-called high value targets will question a suspected al Qaeda operative aboard an American warship without reading him his rights, U.S. officials told NBC News on Monday.
The suspect, Abu Anas al-Libi, was whisked off the streets of the Libyan capital of Tripoli over the weekend. He will be taken to the United States to stand trial in the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the officials said.
Al-Libi will be in U.S. military custody for several more days, perhaps a few weeks, a senior administration official told NBC News.
The interrogation will be conducted by a team including representatives of the CIA, the FBI and the military aboard the USS San Antonio, an amphibious helicopter carrier in the Mediterranean Sea, the U.S. officials said.
By interrogating al-Libi, U.S. officials hope to get information about al Qaeda activities or pending operations in or outside of Libya, the officials said.
None of what al-Libi says during the questioning can be used in a trial. The FBI could read him his Miranda rights later and seek to question him again.
Once the military turns al-Libi over to the Justice Department, he is expected to be taken to New York, where charges are pending in the embassy bombings 15 years ago. Of the 21 men indicted in those attacks, eight have been killed, including Osama bin Laden; nine are in custody; one has died awaiting trial, and three are at large.
The USS San Antonio was headed for the coast of Libya in late August to take part in the operation to capture al-Libi, then was diverted elsewhere in the Mediterranean to support potential U.S. airstrikes against Syria, they said.
It was not clear whether the operation to capture al-Libi was delayed by the Syria plans. The United States threatened an attack on Syria, then pulled back after diplomats struck a deal to try to rid Syria of chemical weapons.
Alex Wong / FBI via Getty Images file
Anas al Libi
Secretary of State John Kerry, in Indonesia for an economic conference, told reporters Monday that the seizure of al-Libi complied with American law and that al-Libi was an “appropriate target” for the military.
He said that he hoped the world perceived that “the United States of America is going to do anything in its power that is legal and appropriate in order to enforce the law and to protect our security.”
Al-Libi was among the top remaining leaders of al Qaeda. His was among the first names placed on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. A reward of $25 million was attached.
The Libyan prime minister, Ali Zeidan, said Sunday that he wants an explanation for the raid and “kidnapping of a Libyan citizen.”
The raid to capture al-Libi was one of two operations by American commandoes on Saturday.
U.S. officials said a raid on a Somali seacoast town was aimed at a high-value target from the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab movement, but Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said officials were “not prepared to provide additional detail at this time.”
Militants from al Shabaab said that no such target was there.
“Normal fighters lived in the house, and they bravely counter-attacked and chased the attackers,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s spokesman for military operations, told Reuters.
“The apostate Somali government is nothing in Somalia. No one asked them for permission to carry out the attack,” he said.
Al Shabaab, based in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall that killed dozens of people in Nairobi, Kenya, two weeks ago.
The Somali raid was carried out by members of SEAL Team Six, the same unit that killed bin Laden in his Pakistan hideout in 2011, another senior U.S. military official said told The Associated Press.
Richard Esposito and Robert Windrem of NBC News contributed to this report.
First published October 7 2013, 12:01 PM