The move is likely to revive debate about whether suspected terrorists should be tried in civilian or military courts.
Abu Anas al-Libi, a suspect in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 civilians, was captured by the U.S. Army Delta Force in Tripoli, Libya on Oct. 5. He was then whisked onto a Navy ship in the in the Mediterranean Sea where he was questioned by U.S. intelligence officials.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the chief federal prosecutor for Manhattan, said the military handed al-Libi to U.S. civilian law enforcement over the weekend and he was brought directly to the New York area. He is expected to appear before a judge on Tuesday.
The move is sure to draw sharp opposition from Republicans in Congress, who believe such a high-profile terrorist suspect should be sent to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay for indefinite interrogations and detention.
They argue that al-Libi, who was once a close confidant of Osama bin Laden, should be sent to Guantanamo Bay to be interrogated by military intelligence officials for as long as needed and question if his brief interrogation at sea was sufficient.
"Putting him on a Navy vessel for a matter of days or weeks is not a proper way to gather intelligence in the war on terror," Graham said at a news conference in the Capitol Oct. 9. "The best tool we have in intelligence gathering is time itself."
Key Democrats, though, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., backed the decision to try al-Libi in federal court, saying placing him in indefinite detention is “unnecessary and unwise.”
“The United States is the most powerful nation in the world, and we have a justice system that is second to none,” Leahy said. “The administration’s decision to prosecute Anas al-Libi in an Article III Federal Court shows that the United States acts out of strength and not out of fear.”
“We are not afraid of terrorists, nor are we afraid to bring them to justice in our courts,” he added.
This story was published at 4:46 p.m. and has been updated.