What happens is: You get the most politicized terrorism indictment ever produced by the Justice Department. Behold United States v. Khatallah, Case No. 14 Crim. 141, quietly unsealed in a Washington courtroom last Saturday while the country dozed off into summer-vacation mode.
Ahmed Abu Khatallah, of course, is the only suspect apprehended in connection with the Benghazi massacre, a terrorist attack on a still-mysterious U.S. diplomatic installation. J. Christopher Stevens, the United States ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans - State Department official Sean Smith and two former Navy SEALs, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty - were killed. Until recently, such attacks have been known as acts of war carried out by the enemy. In the age of Obama, they are now known as "crimes" for which "defendants" like Khatallah are "brought to justice" - rather than brought to Gitmo. Meaning: They are whisked into our country when no one's paying much attention. The red carpet is rolled out at a federal courthouse, where the "defendant" is given Miranda warnings, taxpayer-funded counsel, and all the rights of the American citizens they plot to kill, including lavish discovery-of-intelligence files relevant to their civilian trial.
Gold-plated due process for our enemies begins with the constitutional right to an indictment returned by a grand jury, providing the "defendant" with notice of the charges against him. In Khatallah's case, the first thing you'll notice is that the indictment is tiny: less than two pages long - 15 measly lines of text once you discount the caption, citations, and signature lines. This is a startling departure from Justice Department indictments in jihadist terror cases, a turn to brevity that cannot be explained solely by Obama's banning of words like "jihadist" from the government lexicon.
In big criminal cases - and there are none bigger than those involving terrorist attacks - indictments tend toward book length, written in a narrative style designed to cut through the legalese and explain what happened. See, if the prosecutor is ethically convinced that there is sufficient evidence to convict an accused terrorist, his duty is to plead the case as expansively as necessary to get that evidence admitted.
In terrorism cases, that has always meant fully describing the nature of the terrorist enterprise. Look at the Justice Department's jihadist cases from the Nineties (see e.g., here). They explain the history of the international jihadist network; the different terrorist organizations and state sponsors it encompasses; the identity, status, and roles of the players; plus all of the different plots and attacks that knit the network together.
The idea is to frame the case in a way that completely and coherently relates it - making it easier for judges to admit controversial evidence and jurors to grasp the willfulness of the accused. That is why the most critical decision made by the prosecutor drafting a terrorism indictment is Count One - i.e., the first statutory offense alleged.