"I honestly don't think he has the name-brand recognition, shall we say, of a Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," Forest said.
In the past, terrorism suspects captured on American soil generally have been tried in federal courts -- such as Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the would-be "undiebomber" who tried unsuccessfully to set off a bomb on a U.S.-bound jetliner in 2009; attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad; or 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
It's "murky territory" when a fugitive is nabbed overseas by American forces, said Forest, a former director of terrorism studies at West Point. But "my hunch is they'll probably go the criminal route."
When the White House in 2009 proposed trying Mohammed and four other 9/11 suspects in Manhattan, the plan was met with staunch criticism from Republican leaders who said such a trial would be costly and asserted that the five terror suspects -- none of whom was an American citizen -- didn't deserve the rights and protections civilian courts afford defendants.
In 2011, Holder begrudgingly announced that the five suspected conspirators' fates would be decided via military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prompting backlash from Democrats and human rights groups who painted the tribunals as untested, flawed and the likely subject of numerous legal challenges.
"Had this case proceeded in Manhattan or in an alternative venue in the United States, as I seriously explored in the past year, I am confident that our justice system would have performed with the same distinction that has been its hallmark for over 200 years," Holder said at the time.
Al Libi's case should not raise the same issues, Toobin said, because, as the suspected 9/11 mastermind, Mohammed was "in a separate category from everyone else in the world."
While the United States considers al Libi a dangerous terrorist, neither he nor his crimes are as well-known as Mohammed's, Toobin said.
As for al Libi's interrogation, Toobin noted that there is no indication he is being tortured and that if al Libi were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques, the U.S. government has been clear that "they will not use the results of torture like waterboarding in any criminal case."
"The government obviously believes he's a very dangerous person, captured in a dangerous part of the world, and he needs to be isolated and brought back to the United States," Toobin said.
But Forest questioned how much valuable intelligence al Libi would be able to provide his captors. A former jihadist associate told CNN it was unlikely that he was still playing an active role with the terrorist network, and his wife said he had been living a normal life and was seeking a job with the Libyan oil ministry.
"Who knows if he's really up to speed on anything useful these days?" Forest asked.