The son-in-law of notorious terrorist Osama bin Laden and former spokesperson for al-Qaeda was brought to the United States this week after being seized by the Central Intelligence Agency earlier this month, and on Friday morning he will face the American justice system, not from a military prison in Cuba, but from a civilian court in New York City.
“No amount of distance or time will weaken our resolve to bring America’s enemies to justice,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in prepared text. “To violent extremists who threaten the American people and seek to undermine our way of life, this arrest sends an unmistakable message: There is no corner of the world where you can escape from justice because we will do everything in our power to hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
The forthcoming trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who was pictured sitting at his father-in-law’s side in a video ostensibly created after 9/11, did not go unnoticed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of Congress’s foremost advocates of military tribunals.
“We believe the administration’s decision here to bring this person to New York City, if that’s what’s happened, without letting Congress know is a very bad precedent to set,” he said during a media briefing on Thursday, appearing with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). “So we’re putting the administration on notice,” he added. “We think that sneaking this guy into the country, clearly going around the intent of Congress when it comes to enemy combatants, will be challenged.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos, however, praised the apprehension of Abu Ghaith and compared him to a top ranking figure in a “mob family” who’s now facing charges that he conspired to kill Americans.
“Sulaiman Abu Ghayth held a key position in al-Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime,” he said in a Department of Justice advisory. “He used his position to persuade others to swear loyalty to al-Qaeda’s murderous cause. He used his position to threaten the United States and incite its enemies. His apprehension is another important step in the campaign to limit the reach of al-Qaeda and enhance our national and international security.”
Holding terrorism trials in U.S. courts has long been the aim of the Obama administration, which tried to bring the 9/11 plotters themselves into a NYC courtroom in 2010. The Department of Justice backed off that plan when Republicans loudly objected, even though 494 terrorism suspects have been successfully prosecuted in U.S. courts since 9/11, according to Human Rights Watch (PDF).
This video is from “CBS This Morning,” aired Friday, March 8, 2013.