Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, plead not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to kill Americans Friday before a federal magistrate in New York City, located just blocks from the World Trade Centers. The official indictment accuses Abu Ghaith of involvement in a conspiracy that "would and did murder United States nationals anywhere in the world." Actions listed in the indictment took place both before and after the September 11 attacks.
Abu Ghaith, who was captured in Turkey in January, was transferred to Jordanian custody and brought to New York within the past week. According to officials, Abu Ghaith has been cooperating and has provided the government with "key intelligence" regarding the personnel, finances, and current status of Al-Qaeda.
Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) stated of the capture, "It is huge. This is a man who is in the inner circle of bin Laden's Al-Qaeda operations and now we have him alive and he's talking."
The transfer of Abu Ghaith to New York rather than Guantanamo bay raises new questions about the treatment of international terror suspects. The Obama administration stated that it is committed to closing Guantanamo Bay and that the national security team "unanimously agreed that prosecution of (Abu) Ghaith in federal court [would] best protect the national security interests of the United States."
In opposition to the civilian trial, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) articulated that Guantanamo was the "right place to put an enemy combatant for interrogation and, if at all possible, trial."
Rep. Mike Rogers echoed similar sentiments: "We should treat enemy combatants like the enemy — the U.S. court system is not the appropriate venue."
This trial is a landmark in deciding the future treatment of enemy combatants when they are turned over to the United States. Should the United States be persecuting terror suspects in federal court, or should separate military tribunals be used instead?