(NEW YORK) — Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, has been “cooperating” and has already revealed “key intelligence” about the current status, personnel and finances of al Qaeda even before he was secretly spirited to New York City, U.S. officials told ABC News Thursday.
“It is huge,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “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.”
Abu Ghaith is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate in New York City on Friday and faces the charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.
“No amount of distance or time will weaken our resolve to bring America’s enemies to justice,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “…[T]his 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.”
Lawmakers and other U.S. officials revealed Thursday that Ghaith had been moved to New York sometime last week after being captured in Turkey in January and then transferred to Jordanian custody. Although he had spent years in Iran, officials said he was part of an al Qaeda senior management council that continued to be in contact with al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and played a role in the transfer of personnel and money through Iran.
Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, Ghaith appeared in a pair of videos online — one alongside Osama bin Laden — and said, “We carried out what God ordered us to do,” and called others to join a holy war against America.
The Department of Justice referred to Ghaith as holding a “key position in al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime.”
Chairman of the House Homeland Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence Rep. Peter King, who confirmed Abu Ghaith’s capture earlier Thursday, released a statement commending President Obama, the CIA, FBI and Jordanian officials.
“I trust [Abu Ghaith] received a vigorous interrogation, and will face swift and certain justice,” said King, R- N.Y. “The propaganda statements in which Abu Ghaith and his late father-in-law, Osama bin Laden, praised the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 are alone enough to merit the most serious punishment.”
Dr. Thomas Lynch at the National Defense University said of Ghaith, “This is not a small fish.”
“The catchy title is that he was bin Laden’s son-in-law… What he was though was an important spokesman for core al Qaeda,” Lynch said. Lynch said Abu Gaith founded and ran a very significant Wahabi mosque in Kuwait for a decade until the Kuwaitis, under U.S. pressure, revoked his citizenship.
“His apprehension sends a message in two directions,” Lynch said. “First even these guys who have hid out successfully for a while are not safe from identification and capture. The notion of impunity is further tarnished. Second, Abu Gaith is one of ten guys left from al Qaeda core that have the financial ties and reputation who might have been able to get the old band back together to execute spectacular international terror attacks.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Joshua Berlinger and Nima Elbagir, CNN Newswire
Joshua Berlinger and Holly Yan, CNN Newswire