(NEW YORK) — Under heavy security, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law will appear Friday morning in a New York federal courtroom to answer to charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens as a top member of al Qaeda’s inner circle.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who U.S. officials said has already given up “key intelligence” on al Qaeda since his capture in Turkey, is expected to stand before a federal judge less than a mile from the World Trade Center memorial pools, one of the sites of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans. Shortly after that attack, Abu Ghaith appeared in two videos online — one alongside bin Laden — proclaiming, “We carried out what God ordered us to do,” and calling on others to join a holy war against America.
Lawmakers and U.S. officials on Thursday revealed Ghaith’s capture and secret transfer to New York. After spending years in Iran, Abu Ghaith was captured in Turkey in January and later turned over to Jordianian authorities. From there, U.S. officials took over the case and spirited Abu Ghaith to New York City sometime last week.
But even before he arrived on American soil, U.S. officials told ABC News he was “cooperating” with interrogators and providing key information on al Qaeda’s status, personnel and finances.
“It is huge,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Thursday. “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 Department of Justice referred to Abu Ghaith as holding a “key position in al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime.”
“No amount of distance or time will weaken our resolve to bring America’s enemies to justice,” Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday. “…[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.”
Dr. Thomas Lynch at the National Defense University told ABC News on Thursday that beyond providing a potential intelligence windfall, Abu Ghaith’s capture meant one of the more dangerous members of core al Qaeda is now out of play.
“Abu Ghaith 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,” he said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Steve Almasy, CNN
James Griffiths and Shen Lu
Steve Visser and Masoud Popalzai, CNN
Kevin Liptak, CNN