Bin Laden’s ‘Tom Hagen’ Avoids Guantanamo Bay

(Abu Ghaith and bin-Laden in 2002; courtesy of Rapho-Gamma via Getty Images)

Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law/infamous spokesman for al-qaeda was captured in Jordan and transported to New York City this week. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is an advocate for al-Qaeda, who took responsibility alongside bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks. He has appeared in videos since 9/11 promising that such attacks would continue. Abu Ghaith has faced FBI interrogation in New York City for the last few days, has since been indicted with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, and is to be arraigned tomorrow, Friday the 8th. Several U.S. Senators spoke out today about how this al-qaeda senior leader should have been taken immediately to GITMO instead of allowing him to be tried in a civilian court. House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers stated, “Al-Qaeda leaders captured on the battlefield should not be brought to the United States to stand trial. We should treat enemy combatants like the enemy. The U.S. court system is not the appropriate venue.”

The Obama administration has been trying to empty out GITMO, not bring new prisoners. This man, however, is no normal prisoner. FBI Assistant Director in Charge, George Venizelos, claimed, “Sulaiman Abu Ghaith held a key position in al-qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime. 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.”

This capture raises several questions. Should Abu Ghaith have been brought to the US where he will receive a fair trial, or should he have been immediately detained at GITMO? Should the U.S. have been willing to (arguably) violate international law and arbitrarily detain Abu Ghaith? Also, his charge, conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, carries with it a maximum punishment of life in prison. Is this enough? Lastly, I just want to note that much credit is due to the Obama administration for continuing to find success in capturing these al-qaeda terrorists.

Source: NBC NewsFOX News


  1. As Patrice mentioned, I agree that the Obama administration has done a very good job in capturing these Al Qaeda terrorists. However, I disagree with the approach taken in regards to the situation with Abu Ghaith. I feel as though Abu Ghaith should have been detained at Guantanamo Bay, and not have been brought to the United States to stand trial. I agree with Mike Rogers’s point that “we should treat enemy combatants like the enemy.” Abu Ghaith is not just a normal prisoner, rather, he is an enemy who was one of the masterminds behind the most tragic event in the history of United States and I do not feel that he should be given the benefit or opportunity to stand trial in this country. With that being said, I would not change my stance regardless if we arguably violate international law for arbitrary detention and deprive Abu Ghaith of due process. Finally, while I’m not sure that anything can be done to make up for the events of 9/11, I certainly do not feel as though life in prison is enough of a punishment for one of the terrorists responsible for all the men and women who lost their lives as a result of September 11th.

  2. I do not agree that Abu Ghaith should have been tried in a Federal Court in Manhattan. As Patrick mentioned, Obama is trying to empty out GITMO (his success with that is up for debate). This trial in lower Manhattan seems to be a symbolic gesture more than anything else.
    A few months ago, AG Holder said that Khalid Sheik Mohammed would not be tried in federal court, mostly for security concerns. I do not see the difference here. In fact, I see this as more of a security concern after Osama’s death and the recent media coverage on the Seal Team that killed him.
    And the concept of a “fair trial” is not really appropriate here. While the procedural formalities may be followed, there is not a juror within 1000 miles of the courthouse who would acquit this man. In that regard, would there be any difference in violating international law and detaining him indefinitely? I guess we follow the smoke and mirrors and see what happens.

  3. Personally, I agree that Abu Ghaith should have been immediately transferred to GITMO. However, the reasoning behind trying him in a U.S. court is not to violate international law–a reasoning that is quite compelling. There is an underlying principle of complimentary here in that if we continue to violate international law with the detention of enemy combatants, what is to prevent other countries from violating international law if an American is captured abroad? As there is no one overseeing governmental body that regulates all international law violations, international law itself requires states themselves to be responsible for upholding the laws. Andrew brings up a good point with regard to the location of the trial. New York City is an especially sensitive area to try Abu Ghaith, and I would think that there is almost a guarantee of a conviction due to the location, given the government has the sufficient evidence to convict. Whether he should get life in prison is really a question of personal opinion, as to which punishment would be worse–the death penalty or life in prison. For me it would really depend on the prison conditions as to which punishment is justifiable in a case such as this. In some situations the prison conditions could make life in prison worse than capital punishment.

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