Abu Ghaith was taken into custody in Jordan, then transferred to the custody of the CIA and FBI under the extradition treaty between the two countries. Abu Gaith served as a spokesman for the core Al Qaeda group that planned the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Shortly after that attack, Abu Ghaith issued a video address to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, in which he warned that “the storms shall not stop, especially the Airplanes Storm,” and advised Muslims, children, and opponents of the United States “not to board any aircraft and not to live in high rises.”
Rather than being transferred to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Ghaith has been indicted in U.S. District Court in Southern New York on charges of conspiracy to kill United States nationals. That step has already been criticized by several Republicans who are in favor of Guantanamo remaining open, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “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,” Graham said in a press conference with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, also agreed that Abu Ghaith should be sent to Guantanamo rather than brought to the U.S. for trial. Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera, however, this morning defended the decision to bring Abu Ghaith to New York, citing the much higher conviction rate seen in federal courts:
RIVERA: We have convicted 67 of these terrorist in our federal courts. We have only convicted seven in the military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay. 67 in Federal Court. Just seven in the military tribunals. This is exactly the venue where he should be tried and convicted.
Watch Rivera’s defense here:
Civilian courts have also proved in the past to be better at gaining usable information from suspected terrorists than their military counterparts. This fact hasn’t stopped the outrage from pouring forward from conservatives whenever a civilian court is utilized to try suspected terrorists.
It’s that outrage that allows Abu Ghaith to be the highest-level Al Qaeda official tried in civilian courts. The last attempt to have a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda tried — Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind behind September 11th — was virulently opposed by Republicans, such as Sarah Palin and Rep. Steve King (R-IA). The outcry that sprung up around that trial forced the Department of Justice to drop their move, resulting in Sheik Mohammad’s trial to be moved to military tribunal.
On Friday morning, Abu Gharith entered a plea of “not guilty” before the U.S. District Court.