Just one week after he was brought to the United States, a senior al Qaida leader was in a Manhattan courtroom Friday where he pleaded not guilty to plotting to kill Americans.
The leader is Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who functioned as al Qaidas propaganda minister and chief spokesman until he was forced to flee to Iran in 2002. Abu Ghaith is not believed to have been on the operations side of al Qaida for years, and apparently played no role in the 9/11 attacks, although he issued bloodcurdling pronouncements in their aftermath.
He urged Muslims to stay off aircraft and out of tall buildings, warned the United States that a great army is gathering against you and called on the nation of Islam to do battle against the Jews, the Christians and the Americans.
Having said that, he went into hiding with his wife, who happens to be Osama bin Ladens oldest daughter. He remained a guest of the Iranians until quite recently, when, for whatever reason, he traveled to Turkey on forged papers.
The Turks arrested him, but refused to turn him over to the U.S. He was deported to Kuwait and taken into U.S. custody when his flight stopped in Jordan.
Republicans believe Abu Ghaith should be shipped to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and tried before a military tribunal that is still a judicial work in progress. The original plan was to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others charged in the 9/11 attacks in New York Citys federal criminal courts, which have a long record of successful terrorism prosecutions.
But Congress, led by Republicans, barred the Obama administration from bringing the defendants to the U.S. proper.
Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants have been on trial since last May with little obvious progress.
If federal prosecutors can keep Abu Ghaiths case in the federal criminal courts, it is likely that a verdict will have been rendered and the case disposed of before the chaotic Guantanamo proceedings even reach closing arguments.