- By John HudsonJohn Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013.
It’s been a long hunt, but today U.S. officials confirmed the capture of al Qaeda spokesman and Osama bin Laden son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. Beating the FBI and CIA to the announcement, New York Congressman Peter King leaked the news to the press and made a point of referencing Ghaith’s infamous post-9/11 propaganda videos.
"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," King said.
The congressman’s jurisprudence aside, it could certainly be said that Abu Ghaith was at the forefront as al Qaeda agents threw salt in the wounds of a reeling, post-9/11 America. In videos in which he appeared alongside Osama bin Laden, Abu Ghaith praised the attacks, dwelled on the demands of the terrorist network, and promised far more serious attacks in the future.
His most infamous broadcasts were released in 2001 on Oct. 7 (shown above) and 10. "The Americans should know that the storm of plane attacks will not abate," Abu Ghaith said on Oct. 10. "There are thousands of the Islamic nation’s youths who are eager to die just as the Americans are eager to live."
"Let the United States know that the battle will continue to be waged on its territory until it leaves our land, stops its support for the Jews, and lifts the unjust embargo on the Iraqi people," he continued. "U.S. interests are spread throughout the world. So, every Muslim should carry out his real role to champion his Islamic nation and religion."
After the release of the videos, the government of Kuwait stripped Abu Ghaith of his citizenship. He then moved to Iran in 2002 and was placed in a loose form of house arrest in 2003, according to reports. He is believed to have then illegally entered Turkey, where he was apprehended several weeks ago, deported to Jordan, and then placed in U.S. custody.
Though much of his rhetoric included empty threats, they were taken seriously by the Bush administration, including a claim that al Qaeda had a "right to kill four million Americans, including one million children, displace double that figure, and injure and cripple hundreds and thousands."
As Long War Journal noted, former CIA director George Tenet wrote in his book that it "would have been easy to dismiss his ranting as the hyperbole of a deranged man," but the government "had to consider the possibility that Abu Ghaith was attempting to justify the future use of weapons of mass destruction that might greatly exceed the death toll of 9/11." From now on, those empty threats will have to come from a prison cell, it seems.