Photo: Al Jazeera/screenshot
Osama bin Laden’s recently captured son-in-law may have valuable intelligence from the extensive time he spent in Iranian prison, U.S. officials told NBC News.CIA agents seized Sulaiman Abu Ghaith in Jordan last week —he was originally detained at a luxury hotel in Turkey’s capital after entering the country illegally from Iran — and took him to New York City, where he faces a charge of conspiracy to kill Americans.
The former Al-Qaeda spokesman spent much of the last decade in Iranian prison after Osama bin Laden sent him — along with hundreds of associates and family members — to the Islamic Republic when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in late 2001.
Bin Laden hoped that after the group bribed their way in, Iranian officals would view them as “an enemy of my enemy,” one senior U.S. official told NBC News.
Instead, Iranian authorities captured the group and put Abu Ghaith in what one former U.S. official described as “the blackest of black boxes,” where he became a type of “bargaining chip” with both the U.S. and al-Qaeda cells in Iran.
Consequently officials told NBC News that Abu Ghaith is unlikely to have any operational information, and his intelligence value is derived mostly from in his captivity in Iran and whether he was released or escaped.
However, U.S. officials told Brain Ross of ABC News that Abu Ghaith has already given up “key intelligence” about al Qaeda’s status, personnel, and finances since his capture in Turkey.
“It is huge,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said. “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 FBI’s George Venizelos told ABC that Abu Ghaith held a “key position in al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime.”
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