Terrorists Trialsby Senator Kelly Ayotte
Posted on 2013-03-12
AYOTTE. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about an issue I am
very concerned about, which involves a man who was recently captured
overseas. His name is Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, and he is Osama bin Laden's
son-in-law. Here is a photo of him sitting next to Osama bin Laden. In
fact, he appeared with Osama bin Laden right after the 9/11 attacks on
He is Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, captured overseas and brought to the United States of America. The Attorney General has made the announcement Osama bin Laden's son-in-law [[Page S1675]] will be tried in New York City in a civilian trial rather than being brought to Guantanamo Bay for further interrogation and held in military custody.
I am very concerned about this issue as this is a man who, based upon the relationship he had with Osama bin Laden in 2001 and 2002, served as a spokesman for al-Qaida. He urged others to swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden. On September 12, 2001, he appeared with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. He is shown in this photo.
He warned the United States and its allies, ``A great army is gathering against you.'' He also called on all Muslims to battle the Jews, Christians, and Americans. He also promised more 9/11-style attacks. Right after our country was attacked on September 11, he appeared with Osama bin Laden warning of more September 11 attacks. He said, ``The storms shall not stop, especially the airplane storms.'' In 2002, he reportedly arranged to be smuggled to Iran where he was held under some form of house arrest. Obviously, we need to understand why the Iranians were allowing such a prominent member of al-Qaida to be kept in their country. We have deep concerns about Iran, which is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. It is threatening our country and right now marching toward nuclear weapons capability. It has threatened to annihilate Israel and threaten our country, while he was under loose house arrest following his direct allegiance with Osama bin Laden.
In addition, American authorities have tied him to an October 8, 2002, attack on the U.S. Marines while training on an island off the coast of Kuwait. This was a situation where one of our marines was killed and another was seriously injured.
The attack was conducted by al-Qaida fighters with direct ties to Mr. Abu Ghaith, who is Mr. Osama bin Laden's son-in-law. Kuwait actually stripped Mr. Abu Ghaith of his citizenship because of his role in recruiting Kuwaitis to become members of al-Qaida.
Last week he pled guilty to charges in Federal court in New York City. I am concerned when we take a top member of al-Qaida after his capture overseas, such as Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, bring him to our courts in New York City, and then all the full rights of our civilian court system apply to this individual. This includes the right, when one is in custody and interrogated, to hear Miranda rights.
My former role was as attorney general for the State of New Hampshire. I have great respect for our civilian system; however, our civilian system was not designed to deal with situations where we are at war. Mr. Abu Ghaith falls clearly within the definition of what this body has authorized as the use of military force against an enemy belligerent. When we bring him to New York City, we must Mirandize him and inform him he has the right to remain silent. We lose valuable opportunities to gather intelligence, to protect our country, and to discover if he was with Osama bin Laden.
We have photos of him one day after the September 11 attack. What does he know about al-Qaida? Who else was involved? What does he know about their network? During the time he spent in Iran, was he still communicating with members of al-Qaida? Obviously, he was because we allege he helped commit an attack in 2002 in Kuwait which killed at least one marine.
Who was he communicating with? What future attacks are they planning? What associations has he made with members of al-Qaida? When we tell someone such as this he has the right to remain silent and give him a lawyer, we lose opportunities to protect our country.
When we are at war, as we are with al-Qaida, we need to focus to discover as much information as possible about al-Qaida: who they are targeting and who are the members of al-Qaida. Obviously, all of us supported the President's decision to take out Osama bin Laden. Who are the other members of his network? What information are we losing when we bring him to a civilian court system instead of bringing him where he belongs as an enemy belligerent in Guantanamo Bay? It seems to me inconsistent that the administration would take the position--and I support them on this--they would kill top members of al-Qaida overseas. Yet they are so averse--when they capture someone-- to bringing them to Guantanamo Bay. It is their preference to take them into a civilian court system in the United States of America, where they must read Miranda rights to that individual rather than take them where they belong, to Guantanamo Bay.
I have visited Guantanamo, which is a secure detention facility where people are treated humanely, kept very securely, but not on U.S. soil. We may keep them in Guantanamo Bay under the law of war and interrogate the individual as long as we need to.
Let me remind everyone the intelligence we gathered, which allowed us to find and take out Osama bin Laden, took a matter of not just months but years to gather. To take someone such as Sulaiman Abu Ghaith and immediately, after he is captured, very quickly bring him to New York City, we lose the opportunity to go back to him over time to understand the full amount of information he may have about al-Qaida. This is why we have a distinction under our law between the law of war and our civilian system.
He is not a bank robber. He is not an average criminal who should be treated the same way as any other criminal in America. He is someone who has sworn to kill Americans and has asked others to take the oath for al-Qaida, which is at war with our country. I am very worried about the fact the administration seems to be bent on bringing these foreign terrorists to the United States to give them all of the rights of our civilian court system rather than focusing on ensuring we have all the intelligence we need to protect our country.
I would like to also speak about another individual and the inconsistency we have here. This is Anwar al-Awlaki. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen. He was radicalized, possessed both American and Yemeni citizenship, and became a leader for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. He advocated for violent jihad against the United States and has been linked to a dozen terrorist investigations in the United States. These include links to the September 11 attacks against our country and links to the November 5, 2009, Fort Hood shooting.
The administration made the decision in September 2011 to take out Mr. al-Awlaki overseas in Yemen. I certainly support their decision in that regard.
I want to point out how inconsistent it is that we are willing to use the drone program to take out someone like al-Awlaki, and yet we will not use all the tools in our toolbox to ensure Osama bin Laden's son- in-law is held at Guantanamo and fully interrogated to give us the time we need to gather the full information he has. It is very inconsistent, and I think the administration should be detaining enemy belligerents in Guantanamo and ensuring they are interrogated.
I wish to mention one final person, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Let's not forget the administration's first decision with the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, was to bring him to New York City for a civilian trial in New York close to Ground Zero, as they are now making the decision with Osama bin Laden's son-in-law.
The public outrage was great over bringing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to New York City due to the amount of security it would take to secure someone like him. There was the concern he should be treated as an enemy of our country and tried by a military commission in Guantanamo. He was transferred there eventually by the administration, but only after great pressure from both sides of the aisle in Congress to say it would be appropriate that the mastermind of 9/11 belongs in Guantanamo before a military commission.
I think we find ourselves in the same situation now with Osama bin Laden's son-in-law. There can be no doubt he is a top member of al- Qaida; that he had close relationships with Osama bin Laden; that he is charged with conspiring to kill Americans. These are very serious charges, and there can be no doubt that he falls within our operation and the use of military force; that he is an enemy of our country and that we should be treating him in a similar fashion as to how we treated Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
Most of all, we need to prioritize intelligence gathering to prevent future [[Page S1676]] attacks against our country rather than focusing on bringing them immediately into our civilian court system. A man such as Osama bin Laden's son-in-law should never hear the words ``You have the right to remain silent.'' We can't afford to have him be silent. We need to know everything he knows to protect our country, its citizens, and to prevent future attacks on America and our allies.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland.