(CBS News) The appearance of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law in a New York City federal courtroom Friday will likely turn into a political debate, as some wonder why the former al Qaeda spokesman isn't being tried in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The reasons Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is in New York are both legal and practical, according to CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former FBI assistant director. "'Why isn't he an enemy combatant? There's a couple of practical legal reasons, which is the military law on conspiracies toward material support versus being an actual combatant are vague," he explained on "CBS This Morning." "But then there's a very practical sense: Everybody who has been put through the federal court system, you know, you get indicted, there's about a year, you're tried and then you're in jail. In Gitmo, they're still in hearings after years and years of trying how to get to a trial. That's a system that moves slowly, not terribly efficiently."
Intelligence officials announced Abu Ghaith's capture Thursday.
The capture is important, Miller explained, because it is symbolic and has potential intelligence importance. "This is the guy who, right after 9/11, was on television, speaking to Americans, saying that there is a great army massing against you and be prepared for a storm of airplanes. So, as one of bin Laden's key, basically, public affairs advisers and spokesmen, he was a key propagandist and voice, and he has a lot of religious credibility. The other thing is from an intelligence standpoint. He knows things about how the al Qaeda command structure that was in Iran for a long time worked and communicated."
Abu Ghaith was in Iran with other al Qaeda leaders for the last dozen years or so, Miller said. "Iran and al Qaeda are not necessarily aligned, but there is the old, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'," Miller said. "So ... a number of top people that have been in Iran for a number of years, kind of half under house arrest and half allowed to communicate with al Qaeda seniors."
Abu Ghaith's court appearance in New York will probably be one of the biggest security operations seen since the 2001 trial stemming from the 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in Africa, Miller said.
For more on the case with John Miller, watch his full "CTM" appearance in the video above.