TODAY | March 08, 2013
>>> a key al qaeda figure, son-in-law of osama bin laden is appearing in federal court here in new york city this morning. word of his capture came as a surprise. as nbc's justice correspondent pete williams explains it's leading to new debate -- renewed debate, really, about what to do with accused terrorists. pete, good morning to you.
>> savannah, good morning. this u.s. arrest of a man said to be a former member of bin laden 's inner circle was a closely guarded secret. he is now appearing before a federal judge this morning, one of the few accused al qaeda figures ever brought to a courtroom in the u.s. the son-in-law of osama bin laden sought by the u.s. for more than a decade is in federal court today, accused of being a spokesman for al qaeda 's leaders. the fbi says he was once part of bin laden 's inner circle , like a mog consigliari. he appeared in a video warning the u.s. that a great army is gathering against you. later in another video, he said muslims and children in the u.s. should not board aircraft or live in high rises, because more attacks were coming. american officials say he was picked up about three weeks ago, heading from turkey to jordan, then brought to the u.s. last week under intense security. charged with conspiring to kill americans, he will be put on trial in new york city in a civilian court and not at guantanamo bay as an enemy combatant. some republicans in congress say that's a big mistake .
>> congress is trying to tell the administration when it comes to people like this, that we want them to go to gitmo to be held in military custody for interrogation purposes.
>> reporter: the obama administration's plan to put master mind but new york officials including commissioner ray kelly , pose nod opposition.
>> kelly and others have been consulted ahead of time about this and gave the green light to do it.
>> u.s. officials say he is already cooperating with american interrogators, answering questions about al qaeda 's organization. if convicted, he could face life in prison . savannah?
>> pete williams in washington. thank