University of Pittsburgh
March 12, 2013

Pitt Terrorism Expert Michael Kenney Available to Comment on Capture of Bin Laden Son-in-Law and His Ties to Iran, Decision to Try Him in U.S. Court

International affairs professor Kenney is the author of the book From Pablo to Osama, on trafficking and terrorist networks

“The real value of this arrest lies with the Iran information.”
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Michael KenneyWith the March 8 arraignment of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the recently captured son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, has come renewed attention concerning numerous aspects of the United States’ war on terror. Michael Kenney, associate professor of international affairs in the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, is available to discuss the decision to try Ghaith in civilian court, the background of al Qaeda and its operations, the war on terror, and Ghaith’s relationship to Iran, where he is said to have spent the past decade.

“The real value of this arrest lies with the Iran information,” Kenney said. “Did the Iranians know he was there? Did they allow him to stay there? That’s a reason for wanting to try him in a court of law. There’s important information that could be made public through that procedure, whereas if he were sent to Guantanamo Bay to languish for years and years without access to any sort of open court, there’s much less likelihood of that information coming to light.

“For us, it’s more of a propaganda victory, the politics of this,” Kenney added, pointing out that the original core of al Qaeda has largely been decimated. “He was no longer much of a player, and I think it’s really about the political value we can get out of this, allowing ourselves to say, ‘We’re continuing to pursue the global war on terror.’”

Kenney has conducted extensive research and taught courses on terrorism, counterterrorism, and homeland security. He is the author of From Pablo to Osama: Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucracies, and Competitive Adaptation (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007) as well as numerous scholarly articles concerned with global terrorism. His current research focuses on al-Muhajiroun, a banned Islamist group based in the United Kingdom.

Kenney can be reached at or 412-564-0350.