Osama bin Laden son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith pleaded not guilty today to a charge of plotting against Americans in his role as a spokesman for the terror network, the AP reports. Abu Ghaith appeared in federal court in New York. The development follows a report by NBC News, which spoke to US officials who say that though the CIA picked up Abu Ghaith in Jordan, he had spent years in Iranian captivity. Following the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden sent a group of al-Qaeda bosses, including Abu Ghaith, to Iran. Bin Laden hoped they could bribe Iranian officials to let them in. Instead of seeing the al-Qaeda leaders as Sunni terrorists, bin Laden believed those officials might consider them the "enemy of my enemy," a US official says.
But Iranian authorities soon nabbed the group; local officials said they were "in jail," though the US was uncertain of the details. "It was the blackest of black boxes," one US source says. After that, the US heard little from the group, other than intercepting some "non-operational" messages. Iran may have been using the detainees as hostages against al-Qaeda attack, some in the US believed. Ultimately, Washington officials saw the group—out of the al-Qaeda loop for years—as little threat. It's unclear whether Abu Ghaith escaped or was released. (Read more Osama bin Laden stories.)