Steven Emerson in the Media
CBS: 48 Hours
DAN RATHER: I'm Dan Rather. The events of 9/11 shocked the nation and shook the world. Is the next threat on our doorstep? 48 HOURS, right now.
ERIN MORIARITY: It was a rainy winter morning last December when my cameraman and I were blindfolded.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you see anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't see anything.
MORIARITY: We were told that was the only way we'd get our story... And this doesn't ever seem a little silly to you, this blindfold -- or overdoing it bit, or not?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you truly understand what we do, you'd see why we need to take these precautions.
MORIARITY: But they agreed to photograph us, as we went to a secret location somewhere in the Washington, D.C., area.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the safety of everybody in the office, we have to do this.
MORIARITY: To talk to people too afraid to show their faces...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, wait, wait.
MORIARITY: ... or reveal their names. What are you afraid of?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are afraid of showing or exposing ourselves. The embassy bombing guys and the first World Trade Center guys were trained in the same training camp.
MORIARITY: This is the headquarters of the Investigative Project...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Among your targets are bridges or airports.
MORIARITY: ... where these anonymous workers say they're tracking Islamic terrorists in this country...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I know more than the government does.
MORIARITY: ... and that their lives would be in danger if their identities were known.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounds unreasonable, right? I mean, if we are the good guys, why are we afraid of showing who we are?
MORIARITY: Why are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we feel like we are a target.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most active cities today would be Chicago...
MORIARITY: But the group's leader is more than willing to come out of the shadows.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Washington, D.C. area, and New York. Now there is an al Qaeda cell up in Boston.
MORIARITY: But do you mean that? I mean, do you mean terrorist cells?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.
MORIARITY: These indicate terrorist cells.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've reported on international terrorism for the past 10 years.
MORIARITY: Since 1993, when the World Trade Center was bombed, Steve Emerson, a former journalist, has repeatedly warned of the risk of further attacks by Islamic terrorists.
STEVE EMERSON: He had some contact with a mid-level operative.
MORIARITY: Can you, today, point to some people here in the United States who are actual sleepers? Actual terrorists?.
EMERSON: I can't conclusively prove that anyone's a sleeper agent. And in fact, the government can't prove that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys were here for six months, and they're coming up with 15 addresses
MORIARITY: But if he can't specifically name terrorists, what Emerson can do, he says, is identify Islamic extremists in this country whom he believes are promoting terrorism...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE [on video clip]: We will conquer this society!
MORIARITY: ... like these protesters in New York, who just five months before the World Trade Center attacks last September, were yelling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE :[on video clip]: We support bin Laden!
GROUP REPEATS: We support bin Laden!
MORIARITY: Emerson gets his information from government sources, and video tapes like these made surreptitiously at Muslim meetings and mosques throughout the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This could be a scene from the Middle East. But in fact, this rally was held in New Jersey.
MORIARITY: What Emerson has uncovered has put several prominent Muslim leaders in a very unflattering light.
EMERSON: How many times have I had members of media coming to with me saying, So-and-so condemns terrorism. How can you say he supports Islamic extremism? And I point out, this is what he says behind closed doors.
MORIARITY: Take the case of Abdurahaman Alamoudi, a well-known Muslim leader. He was among those invited last November to a Ramadan dinner held at the State Department. This is also Alamoudi...
ABDURAHAMAN ALAMOUDI [on video clip]: Anybody's a supporter of Hamas here?
MORIARITY: ... at an anti-Israel rally in October of 2000... ALAMOUDI [on video clip]: We are all supporters of Hamas.
MORIARITY: ... Hamas, the terrorist group responsible for last December's bombing that killed 25 young Israelis.
ALAMOUDI [on video clip]: I wish they added that I'm also a support of Hizballah. Anybody supports Hizballah here?
GROUP ANSWERS: Yeah!
MORIARITY: Hizballah, the same group responsible for the 1983 bombing of the marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans.
EMERSON: I'm not accusing him of being a terrorist.
MORIARITY: But Emerson does believe that Alamoudi and other Muslim leaders should be held responsible for speech that could encourage others to act.
EMERSON: They shouldn't be embraced at the State Department. They shouldn't be given, you know, free passes on the part of the media and newspapers, who are given free platforms -- and to define themselves as civil rights groups, because they're not.
ALAMOUDI [on video clip]: I wish they added that I'm also a supporter of Hizballah.
ALAMOUDI: First of all, I regret it. Not because I said it; because I did not qualify it. I should have said I support Hamas; I support Hizballah; I support whoever I want to support. But I don't support terrorism.
MORIARITY: Alamoudi, an American citizen, says politicians will no longer be seen with him. His campaign contributions to the Clintons and to President Bush were returned, all because of Emerson.
ALAMOUDI: I said it out of -- I don't know. I regret it. Now, will you hold that to me until I go to my grave? Should I expect that Emerson to come and knock on my door every day and night? God forgives, for God's sake. Why can't you forgive, Mr. Emerson?
EMERSON: The issue is not whether he's sorry. The issue is whether he renounces it. This issue is will he unequivocally renounce Hamas and Hizballah?
MORIARITY: But Emerson has made mistakes in the past — some very serious and public ones.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER [on video clip]: Holy cow. About a third of the building has been blown away.
MORIARITY: After the Oklahoma City bombing, in a CBS News interview, Emerson confidently pointed his finger at the wrong culprits.
EMERSON [on video clip]: This was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible. That is a Middle Eastern trait.
MORIARITY: As everyone now knows, the bombing was not the work of Islamic terrorists, but an American, Tim McVeigh. Could you make a mistake like this now, see something that you think is the work of a Muslim extremist, when it may not be?
EMERSON: I would never -- I certainly have been chastened by that experience, OK? I absolutely -- you know, I learned my lesson.
MORIARITY: Forty-four-year-old Sami al Arian is a family man and college professor who has lived in this country for 27
AL ARIAN: And this is America.
MORIARITY: But does he also support terrorism? That's what Steve Emerson believes.
EMERSON: I look at the facts. Look at the organization that he was running in the United States. It was one and the same as the Islamic Jihad.
MORIARITY: Emerson says al Arian used to run the U.S. office of a violent terrorist group called the Islamic Jihad.
EMERSON: Number two -- he brought in the top terrorist leaders in the world from 1988 through 1992 at annual conferences.
AL ARIAN: He brings these outlandish accusations about people that he was never able to prove.
MORIARITY: But Al Arian had to face those accusations again last fall on a TV talk show...
BILL O'REILLY, HOST OF "THE O'REILLY FACTOR " (FOX) [video clip]: If I was the CIA, I would follow you wherever you went. I'd follow you...
AL ARIAN: You don't know me.
MORIARITY: Shortly after that appearance, al Arian was fired from the teaching job he had held for 16 years at the University of South Florida. This is part of the evidence Emerson relies on: a videotape of a conference held in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1991. On it, al Arian is actually introduced as the American representative of the Islamic Jihad. There's also a fiery speech that he gave. But because he wouldn't speak with us if we showed you the actual tape, we'll quote from it instead. "Let us damn America," he said. "Let us damn Israel. Let us damn their allies until death. Let us damn America." I mean, what other interpretation is there of that—Damn America?
AL ARIAN: Right. That's a stupid comment. But really what was meant here is the American policy. It's a figure of speech when he was speaking about the policy.
MORIARITY: What about "death to Israel"? I mean, there's really only one way to interpret "death to Israel," and that means death to the Israeli people.
AL ARIAN: No, no. "Death to Israel" means death to the system. It's like saying "death to apartheid."
MORIARITY: So why didn't you say that?
AL ARIAN: "Death to occupation." Because when the Arab and Muslim people -- when they hear me, they understand what I mean.
MORIARITY: But what about the fact that al Arian was actually introduced as the head of a terrorist group? He says he objected to that. You didn't object, at least publicly. There's nothing on tape that indicates that you objected to it. AL
AL ARIAN: I don't know -- I wasn't taping this. I don't know who taped it or what was said. I did object to it.
MORIARITY: What's more, in October of 2000, an immigration judge found no evidence that al Arian's organization was a front for the Islamic Jihad. But that's not stopping Emerson.
EMERSON: The judge's ruling was in total error. The fat lady has not sung. This is not over yet.
MORIARITY: Emerson points to documents, including a letter written by the professor, in which the FBI believes al Arian is raising money for the families of suicide bombers. Al Arian, who didn't want to discuss that letter, claims that Emerson is simply a mouthpiece for groups with an anti-Arab agenda.
MORIARITY: And who are these interest groups?
AL ARIAN: A lot of them are pro Israel.
MORIARITY: Emerson doesn't deny he has many Jewish donors. But his work is also getting support from some prominent Muslims -- like the editor of Pakistan Today, Tashbi Sayyed.
TASHBI SAYYED: I support him in many ways. He is opening my eyes.
MORIARITY: As for Sami al Arian's 1991 speech, Sayyed says phrases like "damn America" and "death to Israel" can mean only one thing.
SAYYED: I am a Muslim. And I belong to the same society. And I understand what symbols mean in my country. In my society, death means death.
MORIARITY: You don't think there's any other way of interpreting that?
SAYYED: I don't think so personally. When I say kill someone, it means kill someone.
MORIARITY: After toiling in near obscurity for so long, Steve Emerson is suddenly in demand. He regularly briefs government officials, and his new book, "American Jihad," will be released this week. He believes that putting heat on alleged Islamic extremists has already cooled down the rhetoric. But that doesn't necessarily mean Americans are any safer.
EMERSON: The bottom line is that there are always going to be people who hate us. And to the extent that they are able to hide under our radar screen, that is exactly the vulnerability that gives them the explicit capability of harming us.
Note: The content of external articles does not necessarily reflect the views of Steven Emerson.