Steven Emerson in the Media
Discussing the terrorist plot to attack Fort Dix
CNBC: Kudlow & Company
LARRY KUDLOW: Now here to drill down on the key issues of the jihadist plot is Steve Emerson. He's an NBC terrorism analyst. He's also the author of the excellent book "Jihad, Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US."
Now, Steve, you have been around studying this stuff for a long time. Let me start out with this. Believe it or not, CNN's first report on this morning said these jihadists where hardly hardcore terrorists, and that insane remark reminds me of the Miami Seven arrests where a bunch of media said those jihadist were not a real threat. So let me get this out of the way right away. In your opinion, are the Fort Dix terrorists a real threat?
STEVEN EMERSON (NBC Terrorism Analyst): Absolutely, Larry. I mean, this was the most advanced plot since 9/11 that the FBI has intercepted and interdicted, without doubt. These guys had the capability, they had the motivation and they had the desire. The only thing that stopped them was really the infiltration of an FBI agent. It wasn 't a--it wasn 't a sting operation. It was carefully monitored, video- and audiotaped every step of the way. These guys were determined to kill as many soldiers as they could. They did reconnaissance on several air bases, naval bases. They did reconnaissance on an Army Navy stadium. That 's the stadium in Philadelphia where they would play the Army/Navy game. They did reconnaissance on the Dover Air Force Base, on the port, the Philadelphia naval port.
These guys were very serious, and they actually had semi-automatics in their possession. They just wanted more AK-47s. So the fact that CNN said that is unfortunately indicative of an attitude at CNN sometimes that basically minimizes the threat of radical Islam.
KUDLOW: Yes, it's something I will never understand, how they could editorialize like that in an alleged news report. Steve, let me ask you this. George Tenet's book--controversial book, former CIA director--talks about what he believes is a certain proliferation of terrorist sleeper cells in the US . Is this an example of sleeper cells?
EMERSON: You know, I don't think it's a sleeper cell. Because a sleeper cell is somebody like a Manchurian candidate, somebody who's planted here by someone else and waiting for the green light to occur. This is far more dangerous. A sleeper cell can sort of be traced back because there's a connection to someone overseas or someone else with land lines. These are people that sort of live lives like normal people. A pizza delivery person, you never--or 7-11 clerk. You never suspect them.
And they actually got together on weekends to do classical warfare training or jihad training in state parks, in paintball jihad camps, or makeshift, you know, training camps. They did jihad training weekend after weekend. They chanted "Allahu Akbar." These guys were the real deal, and they were hardly interceptable, were it for not that very lucky and fortuitous development with the person at the DVD dubbing store.
KUDLOW: Steve, is there an al-Qaeda connection here?
EMERSON: No. I don 't see one. Again, this makes them even more dangerous. Al-Qaeda connection means you could intercept a phone call. There are no outside phone calls necessarily to Kosovo or to anyone else directing it. Maybe there were phone calls to Kosovo--and remember, these were not Arabs. These were Muslims, but non-Arab Muslims.
It also shows the degree to which there is radicalization occurring outside the Muslim world, in the Arab--outside the Arab world into the Muslim world. And these were--there were illegals in this plot as well as three legalized Muslim Americans. So it shows you the extent to which their radicalization is devolving upon larger sections of the Muslim population.
KUDLOW: Do you have any idea where these illegals came from? Where they entered, not where they came from originally, but where they entered the USA ? Is there any speculation on that?
EMERSON: I have not seen any, and I don 't know. I wish I did know. I think that 'll come out pretty soon. They--my feeling is, Larry, that one of these guys is going to crack pretty quickly. I mean, you segregate them, they face life imprisonment. One of these guys will crack, probably by tomorrow, and they 'll spill their guts out.
KUDLOW: FBI reports to various news organizations are saying that electronic surveillance over the last year, 15 months, whatever, played an important role in this capture and foiling of the plot. Tell me a little more about electronic surveillance in a story like this.
EMERSON: If you read the affidavit, one sees that virtually every conversation with the two informants--there were two FBI informants known as C-one--CW One and CW Two. At least with CW One and CW Two, their conversations with the members of the conspiracy were recorded. And there were other times where the videos of the--of their actual participation in jihad camps were recorded by the FBI. So the surveillance, monitored electronically, was extensive and comprehensive, and that will be absolutely critical in any trial, in any plea bargain, in any conviction and prosecution. And that was done extensively. And I think this was done purposefully in order to ensure that no one could accuse the informants of misstating what he had heard, or of the FBI of using entrapment. This was not entrapment at all. All the ideas came from the defendants themselves.
KUDLOW: All right. So let me just cross over to this on the Internet. We reported lots of downloading, al-Qaeda--downloading of al-Qaeda training videos. Downloading of video wills from al-Qaeda's--two of the 9/11 hijackers. Videos of US soldiers being killed in Iraq . Now, first question is, can our surveillance tap into these; and secondly, how do we deal with is where they're connecting, if not by fact, by inspiration to al-Qaeda?
EMERSON: Well, as far as downloading, I mean, you can get a search warrant or a FISA wiretap for someone 's e-mails or--if they 're onto an e-mail server.
KUDLOW: Is there any evidence that that happened here, Steve?
EMERSON: Well, the affidavit doesn 't talk about where they got their videos from and where they got their downloads from, but it 's a natural presumption that some of them must have been there. There were videos of Americans being blown up in terrorist operations. We know that there are videos posted on the Internet from Iraq and Afghanistan by the mujahideen doing this. There are videos from bin Laden making statements. We know that there are videos posted on the Internet. So it 's obvious that some of them must have been e-mailed, or some of them must have been downloaded. The FBI can do that if they 're electronically hooked up to a server. But they 'd have to know and have to have good reasons to actually get a FISA, otherwise they wouldn 't be allowed to do it.
KUDLOW: Now, that's my next question is, on, you know, probable cause, that's a very wide open thing. After the Hamdan decision by the Supreme Court, Congress has gone back and rewritten the Patriot Act, forcing the FBI and other authorities to go back to the foreign intelligence surveillance court, if you will. How's that kind of thing play in here? In other words, Steve, in your judgment--and again, you have followed this for so long--does the United States Homeland Security authorities have the proper tools to break these things up, to make the right electronic surveillance in order to stop the bad guys?
EMERSON: Well, you know, it 's a very good question. If it weren 't for the informants going in and actually witnessing what they were downloading and saying, 'I am a witness to the fact that they 're downloading these videos, then I don 't believe that any FISA court would have granted them an application to actually do the surveillance.
EMERSON: And they would have--they would have had their hands tied behind their backs.
KUDLOW: So that's not a good thing.
EMERSON: No. Not a good thing at all.
KUDLOW: So that whole amended law is actually hurting our efforts for homeland security. Is that what you're getting at? I mean, this is something that Democrats went wild with; they attacked President Bush. Bush tried to stop it, but he didn't have the votes. Some Republicans even crossed over. I mean, this whole FISA court thing. Here we go again.
EMERSON: Unfortunately, it has the potential of restricting FISA applications from being approved.
KUDLOW: All right. Last one. This is a big win for the FBI, it's a big win for homeland security, it's a big win for this country and freedom. How are we doing, in your judgment, in the homeland security war against the radical jihadist?
EMERSON: Great question, and I gave a speech yesterday. We--the FBI is doing a phenomenally good job in infiltrating jihadist terrorist groups. I give them an A-plus. But they 're doing a bad job--and I don 't want to take away from their day of glory here because they really do deserve tremendous amount of praise. They worked together with the DHS, with border security and other agencies. This was an inter-agency operation with, actually, local law enforcement as well. Everybody gets an A-plus here.
In terms of actually battling the political jihadists, groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other jihadists that don't break the law, but are masking themselves under the Muslim Brotherhood scheme, they are doing a terrible job. They're legitimizing them and they're meeting with them, they're empowering them at the cost of discrediting legitimate moderates, and there I blame them and there they get a D-minus.
KUDLOW: All right. Steve Emerson, we're going to have to revisit that whole section there toward the end. Thank you ever so much for coming back on the program.
May 8, 2007
The O'Reilly Factorclick here to watch the video or copy and paste the following link into your web browser: http://www.investigativeproject.org/SAE- FXNEWS-OREILLY-05-08-07-.wmv
BILL O'REILLY : Now for the top story tonight. An inside look at the terror arrests today. With us now, Steve Emerson, author of the book, "Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the USA."
OK, now we've had three fairly high profile cases in the last couple of years. The Lackawanna case up in Buffalo, New York , all those guys convicted. Lodi, California , one convicted one still under. And then those clowns in Miami who said they wanted to below up the Sears tower, they're still being held without bail, right?
STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM ANALYST: Right.
O'REILLY : And that's a low level thing.
EMERSON: As the FBI says, aspirational...
O'REILLY: Yes. So these are just idiots, with all due respect to idiots. But this is different in Fort Dix.
EMERSON: This is the most advanced case of terrorist planning and operation since 9/11. And you look at the affidavit, and it's all on videotape or audio tape for the last 16 months. It clearly shows they had capability, they had motive, and they had a desire. And they would have carried it out but for fantastic work done by the FBI informants.
O'REILLY: So the FBI had an informant inside the cell of these six? Four were from the Balkans, one from Turkey, one from Jordan . They tracked these guys understand for 15 months, a long period of time?
EMERSON: Since January of 2006.
O'REILLY: And the plot was evolving in the sense that they were going to get weaponry, they were going to gain access to Fort Dix and just begin killing soldiers.
EMERSON: They actually had weaponry. They actually had been firing on weekends at state parks and makeshift jihad raining camps throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey . They actually had paintball (INAUDIBLE) champs.
They were training almost every other weekend. And that was on video. They had semiautomatic weapons. They wanted more. They wanted AK-47's. And they were the second informant that was going to take - that was going to sell them those weapons. And that's when the FBI closed in on them.
O'REILLY: OK. Now they found all kind of jihadist literature. Right?
EMERSON: Video tapes, downloads of programs, they celebrated when they saw Americans get killed on this videotapes. They saw one video where American lost his arm in an explosion. They laughed at that.
O'REILLY: So they were good at taping themselves, watching this kind of stuff?
EMERSON: No. This was the eyewitness testimony of the FBI informant. OK.
But they certainly were mobilizing themselves and instigating their own jihadist behavior by watching these downloaded videos of Osama bin Laden, of the last will and testament of the jihad hijackers from 9/11" of other jihad videos.
I mean, these guys were true believers. They wanted to kill as many Americans as possible. They surveyed other military bases in the Northeast. They actually surveyed the Philadelphia stadium where the Army- Navy game is played.
EMERSON: They -- these guys are the true deal
O'REILLY: OK, they wanted to cause as much destruction as possible but the FBI has not linked them to al Qaeda or any other overseas operation yet, correct?
EMERSON: They said there is no link in international terrorist operation. It's a misleading - it's a misnomer to even phrase it that way. These were international terrorists. They were international motivated by radical jihad. Not linked to al Qaeda, but far more dangerous because there's no international phone calls to...
O'REILLY: Right. They just got together and said look, we're jihadists. We're here in the United States.
Now three of them were illegal. And this is what troubles me, because you have this cavalier attitude, even by the police. This is what this Virginia Beach thing was all about. Like, you know, they round up 15. We don't know what these people are doing, what they're doing, who they are. And they let them go. But three out of the six were here illegally in some kind of over stay on a visa situation, that kind of thing, right?
EMERSON: Right. Three of them were here illegally. But I must say that in full disclosure, I'm an NBC terrorist analyst. And I did raise this afternoon when I was on MSNBC raised the fact that they were here illegally. I raised it twice this afternoon.
O'REILLY: But on their website and in their straight reporting?
EMERSON: They haven't raised it.
O'REILLY: Correct. OK? And you know, I don't want to besmirch your employer. And we're happy you're here. But I'll tell you what -- this isn't the first time.
There are some news organizations that have tamped this illegal alien stuff down on purpose. And they're one of them, NBC News.
But be that as it may, I feel that illegal aliens in this country unsupervised, are - you know as we see now, something you have to take seriously.
EMERSON: Without doubt. And we're going to find out soon because I think one of them will talk immediately because they're all being segregated. We'll find out exactly how they got into the country. And we'll have to clamp down. Without doubt they're very dangerous.
O'REILLY: Yes. I mean, it's not just against the good people who just want to earn a living. It's against the people who want to kill soldiers at Fort Dix.
Steve, always a pleasure to see you. Thanks very much.
EMERSON: You're welcome.
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