ALLISON SEYMOUR: Another big story this morning – five missing men from the D.C. area have been detained in Pakistan on suspicion of terror. The men were taken into custody yesterday after police raided the home of an activist of a terrorist group and all five of the men are Muslim.
One of the men in custody is a dental student at Howard University; his name is Ramy Zamzam. For more insight into this story, we're joined by Steve Emerson, the Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Steve, good morning to you.
And I just wanted to say that your organization is one of the largest storehouses for information on groups in the Middle East and Islamic terrorist-related groups.
STEVEN EMERSON: Right. We track the activities and modus operandi of the groups operating in the United States – Islamic groups – that are radical and their nexus to radical terrorist groups overseas.
SEYMOUR: The name of this group – these men were found in a home in Pakistan with a group – and please, correct me if I'm wrong – Jaish-e-Mohammed; this is a banned military group. What do you know about this organization?
EMERSON: Jaish-e-Mohammed is a small group – not as big as Lashkar e-Tayyiba, which is another radical group based in Pakistan – it has ties to Al Qaeda, it has been listed and designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization, and it has been banned in Pakistan, its assets frozen by the United States – although they were minimal when they were frozen several years ago.
So it's a very radical group that has carried out a campaign of bombings in Pakistan and also assisted Al Qaeda in attacks overseas.
SEYMOUR: These five men, we should say – nationalities different or I should say line of heritage – Yemen, Egyptian, one Swede, and then one U.S.-born Pakistani. But the bottom line is that all of these men were living in the United States, living normal lives…
EMERSON: All American actually…
SEYMOUR: …all American-Muslims living in the United States. How big of a threat is this homegrown terrorism?
EMERSON: It is growing and this year alone there have been 9 plots of homegrown terrorism – the largest number since 9/11. We have a serious problem on our hands. We're becoming more Europeanized, which sees plots like these all the time. We're seeing them now on a regular basis. We just saw Fort Hood. We saw what happened in Chicago with the plot to – with the charges against the men against them for the Mumbai plots. So we're seeing a lot of young Muslim men volunteer to carry out jihad. The question is why is this happening now? Is it a delayed reaction of some sort since 9/11?
And my belief is that they are getting radicalized because the leadership and the internet – the leadership within the Islamic community – is not deterring them. And also, the internet is serving as a radical basis for them to see overseas the imams preaching jihad, like Anwar al-Awlaki who preached jihad and had a profound effect on the Fort Hood shooter even though he was based in Yemen.
SEYMOUR: Interesting case with these young men because you said young men – or in this case, young Muslim men – their parents raised the red flag. So this is clearly a generational thing with these specific men. They said "our sons are gone, we're concerned," they saw a videotape that looked like a farewell tape. They informed an organization – the Council on American-Islamic Relations – who put them in touch with the FBI.
I guess my point is that we sort of, perhaps, lucked-up on this arrest. What's your feeling on that – that the parents were the ones to alert the federal government?
EMERSON: Definitely, we lucked up on this generally speaking. Unfortunately, there is a level of distrust within the American-Muslim community against law enforcement bred in part by that group you mentioned, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which tells its constituents not to talk to the FBI. So the fact that they did talk to the FBI was a positive movement. And the parents are just as much victims as anybody else. They certainly did not approve of what their kids were doing.
SEYMOUR: OK. Unfortunately we have to leave it there. Steve Emerson – Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Very interesting. We hope to have you back to talk more about this.