Steven Emerson in the Media
Report of Second Airline Bombing Attempt
DAVID ASMAN: The Christmas Day bomb attack, not an isolated incident. Are we seeing a pattern here? Welcome everyone, I'm David Asman in for Neil Cavuto and this is Your World and today, word of another potential bomb attack aimed at bringing down a passenger plane. Report out of Mogadishu, Somalia said a young man tried to board a commercial airliner carrying powdered chemicals, a liquid and a syringe. Sound familiar? Authorities say the substances could have been used as an explosive device. Now the incident of course, is eerily similar to the failed Christmas Day bomb attack on Northwest Flight 253. On that flight, the suspect reportedly stashed 80 grams of the highly explosive material PETN in the crotch of his underwear. My next guest says this latest news tells us there are scores of potential bombers just waiting to strike. Terror Analyst, Steve Emerson joins me now. So, Steve, when you first heard about this Somalia incident, did you realize that the bragging claims of terrorists might just be true? That there are dozens of others out there?
STEVEN EMERSON: In fact, its probably even worse than the claims that they've made, David, because we know that there are literally hundreds of Westernized Muslims-that is Muslims coming from Britain, the United States, as well as other European countries-that are studying or being recruited in training in Yemen at this very moment. And they've been there for periods from 4 months to 2 years. This is what a U.S. intelligence official told me in the last few days and threat emanates from; not the Al Qaeda organization, but that the recruits that they have number in the hundreds and they just have to select the right person for the right operation. Now the question is how many more airplane bombs are there and would be bombers. We don't know the answer to that. We're going to obviously go back into the airline records and the U.S. intelligence agencies to determine patterns of traffic and to see whether there were reconnaissance missions on any routes to the United States in the last year. I'll suspect that they'll find that there were.
ASMAN: By the way, we're going to be having on a little bit later in the show, a woman who was on the plane and is the woman who reported seeing somebody else tape recording, video recording the suspect before everything broke out. In other words, there may have been an accomplice on that flight with this guy. What do you think of that?
EMERSON: The only thing I can tell you is I would not be surprised by anything I learn. I have been so surprised since Christmas Day. Even I, who study this phenomenon for years, was amazed to learn how they could evade detection and carry out this would be bombing in light of the fact that the United States just spent tens of billions of dollars on airplane security and technology and hasn't really amounted to anything.
ASMAN: You know, it shows you, Steve, there is no magic bullet here. There is no machine that is going to do the job. The reason El Al has had such a wonderful record in terms of security on their airplane-and every terrorist in the world wants to get them-is because they focus their money on personnel. On eyes of experts, on judgment of experts. That's what you have to do, right?
EMERSON: Absolutely. That's why I call for "smart screening," that is inclusion of other pertinent data such as ethnicity, religion-
ASMAN: You call it "smart screening," other people call it profiling. By the way, we're going to get to that in just a second. When you hear 50 grams, 80 grams it sounds like a pittance of this explosive material, but there was a demonstration done by our own people. This shows you what just 50 grams of what this explosive device can do. Look at the plane. That's 50 grams, so imagine almost as twice as much as what this guy-I mean, we were so lucky. We dodged a huge bullet, didn't we?
EMERSON: Right, and the question is, would we have determined that it was Al Qaeda if it had actually gone off and burnt down the plan at 8,000 feet. Don't know.
ASMAN: Now, let's-you brought up the subject. Let's talk about profiling. You have to find the way of making sure you can get the right type of person. Ask any security guy at El Al, and that's what he'll tell you. Can we do it here?
EMERSON: Absoulutely. It's just a matter of political will. The fact is that what we are doing now is excluding pertinent data such as Major Hasan; he was the Fort Hood shooter that killed 13 people. There were enough indications with him prior to his massacre that he carried out, that he would carry out such a murderous, jihadi spree because he was known in the community to be a jihadist but everyone was afraid to say anything because they were afraid of being accused of racial profiling. I'm not saying base identification of terrorists only on the base of religion. I'm saying include data that could be used in the larger equation and the larger formula that might be relevant and the number one common denominator in all terrorist attacks against us in 2009. There has been one common denominator; they're all Muslim jihadists.
ASMAN: That's right. Of course if they're afraid of racial profiling in a military institution, imagine the TSA. I mean, they must be scared stiff. So, it's going to take a change in attitude in order to get us to that point. Unfortunately, it might take a real terrorist incident gone right from the terrorist perspective.
EMERSON: David, you're right. It might take something like that to galvanize us. Look at how we're galvanized to this day. One week since the bombing-would be bombing. Only because he almost carried it off, I mean, I suspect we're going to be learning a lot more about the threat of radical Islam within the United States and externally, particularly emanating from Yemen that would not have been uncovered and that would not have been discussed had it not been for the would be bombing on Christmas Day.
ASMAN: Well, thank God we got this guy and we can pump him for information. Steve Emerson, great to see you again, Steve. Thanks very much.
EMERSON: Thank you.
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