Emerson on CNN: Obama vs. Cheney
CNN: Campbell Brown, No Bias, No Bull
May 22, 2009
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GUESTS: Steven Emerson, Robert Gibbs, Ben Lewis
President Obama and former Vice President Cheney speak out on national security.
MARTIN: Folks, with us from Washington tonight, Steven Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, which compiles data an radical terror groups, also Clark Kent Ervin, a CNN security analyst who served with President Obama's transition team and is director of the Homeland Security Program at the Aspen Institute, an organization that tries to provide a neutral venue for discussing critical issues.
Steve, I want to start with you.
The president said Guantanamo created more terrorists than it detained, that it weakened our national security. Do you agree?
STEVEN EMERSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE INVESTIGATIVE PROJECT ON TERRORISM: You know, I have no political bone in this fight, but, frankly, I don't agree with that.
There were major terrorist attacks from 1993 on the World Trade Center, the '98 bombings of the Kenya and Tanzania embassies, the 2000 Cole bombing, the Khobar bombings, the 9/11 bombings. This was way before Gitmo.
I don't think that terrorists are sitting back and saying, you know, I had a bad experience at Gitmo, or Gitmo looks bad; let me attack the U.S.
They have got much larger beefs. They -- they want a caliphate. They oppose the United States. They oppose the very existence of the state of Israel. They oppose the West in the Middle East. So, I don't think Gitmo is the primary or even a minor factor in recruiting terrorists.
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We have terrorists in our country who have been convicted and who are held in prisons today, Ramzi Yousef, as he pointed out, Zacarias Moussaoui, the 20th hijacker. We have done it. We're doing it now. We can do it, if necessary.
EMERSON: Can I point out something here?
I think that if you put them in the United States, one, it's much easier to get into the United States than get them out. Number two, once they are here, they are going to be afforded all types of legal procedures and rights that we don't want to provide them with, because we didn't collect the evidence at the field of battle that would afford them the same type of due process that somebody who is arrested in New York would have.
Number three, we have discovered that Ramzi Yousef and others plotted inside American prisons with other radical Islamic terrorists to carry out terrorist attacks here in the United States. I don't think that because people are sitting in a supermax, they are saying, oh, I'm not going to attack the United States. They don't like the fact that we arrest terrorists, period.
EMERSON: And whether they're in Gitmo or not, it doesn't make a difference.
Gitmo is a place to keep them at bay, keep them separate from the American population. They have now been -- Gitmo can be the Club Mediterranean for the penal code here..
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ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you also have the containment problem, which is -- which is, I think, for most Americans, what we are hearing is that that is a bigger concern than maybe the legal issue.
They want to know, if these people are brought to the U.S., will they be safe? The president of course saying today that he was adamant, in fact, that U.S. prisons could detain these detainees, noting no one had ever escaped from a supermax.
Steven, do you believe that he can stand by that and ensure that nothing will happen?
EMERSON: Well, look, he's right that no one's ever escaped from a supermax. But that's not the issue. The issue is, what do they do in prison? The collaboration between Islamic terrorists, we know it happened with the Blind Sheik and his communications with El Sayyid Nosair that brought on the 1993 bombing.
We know that communications being the Blind Sheik and his own lawyer, Lynne Stewart, passing communications. And we also know what would happen if -- we don't know what would happen if the Chinese Uighurs were relocated to Virginia. These are hardened...
MARTIN: Steve, Steve...
MARTIN: But, Steve, right now, we have 23 terrorists in U.S. prisons right now. So, it's not like this is a new idea. They are in U.S. prisons right now tonight.
EMERSON: Yes, absolutely. I'm -- I'm not disagreeing with the fact that -- that there are terrorists, like Ramzi Yousef, the Blind Sheik, that have been convicted duly and sentenced to life imprisonment and are not going to be a danger to the American public.
On the other hand, when you start resettling people in, like the Chinese Uighurs, there's been talk about putting them in Virginia. And the FBI says these are people who are going to require 24-hour surveillance.
EMERSON: They are not going to be tried, because there is no evidence to try them. But they were caught as hardened jihadists on the battlefield.
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MARTIN: All right. Back with our panel along with Steven Emerson and Clark Kent Ervin in Washington.
HILL: Real quick question, Clark, I just want to throw this by you. We listen to the sound off the top when we came to the show. The president saying that he feels Guantanamo Bay set back "the moral authority as America's strongest currency."
What has happened to that currency? Is it weaker now in the world and is it because of Guantanamo Bay?
ERVIN: Yes, there is absolutely no question about that, Erica. You know, I thought today about George Kennan, the then-young American diplomat in our embassy in Moscow back in the 1940s who sketched out a strategy that ultimately proved successful against Soviet communism.
And in the last paragraph of that strategy document, he said the ultimate greatest danger to the United States is that in fighting communism, we've become like the enemy we're fighting. That's what happened to us over the past seven to eight years and Gitmo is the symbol of that.
STEVEN EMERSON, INVESTIGATIVE PROJECT ON TERRORISM: I would respectfully disagree. Look, I think the whole problem in the 1990s when we were experiencing radical Islamic attacks, a term, by the way, that the president refuses to even use which I think is dangerous because it basically says you can't identify your enemy. The problem in the 1990s is that we attacked the problem like a law enforcement problem. It was a military problem.
EMERSON: We tried to solve it, you know, right after 9/11. The three pirates who were just killed in that boat, they weren't read their rights.
YELLIN: But Steven -- quickly, can you just --
EMERSON: Go ahead.
YELLIN: Can you explain, do you think Gitmo should stay open then indefinitely?
MARTIN: About 15 seconds, Steven.
EMERSON: Yes, I believe at this point it should definitely stay open for as long as the conflict exists. Absolutely. And they should not be allowed into the United States.
BLOOM: Yes. I mean, Steven, the problem is that President Obama was speaking from the National Archives talking about our constitution and our deeply-held values. Doesn't that come into this at all?
MARTIN: Steven, about 10 seconds.
EMERSON: Of course it comes into, but the rule of law is not the rule of lawyers. And the fact is that you fight wars. And we fight wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan today.
EMERSON: People are not being read their rights when the Marines attacked them.
Reader comments on this item
You are the BEST reporter of news analysis.
Submitted by Ren, May 28, 2009 16:43
You are the most stable, informed and truthful commentator. We hope you will always continue your fight against terrorists. Can you please tell Obama that terrorists are NOT detainees. That's like calling Hitler NASTY.
Steven gets it right again and CNN gets mud in the face; again!!!
Submitted by David, May 27, 2009 15:55
Clearly SE got the best of this dialog not through shear force but FACTS. Radical Islam has been around since Islam's inception and GITMO doesn't factor in any conversation in regards to battling Radical Islam on the American Front. While the progressive movement currently in power is playing partisan politics while trying to reach out to our enemies, these very enemies are building training camps right here in the US and our last two administrations are playing word games so the general public can't even tell who we are fighting. I wonder what Obama would call the Nazi's if Hitler was still in power, perhaps 'man made extremists' or 'trouble some beings' or even 'people with a different perspective' that just need special social programs geared for their special needs. Just take a look at Holland, Germany, and the UK to see what is in store for America. Well we got what we asked for, a open boarder/socialist 'czar' running our Homeland security who considers conservative potential terrorists and Islamic terrorist made made problems; go figure
Thanks Steven; The Truth Shall Keep Us Free.
Submitted by Paul Scott, May 25, 2009 13:57
In a time of so much informational "slight of hand" and double speak; it is refreshing to hear straight talk that speaks to the core of the issue. Terror calls for a different response than any other conflict. Radical Islam does not play by the Geneva Convention or any other "rules of war"; they have no respect for their lives or any other human lives. How can you deal reasonably with people with no reasoning faculties? How long will we last carrying knives, handguns and law books into nuclear and biological fights? Our government's cow towing to public opinion could leave us vulnerable to complete annihilation; but at least future civilizations will know us having been kind to our enemies.
Great job Mr. Emerson
Submitted by Jack Cohen, May 24, 2009 09:44
Strikingly articulate and well put together arguements. Fantastic job on helping the American people understand the real issues so that we can keep America safe.
Well Done Steven
Submitted by Rich Davis, May 24, 2009 07:50
Great Job - in the short time you had, you were able to give concise reasonable answers. We are at war and these terrorists should remain at Gitmo and not be allowed into the US where they could recruit and radicalize more people to become terrorists.
Thanks for all you do Steven!