ALEX WITT: Meanwhile President Obama defending his decision to close down the prison at Gitmo moment in a wide ranging interview with c-span. That airs later today. Steve Emerson, Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism joins me now. Good morning, good to see you.
STEVEN EMERSON: Good morning. I think I should have done waterboarding with some vodka. That might have woken me up earlier.
WITT: We should let them know you were a little late but that's ok. I don't think the vodka would have done it, but that's just me. Coffee, maybe. Anyway Steve, with a good morning, do you think closing Gitmo would ultimately make America safer?
EMERSON: I thought about this, I came to the conclusion that it would absolutely not. One, it would allow hardened Jihadists into American jail systems where they would recruit other Islamic terrorists to carry out plots as we saw in New York. Number two, once they get in the United States it's hard to get them out. Number three, it doesn't lessen the enmity and hatred of the United States. Its not like Jihadists around the world are saying 'oh they closed Gitmo, we're not going to attack the U.S.' So I think it's best to keep them out of the U.S and keep them in the facility. Obama has basically said he can transform the situation. Let him transform Gitmo and Guantanamo Bay and make it a place where enemy combatants can stay, can be imprisoned and where obviously they don't have the evidence if they would have collected if they had been arrested in New York and they had surveillance equipment to monitor their conversations.
WITT: Here is the question. The image of that from a public relations standpoint, I mean all it takes, as you well know, is one person to be annoyed just enough to do something heinous. I mean, from that perspective, doesn't closing it remove that element of possible terrorism thoughts and activities?
EMERSON: Well, I've looked at almost all of the statements issued by terrorists as they have claimed credit for attacks in the last eight years since 9/11. Virtually none of them have invoked Guantanamo Bay as the basis for their attacks. They attack American policies, they attacked the American system of capitalism. They attack the fact that there isn't a Caliphate, that they are not in control of the world. I don't think that just one element here is really going to reduce any amount of terrorism.
WITT: So, Steve, I know you monitor the websites. Are they aware of Gitmo? Do you see a lot of chatter about that?
EMERSON: They are aware of it when it comes up in the American media. When the Amerian media published the pictures that came out, when the stories came out. The full story about the Qur'an being flushed down the toilet. That came out, but remember there were more people killed around the world during the riots over the Danish cartoons than any such people killed in riots over Guantanamo Bay. I don't think it's that this issue that's the problem. The problem is keeping Americans safe and I think Americans are much less safer by having them transferred to American prisons or even putting them on American streets where some administration officials are thinking of putting the Chinese uighurs who are hardened Jihadists and letting them live free in places such as Virginia. I think that would be a catastrophe.
In all fairness, I don't think the president indicated he is going to put anybody out there on the streets. I mean I think that's pretty…
EMERSON: No, he hasn't. You're right. There has been talk about letting people out that cannot be put in jail because there isn't enough evidence hearsay or that they can't determine they are enough of a danger. And therefore there is talk about putting them out on the streets or putting them in relief organizations. Number two, you have to remember the courts might say, might rule, hey, you can't be held indefinitely in a supermax. We're going to allow you free because you haven't been afforded habeas corpus. Once they are here it can't be controlled they would be forcibly put in prison and forced to stay there.
WITT: Steve emerson, better late than never. Good to have you. Thank you so much.
EMERSON: You bet.