JON SCOTT: The nation is at war in two countries right now, largely because of the threat of terrorism but not all terrorism comes from overseas. Law enforcement in this nation is very vigilant about threat of homegrown terror. It becomes an even more evident threat after the news that the FBI and New York police breaking up a plot to blow up two New York synagogues and shoot down U.S. military planes. The four suspects in custody allegedly became radicalized, not overseas, but right here while doing time in prison. So, how serious is this threat and what can we do about it? Let's bring in Steve Emerson, he is the Executive Director of the Investigative Project. He is also the author of Jihad Incorporated. Steve, outside the book, you have an opinion piece in one of the New York newspapers that had a couple of quotes that I thought were interesting. You were talking about what you see as the folly of bring in Guantanamo Bay prisoners to this country and you said the Guantanamo prisoners would be looked about as "jihadi rock stars each one could potential produce a hundred new ticking time bombs ultimately walking the streets of America. FBI agents with whom I have spoken say that the transfer of prisoners to the U.S. is insane, pure and simple."
STEVEN EMERSON: Jon, the fact is that even though these-if in fact the prisoners from Guantanamo Bay are transferred and even if they're locked up permanently, they still will have contact with the regular prison population, with both Muslim and non Muslims. And given their jihadist beliefs and hardcore doctrine it is almost guaranteed that they are going to serve as proselytizers and looked upon what I called 'rock stars' in terms of conveying this jihadist ideology. Those other prisoners will ultimately be freed for whatever sentences they've been serving. And the problem is once they're freed, then all hell can break loose as we saw in the plot that broke-that was disclosed last week. Because once they are out, then of course they are free to act upon their ideological extremism. In the case in the Bronx plot, they wanted to blow up Jewish centers and shoot down a military plane cause they were so angry at the U.S. We have seen a lot of radical literature in prisons and we have seen radical Islamic chaplains serving as advisors in prisons who also radicalize the prisoner population. This is a ticking time bomb. We have seen it happen several times, like the plot in Riverside, California several years ago when they interrupted a plot to blow up Jewish centers, a National Guard center. We have seen more than 25 U.S. prisoners released from prisons who have been involved ultimately in Islamic terrorist plots.
SCOTT: What about the argument though that these guys involved in this New York City plot recently, accused and arrested in this New York City plot, what about the argument that they are just sort of uneducated losers who got swept up into something by a government informant who was way too willing to spend money on them.
EMERSON: The radical Islamic groups, those are apologists for them, claim it is the informants who do the entrapment. But in fact, all the informant did was to provide the weapons that the defendants were prepared to use; in this case C-4 to blow up the synagogues and a stinger missile to shoot down a plane. The reality is that when you look at any bunch of these terrorists they look like losers. Look at the one in 1993 who retrieved his rental deposit after he tried to blow up the World Trade Center. He looked like a loser, but that was not a losing plot. They almost killed a hundred thousand people.
SCOTT: You mentioned that there is very little screening done of some people who try to recruit these people in prison. In 2004 you wrote, "The way the Bureau of Prisons determined whether an Imam was a radical was to simply ask them if they supported terrorism. If they said no and of course they all did, they were granted admission." It would seem like the government has taken leave of its senses when it comes to deciding who to let in.
EMERSON: The Bureau of Prisons has acted so irresponsibly that it is beyond the scope of this interview to even detail. The head of the Bureau of Prisons, Susan VanBalen; she's now retired, used to speak at conferences that actually accredited chaplains. These conferences were sponsored by radical Islamic groups. She thought that they were fine. The Bureau of Prisons defined Wahhabism, that's the doctrine that governs the strict puritanical version of Islam in Saudi Arabia, as a simple form of religious interpretation. They never understood the problem of radical Islam and that's the real scandal here.
SCOTT: We can read more about it in your book, Jihad Incorporated, Steve Emerson, thank you.
EMERSON: You're welcome.