NORAH O'DONNELL: With me now, terrorism expert, Steve Emerson.
Steve, this was an interesting speech, not because it represented a change in policy, but perhaps in tone by President Obama. Does it make a difference?
STEVEN EMERSON: Time will tell, but frankly – I think the reality is that the speech was just rhetoric and, in fact, when the president says that Hamas must stop violence, it doesn't mean anything. I don't think this speech will have any effect on the Islamic terrorist or extremists whatsoever. They're going to reject it.
The question is, what affect does it have on the others, those who do not believe in violence? I can tell you already, haven spoken to various sources in the U.S. government, radical groups in the United States have openly rejoiced in this speech because the President, one, did not use the term Islamic terrorism, he doesn't use the term to describe Islamic extremism, he just calls it extremism as if it exists in a bubble.
Number two, he said he was going to help open the doors for more monies to be deposited to Islamic charities. That is going to unravel some of the anti-terrorism financial laws that were enacted over the last eight years to stop monies from going to terrorist groups. So, I think overall that if some of these policies that he hints at are enacted, we're going to see a reversal of the anti-terrorist policies that have kept America safe. Now that's an initial reaction, I could be wrong. But frankly…
O'DONNELL: …What do you mean, reversal of what policies that have kept America safe?
EMERSON: Well, look, first thing is, he talked about making it easier for Muslims to contribute – or make zakat – charitable contributions. That is a very nice statement, but the reality is that there were scores of charities in the United States that were shut down or prosecuted in the last eight years because they were serving as funds for terrorist groups. And to the extent that somehow now there is going to be a lessening of those restrictions, I think it is going to make it much for viable for the radical Islamic groups to reconstitute themselves and somehow open up new charitable conduits for terrorist organizations overseas.
I think that some of the Islamic groups in the United States, that I have heard some of their reactions this morning, through sources, are openly jubilant. They think there is going to be free reign for them with influence of the administration. They think that they are going to have influence over the policies of financial constraints over terrorist activities. And, they think that they are going to be included now in policy deliberations. I think that is a terrible mistake…
O'DONNELL: Well, that's ridiculous.
EMERSON: Well, it may be ridiculous, but it's their perception. Now, I can also tell you that…
O'DONNELL: Yeah, well that's fine if that is their perception, but there are lots of crazier, kookier people out there that perceive things that just aren't true but the extremists are not going to be brought to the table in the Obama administration to discuss policy.
EMERSON: Well, the question is, who are extremists, Norah? We're not talking about Al Qaeda, and we're not talking about Hamas; we're talking about groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that have derivatives in the United States who operate under different names. They condemn 9/11, not because it was immoral, but because it was counterproductive. They seek to work through the system. They seek to unravel the convictions of those that were convicted in the Hamas trial [against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, or HLF]. They seek to unravel those convictions of those charities that were frozen after 9/11 that were serving as terrorist funds. Those are the people who now think they have a special ear to the President and think the President is going to cater to them in terms of reversing some of the anti-terrorism policies. Again, I can't predict that that is going to happen, that is their perception.
O'DONNELL: Alright, Steve Emerson, Thank you so much.