Note: The following are excerpts from the full hour of the Campbell Brown show on CNN in which Steven Emerson appeared on June 10th, 2009.
CAMPBELL BROWN: Here are the questions we want answered. Are homegrown terrorists more dangerous than al Qaeda? Tonight, chaos in the heart of the capital, breaking news on the deadly shooting at Washington's Holocaust Museum.
BROWN: Tonight, "The Washington Post" reports police recovered a notebook from Von Brunn and in it a list of Washington locations, including the White House. D.C. bomb squads are checking them out right now.
And that's tonight's "Mash-Up."
And that brings us to our first question of the night. Just who is this guy? How big is the white supremacist threat, more generally? The suspect in today's shooting is a racist who has been spewing hate- filled rants for decades. All the evidence we have suggests that he did act alone, but how many more out there are like him?
And here to talk about that, we have got Steve Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism. He consulted in fact with the Holocaust Museum on their security. We have also got CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, in Washington, Fran Townsend, CNN national security contributor. She was homeland security adviser for President Bush. She's joining us. And, in Montgomery, Alabama, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, with us as well.
And, Mark, let me start with you, because you knew Von Brunn pretty well. He was well-known as a white supremacist. You had some files on him. What can you tell us about him?
MARK POTOK: Well, basically, he's been a player and a fairly active player in the movement going back at least four decades, at least to the early '70s.
Back then, he was briefly at least an employee of something called Noontide Press, which at the time was the leading Holocaust- denial publishing outfit in the country. After that, at least by his own account, he had a lot of interactions with leading figures in the movement, people like Wilmot Robertson and William Pierce, and a number of other anti-Semitic and essentially neo-Nazi leaders.
It was really, though, with his attack on the Federal Reserve Board, his attempted armed kidnapping of the board back in 1981, that he really sprang to all our attention. He carried in a sawed-off shotgun, a hunting knife and a pistol in order to, you know, get the Federal Reserve Board to admit that they were really pawns of the Jews -- quote, unquote -- and all the rest of it.
BROWN: So -- so...
BROWN: Well, just to that point, Mark, given what you know about him, what did you think when you heard it was him today, when you heard his name first reported?
POTOK: Well, the reality is, he's been very quiet since getting out of prison in 1989. He's put a great deal of propaganda out on the Internet. But, beyond that, he was really not known as a guy who you saw at rallies, who had any real interactions with other leaders in the movement.
So, he's essentially been another one of thousands of Internet propagandists. Now, that said, some of his propaganda was pretty fierce. Let me read you a particular posting that he put up just a couple of years ago, two Mays ago, in 2007. He wrote on a particular white supremacist site.
POTOK: He said: "What must Aryans do to survive. Is it too late? The house is a ablaze."
POTOK: "We need firefighters. It's up to you. Stop talking, organize. Take action. Target. Swarm across the landscape. You know their murderous intent. You know who they are. Do it."
BROWN: All right, let me -- let me bring Fran Townsend into this, Fran, because I want to get a sense for what is happening right now. And you have been there in this position before.,
Given what law enforcement knows about this guy now, what are they doing at this hour?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND: Well, there's no question. We know they found this notebook, Campbell.
But you can be sure they're looking at his phone records, his Internet records. They're searching his car, his home. They're looking to see are there other people he was affiliated with? Was he part of a larger group? Or did he -- can they in fact verify that he was acting alone? Did he have intentions or did he have plans against other facilities?
And if they did, the federal authorities want to work with those facilities to make sure they understand that their vulnerabilities are known and what they can do to close them. This is all going to be done as part of an assessment of putting together the investigative file to work with prosecutors to decide exactly what charges they will bring.
There's obviously a murder charge, but what additional charges, whether that's for actual charging or enhancement at sentencing as a hate crime.
BROWN: So, how many, to both of you guys, how many more of James Von Brunns are there out there? How big is the threat? Can we quantify it, Steve?
EMERSON: I don't think it's possible.
First of all, there are lots of people who harbor extremist views. And that ranges from the left to the right to the jihadist viewpoint. The question is, how many people are willing to take that next step and to actually abusing the right of free speech, which is what they're advocating and what they're entitled to do, even with the extremist Web site, and to actually violate the law?
And I -- I sort of did some research today on the number of lone wolf attack -- we call them lone wolf attacks because they're individuals, we believe -- in the last decade.
EMERSON: Fifty percent were carried out by jihadists. The other 40 percent were carried out by right-wing extremists, another 10 percent by unidentified ideological extremists.
So, if you look at the percentage of where it's coming from, still, the plurality is radical jihadists. But you also have...
BROWN: But not by much.
EMERSON: Not by much, but, in terms of plurality of, let's say, the victims, in terms of the numbers, you will see a much greater number of victims having been the -- the target of radical jihadists.
Now, I'm not minimizing the threat today at all, because this is a guy that could have killed a lot more people if he wasn't so brazen when he walked into the entranceway of the Holocaust Museum. However, the fact is, as Jeffrey would note, he's entitled to his views, somebody who yells death to America.
I have been trying to report on Islamist terrorists for many years. And when I say this group says death to America, it's free speech.
EMERSON: The question is, what happens when someone hears that and they say, yes, I'm going to carry out an attack against a recruiting center in Little Rock?
JEFFREY TOOBIN: Think about how difficult the challenge is for law enforcement here, because the Internet, alas, is full of people spewing this kind of hate, the vast, vast majority of whom never do anything to act on it.
And what an unlikely person he is to have engaged in this attack? Yes, he had...
BROWN: Just in the last two weeks, we have seen a doctor who performed late-term abortions gunned down in his own church. Two Army recruiters shot, one killed in their office, and now a white supremacist is the suspect after a deadly shooting at the Holocaust Museum today. So what is behind our nation's homegrown terrorists?
We want to bring back our panel to talk about this. Steve Emerson, Jeff Toobin, Mark Potok. Also with us now is Pat Brown, a criminal profiler as well. Welcome to you, Pat, and to everybody.
Jeff, I want to start with you, and just tell people about this report that came out from Homeland Security and the FBI talking about right-wing extremism and it became very controversial.
TOOBIN: It was in April and it talked about how the Department of Homeland Security was keeping an eye on certain right-wing groups because they appeared to be on the brink of violence. And there was a very negative reaction in right- wing talk radio. Michael Steele, the head of the RNC attacked Janet Napolitano for this report. And, in fact, this report now looks quite fresh.
BROWN: I was going to say given what's happened. Mark, you've been tracking this and you found a number of factors that you think -- first of all, you do believe there is a rise in domestic terrorism. But you've been tracking certain factors that you think are fueling it. Explain.
POTOK: Yes. I very much like the DHS report. We said a couple of months early in our own year-end report that it seemed quite clear that several things were going on.
On the one hand, we had several years, five or six years of this movement essentially growing on its exploitation, the immigration issue. In other words, they played very heavily on the idea that nonwhite immigrants were kind of flooding into the country.
In the last six or eight months, though, the two important factors that come into play those are, of course, Obama, the election of a black man to the White House, and the crumbling economy.
Obama's election in particular has really set off a spade of incidents. You mentioned a number in your intro, but there had been some really quite amazing cases.
A man in Maine building a dirty bomb because he was angry about Obama's election. A Marine lance corporal at Camp Lejeune allegedly plotting to assassinate Obama for the same reason. It goes on from there. It's really been quite something. And I think it's also worth adding that as Jeff Toobin pointed out, I mean, the reaction of the right to that DHS report was quite amazing. And, you know, as it turns out, it was an absolute tempest in a tea cup. That report was a sober assessment of what was actually going on, but, you know...
POTOK: ... the right had to sort of interpret this as an attack on all conservatives which it clearly was.
BROWN: You're trying to jump in here. Steve, go ahead.
EMERSON: Yes, I disagree here. One, the report was by DHS. All it was was a compilation of organizations that they said were right-wing extremists. It didn't say they're doing any surveillance because they weren't allowed to do a surveillance on them.
The reaction from "the right" was because the stated implication of the report was that they were recruiting naval and military reservists who are coming back from Iraq or coming back from Afghanistan. That's what the criticism came from, and there was no evidence to support that whatsoever in the report.
But the reality is, it was very easy for DHS to issue that report because they called on all right-wing groups. But if DHS had issued a report about jihadist groups or what we call Islamist terrorist groups, there would have been an outcry. And that's why DHS prohibit the use of the term "Islamic terrorist," which is one thing we're not mentioning here.
BROWN: All right.
EMERSON: The reality is we can identify right-wing extremists and anti-Semite by describing what they believe in. When we talk about a jihadist, we don't use that term. We just call them somebody who is a shooter or a terrorist.
BROWN: All right. But I want to keep it on domestic terrorism. And let me bring you into this, Pat. Because I guess where I get a little confused is, how do you differentiate between just a lunatic acting out versus who can really be defined, someone who could really be defined as domestic terrorist?
PAT BROWN: Yes, exactly. I think that is the big problem. I think we're calling terrorism -- terrorism should be something that's supported by a terrorist group. In other words, there's action by a number of people promoting a particular assault on somebody.
We are talking about one lone nut case and this is what we've got today. We've got one lone psychopath who happened to target the Holocaust Museum and happens to say that, oh, I'm against Jews.
Well, if you're somebody, you've got to be against somebody. So you have school shooters, who are they against? Oh, bullies in school. If you've got a white Minnesotan, he might hate the Hamams (ph).
He's just got to pick somebody because it can't be him. He's got to be against someone. And he's going to go out and he's going to make his day in the sun. He's going to get his bright hurrah. He's going to pick on somebody.
So we're confusing the two things. One, a lone nut case with actual organized terrorist groups like, for example, a jihadist group. That's a big difference because if you have that as being promoted by a particular country or a huge organization, then you have an issue.
BROWN: All right.
POTOK: Well, it's easy to dismiss these people as "nut cases."
POTOK: But the fact is there is a real movement out there. And if you simply treat a guy like this person as a sociopath who comes out of nowhere...
P. BROWN: He's one.
POTOK: ... you know, I think that betrays a complete lack of understanding of the fact that there's a real ideology out there.
P. BROWN: No, he is a sociopath. Did you read his biography that he wrote himself? It's the most grandiose biography I've ever read. It's absolutely ludicrous.
So he wrote that himself because that's the way he sees himself. But he is not being backed by any particular group. It's his own personal vendetta.
BROWN: All right, guys, stand by. We're going to have a lot more on this. Coming up, the panel sticking around. Stay with us.
We're going to go to Larry King, though, who is just minutes away with Miss California and her return to the headlines.
Larry, give us a preview.
LARRY KING: We'll go to that later. But Liz Cheney and James Carville are here, Campbell. And they'll have more than a few things to say about where the Republican Party is headed.
And Katie Couric is going to stop by with Ethan Zohn. They're standing up to cancer. It's all next on "LARRY KING LIVE," Campbell.
BROWN: All right, Larry. We'll see you in a few minutes.
In just a moment, the panel is going to be back with what may be the biggest question of all. Are we focusing on the wrong bad guys? In targeting Al Qaeda, are we ignoring a greater threat here at home? We'll talk about that when we come back.
BROWN: And our question about today's shooting is, are we focusing on the wrong bad guys?
Consider this, if James von Brunn, the suspect had been spouting Al Qaeda rhetoric instead of white supremacist rants, chances are he would have been in custody a long time ago. But is domestic terrorism a bigger threat than Al Qaeda now?
Back with us, Steve Emerson, Jeff Toobin, Fran Townsend and Pat Brown.
Fran, you certainly have experience here. Let me just ask the question bluntly, what do you think, domestic terrorism competing for our attention?
TOWNSEND: I think people would be surprised, Campbell. Actually, there are now over 100 joint terrorism task forces around the country.
These task forces have both all of the federal law enforcement agencies as well as state and locals who have the best handle on their communities. They have not only international terrorism groups that they investigate, but every one of those terrorism task forces has a domestic terrorism investigative unit. They monitor these groups. They infiltrate these groups.
But I will tell you, Campbell, the difficulty here is with the First Amendment protection on free speech, you can say any hateful, evil thing you want. It's crossing the line into violent action and it doesn't matter how much resources you put against it. It's very, very difficult to detect when that individual is going to cross the line from saying hateful things to doing violent hateful things.
BROWN: And, Pat, let me let Pat jump in on that point -- Pat.
P. BROWN: Yes. Well, that's one of the problems you really never know. Because when you're dealing with a psychopath, they're always against somebody. They always want to be the one that's right and everybody else is wrong. That's how they get their glory.
And we hear this with people, for example, with Columbine and with Virginia Tech when we had the student shooters. They would say, well, we heard them talk about stuff like that but we didn't believe them because we hear kids say that all the time. But then all of a sudden they go out and they shoot down a couple dozen children. And where did that come from?
BROWN: Is there a better way, though, to predict that moment when somebody is going to cross the line?
P. BROWN: Well, we can see developing psychopathy. And the problem is people tend to minimize psychopaths. They say, well, he's just talking stuff. Well, when they start talking stuff and they start accumulating weapons, put them (ph) two together, and I know a lot of the people who are pro-gun, and I am one of them, by the way, before I get the hate mail, say, oh, she's saying that all guys who have weapons, they're going to go out and kill people.
No, I say if you have psychopathy and you have an obsession with weaponry and hatred, you put all that together, then you've got somebody you want to watch.
TOOBIN: Let me just go back to your original question. Is domestic terrorism or Al Qaeda the bigger threat?
Al Qaeda is the bigger threat. Al Qaeda has made repeated attacks across this country. They've killed thousands of American people.
Look, this was terrible what happened today. The FBI, law enforcement should look into these groups. But Al Qaeda is a major international organization that attacked the World Trade Center in '93, that attacked the World Trade Center in 2001.
You had the shoe bomber try. You had the plot to this -- the millennium plot to get the airliners. I mean, I think this is -- there is a magnitude difference between the two.
EMERSON: Campbell, I agree with Jeff. First of all, the anti- Semitic plots that have succeeded or have been interdicted over the last decade largely have been lone wolf people.
Number two, when we talk about domestic terrorists, we are now using a term that used to be applied only to right-wing extremists. Now it applies also to domestic jihadists. So instead, it confused the definition of that term.
Number three, if you look at the plot in the last five years, the Fort Dix plot, which they plotted to kill 500 soldiers. And Liberty City plot, which they plotted to kill a couple of hundred people. The plot in the Bronx two weeks ago and they were going to blow up two synagogues, larger numbers of jihadist targets would be killed by the jihadist ideology than by their right-wing anti-Semitic extremists.
Now, it doesn't mean we should take our eyes off the ball and not track the bad guys, but Jeff is right. You can't track somebody unless they conduct -- they engage in a criminal predicate. The bad guys are largely going to be the jihadists, and that's where the resources are.
BROWN: And guys, a great discussion. I wish we had more time. Many, many thanks to our panel. To Fran in Washington, to Pat for joining us, Steve, here and Jeff Toobin, as always, thanks. Appreciate it, guys.