Washington Journal continues.
ROBB HARLESTON [HOST]: Steve Emerson is the Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism and author of Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the U.S. We're going to talk about that a little bit more. We've got you in to talk about the threat of homegrown terrorism, so for the sake of this particular conversation, define homegrown terrorism for us.
STEVEN EMERSON: Well, interestingly enough, homegrown terrorism used to define right wing, neo-Nazi, KKK-type terrorism – indigenous terrorism. Now it is used as a euphemism for jihadist-type terrorism that grows up in the United States indigenously without external factors such as being directed by Al Qaeda or such as being imported from Al Qaeda, but rather American citizens who carry out attacks of terrorism here in the United States.
HARLESTON: And an example of that would be the case of the Somalis being written about in a lot of places as – and we've got the article here from the Wall Street Journal, the headline "Somali Case Highlights Specter of Radicalization" – tell us what they're writing about.
EMERSON: They're writing about a whole cluster of Somali-American kids whose parents had immigrated to the United States as refugees and who – the kids were born here. But unfortunately, because of radicalization, either through the mosque or through the internet or through videos or through CDs, they became radicalized to the point of joining the Al-Shabaab movement, which was an Al Qaeda subset in Somalia. And they were recruited to either carry out attacks in Somalia – one actually carried out a suicide bombing – or to carry out attacks in the United States. And they were all American-born.
HARLESTON: And how much of this threat – how big is this threat becoming? How is this growing here in the United States?
EMERSON: Well the Somali-American threat is growing. I can tell you there are at least six other American cities where they have young Somali-Americans who they believe belong to Al-Shabaab, and are deemed to be a national security threat. There is active recruitment in Kansas City, in Columbus, Ohio, in San Diego in California, and several other cities for Al-Shabaab. And that's not the only group involved in terms of homegrown terrorism, but certainly one of the major groups.
HARLESTON: We're talking with Steven Emerson about the threat of homegrown terrorism. If you want to get involved in the conversation, the number is (202) 737-0002 for Democrats. Republicans: (202) 737-0001. Independents: (202) 628-0205. So by this definition, would you categorize what happened at Fort Hood with Major Nidal Hasan as a case of homegrown terrorism?
EMERSON: Absolutely. I believe that was a case of homegrown jihadist terrorism. It wasn't externally directed. It may have been influenced by a Yemeni cleric named Anwar al-Awlaki, who used to live in the United States, and with whom Major Hasan had had contact with. But he carried it out all by himself – he had procured the firearms, he let superiors know that infidels should have their throats slit, he became a full fledged jihadist here in the United States from seemingly not having a religious background.
HARLESTON: In this morning's New York Post, their editorial "Fumbling Bureau of Incompetence," they write, regarding the shooting at Fort Hood: "The gunman's extremism was so obvious that the FBI had identified e-mails between Hasan and Anwar al-Awlaqi, a radical Muslim cleric with apparent ties to Osama bin Laden – yet decided against a full investigation. While Army intelligence also didn't follow up, the FBI's the one with the track record of missteps going back years." How much responsibility do you feel falls on the FBI and American intelligence for the growth of this homegrown terrorism – particularly the case of the Somalis or the case of the shooting at Fort Hood?
EMERSON: I think the responsibility lies more in terms of whether they can stop them as opposed to whether they are responsible for the growth. The growth, I think, is largely due to the fact that there are Islamic groups in the United States today that actually foment and instigate such homegrown terrorism and constantly lead their constituents into believing that there's a war against Islam. That was the main thesis of Major Hasan, and that's what led him to carry out his attack, even though there's no truth to that type of allegation.
HARLESTON: Our first call for Steve Emerson comes from Memphis, Tennessee. Sophia on our line for Democrats, go ahead.
CALLER 1: Hello, I just don't think this is a valid point. I think he's hatched this idea to get people to be afraid of Islam or Muslims. And I am an American, and I wasn't always Muslim – I was Christian at one time – and I think that going into the 1960s our mosques were broken into and attacked and we were called terrorists too. This is just a plot to keep people divided and to choose another scapegoat for their wars, for their hatred, for their death machines. And this is all it is. We want peace among people. President Obama wants peace among all people. And you have people like him who want to keep war going because there are so few of them that they have to keep the rest of us shedding each other's blood around the world so that they can take over and continue to do the evil that they do.
HARLESTON: Steve Emerson, your response sir.
EMERSON: I guess you're not going to be a donor to my organization. Look, the facts speak for themselves. I'm talking about Major Hasan who carried out an attack, the Somali-Americans who were going to carry out attacks, Akbar Hasan [sic.] who carried out an attack in 2002 [sic.] – there are Al Qaeda, there are jihadist sympathizers in the military, as in other parts of society. You can't deny that. It's not a plot by the United States.
HARLESTON: Our next call comes from Spencer, West Virginia. Jeff, on our line for Independents.
CALLER 2: Yes, thank you for taking my call. I have a question for your guest. In your statement you talked about how homegrown terrorism was right wing, Neo-Nazi, that type of stuff. I'm wondering are they looking into any possible connections between these Muslim fanatics with, like, Neo-Nazi groups in America, where, you know, they could possibly play on the hatred of the Jew thing as a way to recruit White, English-speaking Americans who could get them into areas a lot easier than maybe a Muslim could? I mean, is this a possibility, or is the government looking into this?
EMERSON: The government has looked into the potential for operational connections between, let's say, Muslim extremists and right wing extremists, but they haven't found any in the United States – other than interconnections on their websites, where they post articles that are equally anti-Semitic or anti-government.
In Europe, however, there definitely have been linkages between Neo-Nazi groups and Muslim extremists. And I know also, in Montrose Avenue [sic.] in the Washington, D.C. area, there used to be a man who came over from Switzerland named Ahmed Huber who was a neo-Nazi Islamist extremist. So he combined his support for Adolf Hitler with his support for Ayatollah Khomeini.
HARLESTON: It seems like an unlikely alliance though, doesn't it?
EMERSON: It's a totally unlikely alliance – and that's why it doesn't work. That's why it's not operational. It's more, if anything, just on the internet.
HARLESTON: Our next call comes from Lynne in Columbus, Ohio, on our line for Democrats. Good morning Lynne.
CALLER 3: Good morning. Thank you for taking my call. I want to know if Mr. Emerson's organization is going to investigate any possible ties and evangelization efforts by terrorist groups into the hip-hop generation. The alliance between the terrorist groups and those susceptible to this type of ideology to potential jihadis would be explosive in America. And…
HARLESTON: Lynne, let me stop you there and ask you: why do you think that the hip-hop generation, as you say, would be more susceptible to the leanings of a jihadist organization more so than any other youth group?
CALLER 3: Well, I think they are extremely vulnerable. You've got – the hip-hop generation is extremely – what do I want to say – this elevated male machismo and, of course, that would feed into – they would feed into – a Muslim ideology that subjugates women to Shari'ah law. And…
HARLESTON: The hip-hop generation is not the only group that subjugates women or exhibits any kind of machismo, are they?
CALLER 3: Well, no, that's true, but they do. And I've worked as a substitute teacher and I've seen children of homegrown terrorists in the schools.
HARLESTON: Thanks for your call, Lynne.
EMERSON: Well it's an interesting point you raise, but the largest and most successful conversion rates for jihadists happens to be in the prison system today – in terms of converts that are equally Black and White who convert to Islam – a radical form of Islam – and then carry out acts of terrorism or become jihadists after they leave. But actually, in Europe, the largest population – demographic category – for converts to Islam happens to be between the ages of 21 and 29. But it doesn't mean necessarily that they are all jihadists, but some of them do happen to become jihadists as we have seen by terrorists who have been sent off to Israel, to Lebanon, to Afghanistan, who were German, who were Swiss, who were Scandinavian, and who were French.
HARLESTON: We mentioned that Steve Emerson is the Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. While we show your website, explain a little about your organization.
EMERSON: Our organization was founded in 1995 after I did a film called Jihad in America that aired on public television in November of '94. And I decided that there was really nobody looking into the existence of the subterranean radical Islamic groups operating on American soil. The FBI's hands were tied, they weren't acting out. The FBI needed a criminal predicate before they could investigate. I, as a former journalist – I had worked at CNN and U.S. News and World Report – could investigate with much more freely – with much more freedom than the FBI actually could. So we began investigating a lot of these groups that were fronting as civil rights groups or as charitable organizations but were in fact de facto arms of terrorist organizations. And so we began an organization in '95 that has blossomed sixteen years later into an organization of two dozen staffers.
HARLESTON: Earlier, one of the callers posed the possibility of an alliance between the hip-hop generation and jihadist groups. Save Republic sends us this message via Twitter: "LA Times writer says Mexican Cartel hides in cities among lg groups of illegals, like in Columbus, Oh. R Somalies & cartels merging?"
EMERSON: There seems to be anecdotal evidence that some of the cartels are using Middle Easterners to come up through Texas and from Mexico under false names and that they are, in fact, connected to Hizballah or Hamas or some other terrorist groups.
HARLESTON: Back to the phones. Parkersburg, WV. Jeff on our line for Republicans. You're on with Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Go ahead.
CALLER 4: Thank you for accepting my call. I agree with what the gentleman says and two very – four points I think need to be made. I'm 51 years old, I served in the military, and when I was growing up in school we was [sic.] taught Americanism. We pledged allegiance to the flag. We are now taking that out of our schools, we are taking our god out of our schools – our kids have nowhere to turn except for hearing people say "oh come this way." We need to enforce our country's laws and we do not need to enforce everybody else's rights. When they come into this country, they accept our laws, our Constitution – that's why they come to our country, to get the freedom to do what they want to do, but instead they are doing what they want to do and it's against our laws. And we are just backing them up. We need to enforce the Constitution of the United States, we need to put our god back in our schools, and we need to enforce Americanism.
HARLESTON: Jeff, we're going to leave it there.
EMERSON: Well look, I have been critical in the past of overextended multiculturalism and what I call the "kumbaya generation" – can't we all get along, that everybody's value equals each other. Frankly, I have been critical of various Islamic organizations – or I should say Islamist organizations because they believe in Shari'ah – that basically say the U.S. is a decadent secular society that should be replaced with a Shari'ah-led society. And it's that type of message that disparages the United States that leads to recruits among new jihadists.
HARLESTON: [UI], Michigan. John, on our line for Independants. You're on the Washington Journal.
CALLER 5: Hi, I'd like to ask Mr. Emerson his knowledge about domestic support for the Irish Republican Army, and how our government's pursuit of that terrorist group might aid our cooperation from England in our efforts, for example, in Afghanistan.
EMERSON: Well the Irish Republican Army was largely destroyed because of the cooperation of Irish-Americans with the FBI to stop the fundraising of PIRA, which was the fundraising arm of the IRA in the United States. But certainly, the IRA raised millions of dollars and certainly did a lot of gun running during the 1980 and part of the 1990s that was unfortunately not stopped by the FBI.
HARLESTON: Do you see any evidence in your research that American Muslims might be taking a lesson from American-Irish who worked to suppress and eventually destroy the IRA and working to suppress and eventually destroy some of these jihadist movements?
EMERSON: That's an interesting question. There are some Muslims like Dr. Zuhdi Jasser from Phoenix, Arizona and I point him out because he singularly and courageously has taken on the fundamentalists. But I also see – and this is something paradoxical – that the "mainstream" Islamic groups – or Islamist groups – in the United States – the three and four letter groups, from CAIR to ISNA to ICNA – these are groups that basically don't ask their populations to cooperate with the FBI. If anything, they say "don't talk to the FBI, if the FBI comes and talks to you, get a lawyer first, don't allow them into your house, don't cooperate, don't volunteer, and don't allow spies into your mosques." Well, if anything, the only way the FBI is going to get any sort of intelligence is with spies within the mosque or Islamic community.
HARLESTON: Our next call comes from Lauderhill, Florida. Kathleen on our line for Democrats. Good morning.
CALLER 6: Good morning.
HARLESTON: Go ahead, Kathleen.
CALLER 6: Good morning. I have a question for Mr. Emerson. My understanding – I want to speak about the Somali kids – those young kids that was [sic.] on that boat. Saying that…am I understanding that they were terrorists? My understanding is that they had boarded that boat to steal food, medicine for their country. That the boat that was going – that was delivering – was delivering to countries that they wanted to deliver the food to. In Somalia they don't have anything. For these young youths – boarding the boat to get the food and medicine for their countrymen, not to harm anybody on that boat and I tell you as human beings we brang nothing in this world and we take nothing out. The only thing we take out is the goodness that we have done.
HARLESTON: We'll leave it there Kathleen.
EMERSON: I would have to disagree if we are talking about the same incident of the three Somalis who had taken hostage the British and American captives. The victims, they were taken for ransom and the medical supplies and the food supplies were not taken from the ship but rather just the bodies themselves and they were ultimately going to be transported to Somalia itself and held for ransom so I don't think there was an altruistic purpose to the goals of those hijackers.
HARLESTON: Next up, New York City, Mike on our line for Republicans. Go ahead.
CALLER 7: Good morning, gentlemen. Hello?
HARLESTON: Yeah, Mike, you're on. Go ahead.
CALLER 7: Ok, I just have two quick points. I'm listening to these Democrat callers including this last one. So enthropic terrorists we have now, I see. And there was a call from a lady before, a Democrat lady who said that we have to worry about spreading fear pertaining to Islam and I think the case at Fort Hood is a perfect example of how we went out of our way to avoid spreading fear and 13 people at Fort Hood paid for it with their lives. And my second point is at the beginning of Mr. Emerson's segment here, he mentioned something about in the past homegrown terrorists were right wing people and I agree with a lot of what he says. I just wonder how homegrown terrorism gets attributed to the Right when we've been dealing with people like Bill Ayers in this country and domestic terrorist groups like environmental-eco terrorists like ELF. How does this become owned by the Right until recently? I don't understand that.
EMERSON: I think your point is valid and I think it is a legitimate criticism because I think you are right. I think there has been left wing homegrown terrorism as well so I shouldn't have just exclusively defined it only in terms of the Klu Klux Klan or neo-Nazis, so I think it is a valid point. As far as the ideological imprint is concerned, the reality is, as you pointed out 13 people paid for their lives because of the political correctness in the military and I just learned yesterday that the supervisor of Major Hasan at Walter Reed wanted to suspend him because he was so aghast at the PowerPoint presentation and some of his statements about infidels but he was overruled by the Walter Reed committee because of political correctness. That political correctness I think is hurting us tremendously.
HARLESTON: We've got a twitter message from Kright39 who writes has the CIA ever considered stopping the training and giving military equipment to our future enemies? She writes just asking. Is there a connection in your research, in your investigations, do you find that there is any kind of connection between people that we've trained as our allies one decade and the next decade they turn on us?
EMERSON: Of course. Traditional and the most scandalous evidence of that was the training of the mujahideen, the holy warriors in Afghanistan that we supplied weapons and training throughout the 1980's and the early 1990's and it came back to bite us tremendously including the '93 World Trade Center bombing and including all of the other attacks by Al Qaeda.
HARLESTON: Is there anything going on currently in Afghanistan, that might, in your opinion, come back to bite us like the Mujahideen did?
EMERSON: That's a good question. I think history is still out there. The question is how much will the converted Taliban who come over to the side of Karzai and the U.S. forces; how many of them will return back to the Taliban once we leave?
HARLESTON: Back to the phones, New York City, Lenny on our line for Independents. You're on the Washington Journal.
CALLER 8: Yes, good morning.
HARLESTON: Go ahead, Lenny.
CALLER 8: Mr. Emerson, first I want to thank you for understanding that this overemphasis on multiculturalization is vulcanizing our country and I seen that developing in New York and Queens where we have a large immigrant population which I'm an immigrant myself, and I cannot understand how someone want to terrorize the country who gives them life and everything; and just gives 'em life and you want to go back and bite the country who gives you life. And my second point is that the media; American mainstream media, ours and the world media in fact, Dutch World, France 24; they all refer to these pan-Arabic international terrorists as Jihadists or Holy Warriors which is just a prevision of what a Jihadist is. Which were the original Jihadist were like you say were the Mujahideen, whom we trained to fight the Soviets…in Afghanistan which was faultful. Yeah, we didn't have the hindsight to understand that they'd come around and come terrorize us because the Mujahideen while they are warriors; they are mercenaries but my big point is that we in America, like you say, that PC has gone so far to kill 14 of our troops in Fort Hood and that has to come to a stop. It starts with education in our public system. Here in New York City, which just almost fosters this anti-Americanism by not teaching the values of our American culture. And I'll say, as a Dominican immigrant who grew up in America and I'm a former soldier; I'm just-I guess that parents don't seem to understand this. That this is just breaking up our country and future through our education which we are funding here in New York City.
EMERSON: Well, I think that the problem goes larger than that. There was a speech given by John Brennan who is the Homeland Security Advisor on the National Security Council in August of this year in which he said that Jihad doesn't mean Holy War, but it means peace and love and we're not going to use the term Islamic Militant or Islamic Extremist and that was a carryover from the Chertoff memorandum of '07 that also said they weren't going to use the word Jihad. I think that's a tremendous problem and mistake. Very counterproductive because if we can't define the enemy as to who he is then we never expect to defeat them and the reality is that the apologists for Jihad want to define it only in terms of spiritual good struggle and it can mean that. But for the Holy Warriors, and they know who they are, Jihad means a Holy War. A holy struggle, violent struggle to impose Islam.
HARLESTON: Next up is Jennifer in Springfield, Ohio on our line for Democrats. Welcome to the program. Jennifer?
CALLER 9: I would like to ask about these Right-Wing politicians like Dick Armey, John Boehner, Michelle Bachman that are rallying up their base into actually committing treason against the newly elected President. Would those be considered homegrown terrorists.
HARLESTON: Jennifer, before you go, what kind of treason are you talking about?
CALLER 9: I'm talking about undermining the President of the United States.
HARLESTON: But undermining him how?
CALLER 9: With their rhetoric, basically. Accusing him of being a socialist, accusing him of not being born in the United States, just basically undermining the President of the United States that we-that was just elected with an overwhelming majority. I think that those are homegrown terrorists.
HARLESTON: Jennifer, what about people that say that they are just expressing their First Amendment right to Free Speech?
CALLER 9: Well, that's what they say because they can't say anything different but its not homegrown, its not. It's all manipulated by the Republican Party and that's where the difference comes in.
EMERSON: I think I'd have to take a 180 degree difference from your point of view. I don't view those people or dissent from the Democratic Party or dissent from the Republican Party, critical of the President or critical of Republicans as anything but an expression of the First Amendment. What I am talking about is actual acts of violence or people who believe in acts of violence. That's what I call homegrown terrorism.
HARLESTON: Louisville, Mississippi, David on our line for Republicans. Go ahead.
CALLER 10: Yes, sir. Can you hear me?
CALLER 10: Ok, my name is David in Louisville, Mississippi and we're up real on terrorism round here in the state of Mississippi. I would say the trial in '05 down in Simpson County, Mississippi and I think our state do conspiracy and civil rights trial and he's trying to get me to say what they want me to say to make a trial go for the state of Mississippi so we've got to do the right thing and stop digging up all these civil rights cases that are 40 that we don't have the answers to and make them have the outcome to what we want to do-for the outcome to be. We should put all that stuff behind us and take these people and not to live in the past but to live for the future and try to help everybody get along and do what's right and go back to the Bible. And Mr. Emerson, sir, I would like you to comment on that.
EMERSON: I don't know what case you are referring to personally but if you are talking about trying civil rights cases, I think the FBI and the U.S. government is perfectly entitled-in fact I think its mandatory that they try unproven cases or unfinished cases in the same way that we would not stop to try a terrorist case that happened 25 years ago. Just this past week we issued a 25 million dollar reward for Abu Ibrahim who was a master bomb maker in 1982 so that case is still open. I think that all cases that are open deserve to be resolved.
HARLESTON: North Arlington, New Jersey. Vance on our line for Independents.
CALLER 11: Yes, hi. Good morning. Thank you for talking my call. Mr. Emerson, I called because I am kind of surprised that you said to a caller a few calls ago that this whole thing was in a plot by the U.S. government. This being this whole Al-Qaeda computer database file, CIA computer database file as some plot or conspiracy. I know you remember the CIA issuing visas to the Sheikh six or seven times, approving his visa to come here. You had Emad Salem working for the FBI. The Sheikh was working for the FBI actually and Ali Mohamed; they used these two guys to recruit fundamentalists here or radicals here to fight the Soviets and according to civil evidence, the U.S. government was still using these guys up until September 11th. I noticed that they keep switching between Mujahideen and the Taliban. If you read Gary Berntsen's book, Jawbreaker and the other one Horse Soldiers, they always reference Mujahideen. Well, these are the same Mujahideen, Al Qaeda, Taliban. They're all the same except we're working with the ones that they can convert, control and manipulate but to dismiss the idea that the government is still using and manipulating these guys. I know you know about the Gladio Network. They've done this thing throughout Europe before so its not entirely implausible.
HARLESTON: Vance has given us a lot to work with.
EMERSON: Yeah. Too much to work with. But let me just say this, I don't agree with your premise the U.S. is behind Al Qaeda, I don't believe the U.S. is behind these plots. You mentioned Emad Salem. Emad Salem is a hero. He was an informant that volunteered to the FBI that stopped the second string of plots in 1993; the Landmark Plots. Ali Mohamed was a Special Forces Sergeant who infiltrated the U.S. military and was secretly the security man for Al Qaeda. He was an enemy combatant actually, not classified as such but sentenced to a long term in prison in 1998. He was not working for the FBI. He had volunteered to work as a double agent but his main master was Al Qaeda.
HARLESTON: Another twitter message reads Mr. Emerson, can you please explain how you would carry out your mission without racial profiling the rest of the Muslim population?
EMERSON: Very easily. We don't profile. We don't look at everybody and say all Muslims are terrorists in the same way we wouldn't say that all Irish are terrorists. We look at people; we're empirically oriented so we look at the statements made by the Islamists groups we follow; we look at the statements made by the Imams or Islamic clergymen that we follow and we decide whether they are in fact a Jihadist or whether in fact they are inciting or fermenting violence. But we would never generalize about the Muslim population.
HARLESTON: Back to the phones. Fairmount, West Virginia. George on our line for Democrats. Go ahead.
CALLER 12: Yes, good morning. Thank you for CSPAN. What I want to ask you is I think that the federal government should not be trying these here terrorists. I think the military courts should be trying them because these people come over here to kill us just like soldiers. As if they are invading our country and I don't think the federal government has anything trying these people because our lawyers are all out there to make money. And these people got money. They get money from all over the world and they'll have the best lawyers they can get and I still think the military should try all these people and I Obama should stop this which is going to go on in New York. He should stop it immediately.
EMERSON: I happen to agree with you that the Military Tribunals Act which Congress passed and which the Supreme Court approved is the right venue to try Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and the other four defendants from the 9/11 trials. I think that giving them a civil trial in New York, gives them a platform, a venue to spew out their hateful rhetoric that would be worth tens of millions of dollars of publicity and they will also under discovery be able to get government secrets that will be of use to the Al Qaeda network, just as they used to get secrets in the '93 trial of the Blind Sheikh. So I think it is a mistake to give them the opportunity to use the civil trial when in fact they offered to plead guilty already to the military tribunals act.
HARLESTON: Another twitter message. Are you saying we should not take the teapartyers and Oath Keepers who want the military to overthrow the U.S. government serious?
EMERSON: I am going to have to beg ignorance here. I don't know about who is trying to overthrow the U.S. government. But if anyone is actively trying to overthrow the U.S. government-
HARLESTON: Are you familiar though with the Oath Keepers?
EMERSON: No, I'm not familiar with the Oath Keepers.
HARLESTON: Ok. Let's move on to our last caller from Kingman, Arizona. Doris on our line for Republicans.
CALLER 13: Hi. I want to ask Steven if he's ever read the book, and I'm going to butcher this man's name so I'll spell for you. It's Nader and the last name is Pourhassan. P-o-u-r-h-a-s-s-a-n. And he wrote- he's a Muslim who married an American Catholic woman, lives in America-moved here when he was 14 I think-and he wrote the Corruption of Muslim Minds. And it's wonderful. It the best book I've ever gotten. I'd like to have him as a guest.
HARLESTON: Thanks Doris, we're running out of time.
EMERSON: I haven't read that book but there have been several books by Irshad Manji, by Hirsi Ali, by Wafa Sultan and other Muslims that have talked about the internal problems within the Muslim community and they are very courageous to do so because they are threatened when they actually speak out like that.
HARLESTON: Steve Emerson is the Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism and author of Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the U.S. Thank you very much for being on the Washington Journal.
EMERSON: You're very welcome.