CHRIS JANSING: As investigators search for clues into the background of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, new questions are surfacing about his possible ties to terror and links to the country of Yemen. Fresh reports this morning that the Nigerian suspect may have been equipped and trained by an Al Qaeda bomb maker in Yemen. If so, what does that say about the spread of the terror group? Joining me now from Washington is Steve Emerson, Executive Director of the Investigative Project and an expert on Islamic terror networks. So let's talk about Al Qaeda, and Yemen and its role in the War on Terror. Where are we there right now, Steve?
STEVEN EMERSON: Well, Chris, the combination and the ingredients for a perfect storm for radical Islamic terror networks seems to have emerged on the ground in Yemen. You've got large swaths of territory that's not governed by the central government. Number two, you've got large amounts of madrassas, radical Islamic schools that are teaching radical Islamic theology. Number three, you've got Al Qaeda bases and centers of gravity located in Yemen that can't be reached by the central authority. So altogether you've got a situation where Al Qaeda or franchise operations have arose independently and are able to effectively carry out and negotiate terrorist operations across the world because there's no central authority in Yemen.
JANSING: And also, one analysis is that the United States and our allies have been successful with military operations in weakening Al Qaeda; in stymieing them in places in Pakistan and Afghanistan so now they've had to move to this new front. Is that a fair analysis?
EMERSON: Well, I think it is a fair analysis. Also, remember that Yemen is a perfect storm also because of the fact is, it serves as an ideological and religious allure for young Muslims who become radicalized by radical Islamic theology. And there are lots of schools. In fact, there are hundreds of Americans, believe it or not, that have converted to Islam that are studying within radical Islamic madrassas. One of them actually came back to the United States and carried out an act of terrorism at Little Rock, Arkansas, where he shot an Arkansas recruiter for the National Guard. So, there is a problem that we have in terms of that being a place where it's sort of off base to the United States because we don't have boots on the ground, but Al Qaeda is able to effectively resurrect its operations that it had to curtail from Pakistan because of the fact the Predator was so effective in Waziristan.
JANSING: So how difficult would it be for the United States to take action there and to track down and get the kind of intelligence that we need on exactly what is going on Yemen. Because as you said, there are even questions about whether it's Al Qaeda, it's an offshoot, of Al Qaeda, who may be in charge. There are lots of questions about what is going on there yet.
EMERSON: To be honest with you, it's not something that anybody wants; to open up a third front in terms of boots on the ground. The only way the United States is effectively going to stop Yemen as serving as an offshoot of Al Qaeda and as an autonomous base of radical Islamic terrorist operations is to invade and to basically regain sovereignty over those areas that are now controlled by Al Qaeda extremists. So, it's an option that is not very palatable to the administration or to the American public. Frankly that is the only way to get a handle on what's going on and to stop it from serving as a base of operations against the United States.
JANSING: You can bet that will be part of the conversation. Joe Lieberman already brought it up yesterday as Congress comes back from recess. Thanks so much, Steve. Always good to talk to you.
EMERSON: Sure, thank you.