JON SCOTT: The investigation into an attempted terrorist attack on a U.S. jetliner is focusing now on a regional wing of Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility now for that failed attack, calling it retaliation for two air strikes aimed at terrorists in Yemen earlier this month. Yemeni forces carried out those strikes with the help of U.S. intelligence. The group also claims it provided the Nigerian subject with a technically advanced device. For more on this arm of Al Qaeda, joining me ----- Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Steve Emerson. You ever heard of this group before Steve?
STEVEN EMERSON: They've surfaced before. They've issued communicaes claiming credit, though unconfirmed credit for carrying out would be terrorist attacks against the United States and they certainly have surfaced publicly on the internet on jihadist websites.
SCOTT: I know that their two leaders are basically former Gitmo detainees, right?
EMERSON: Right, that's what reports today have shown that detainees released from Gitmo and sent back for rehabilitation actually, found their way back to Yemen and became leaders of this offshoot of Al Qaeda. Which is now branched out into basically adopting full jurisdiction over the territories in Yemen that they claim is now under their control. Of course, the reason that they can claim that is because Yemen is a failed nation-state and doesn't exert control over 85% of their territory.------- created by the lack of central authority and now filled by Al Qaeda in Yemen. And they are carrying out training, recruitment, ideological rehabilitation of former detainees-have them come back as jihadists and now they've made them actual officers of the organization itself.
SCOTT: I know a big part of the reason that the U.S. Navy was using Aden for a refueling station when the Cole was bombed back in 2000 is that we wanted to try to kindle some sort of relationship with the Yemeni government. How's that going?
EMERSON: Didn't really work out so well. It was a failed marriage, in large part because the Yemeni government was corrupt,------. Now in the last year or so there has been an increased military relationship, John, that has resulted in greater------ in the last 15 years between the Yemen government and the United States, but still its not good enough. The United States relies on Yemen for intelligence gathering and we have our own intelligence capabilities, but quite limited since we do not have boots on the ground and that is the primary ingredient for getting good intelligence.
SCOTT: The Al Qaeda statement suggested that the airplane bombing or the attempt was retaliation for a couple of Predator strikes basically in Yemen. One of them had just taken place the day before. Do you buy that was really a part of the reaction?
EMERSON: ------ so the ticket being purchased before the predator strike would clearly indicate they were planning to carry out this------ what reconnaissance was done-----Nigeria and other states that might have had Al Qaeda recruits being sent from them to see if they actually flew on missions replicating the same itinerary.
SCOTT: Steve Emerson, thanks Steve.
EMERSON: You're welcome.