ANN CURRY: Steve Emerson is a terrorism expert and an NBC News analyst. Steve, good morning.
STEVEN EMERSON: Good morning Ann.
CURRY: All weekend this plot was described as potentially causing unthinkable death and destruction. But the New York Times is reporting this morning that the federal criminal complaint suggest the alleged plotters didn't have the money, training or the background to carry out a terror attack. So how are we supposed to read this?
EMERSON: Well, they certainly, at this point, didn't have the capability, but this is still in the embryonic stage as all terrorist plots are at some point. The feds decided to disrupt it before it could get operational, as I think they should have. Look, any time there is a terrorist plot, and it always erupts in a conceptual stage and then it moves into operational stages. They didn't want to let any chance take place that it could move into an operational stage, as it was going to when they started looking around for explosives and money.
CURRY: Authorities said they pounce after one of the suspects said he was happy the plan, code named chicken farm, was moving forward. But given that the plan was not close, based on what we're reading and understanding, to being implemented, is it possible that authorities pounced too soon to actually make a strong case?
EMERSON: Well, you never know. Obviously a trial will determine whether, in fact, they made a strong case or not. I think they do have a strong case based on the fact that there are a lot of video and audio recordings of the defendants actually plotting to carry out this conspiracy to take down and to blow up the fuel depots and the pipeline. Look, the fact of the matter is that these were people that could be considered in the early stage, in the incipient stage, to those who carried out the 9-11 plots, to those who carried out the Fort Dix plots. At any one stage they're always going be talking about it, then they're going be seeking funds, and then they're going be seeking weapons or explosives. At this time, they were seeking the explosives and the funds. They didn't need a lot of money Ann. All they really needed were some explosives. And as you know, if you go into one of those fuel depots, you don't need a lot of explosives to detonate one of them.
CURRY: OK, well let's talk about though - you likened this to the pre-embryonic stage of 9-11 and Fort Dix. It's a degree of hate that I think Americans are having a hard time understanding. Let me quote what one of the suspects said: "Any time you hit Kennedy its one of the most hurtful things to do to the United States, to hit John F. Kennedy. Wow, they love John F. Kennedy like he's the man. If you hit that ,this whole country will be in mourning, it's like you kill the man twice." Steve, why would an immigrant, one of the suspects from Guyana , want to hurt the United Sates that much?
EMERSON: Well, you know you raise a good question, but this is indicative of the degree of hatred held by radical Islamic groups and individuals in the United States who have been radicalized, either by the internet, by the mosque, by the degree of literature that they receive from outside or even published inside the U.S. That's the whole conundrum here that the United States government faces of radical Islamic groups and their followers inside the U.S who have been living here, either born here or who have come here who've made the American dream work and now suddenly turn on the American government, on the American people, and want to destroy it. We can't figure it out, but it's true. They have an ultimate loyalty to some other type of target, other type of loyalty: a loyalty to the Muslim ummah or community and not to the United States .
CURRY: All right, Steve Emerson this morning, thank you for your perspective. Appreciate it.