E.D. HILL: Joining us now is the author of American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, counter-terrorism analyst, Steve Emerson. Steve, thanks for being with us.
STEVEN EMERSON: Good morning.
HILL: I don't know how much to make of this. Whether it is something to be afraid of, or whether this is simply a sign of desperation – that they can't get people to come to the camps, or the camps are difficult for them to maintain, and so they are resorting to the internet.
What do you think?
EMERSON: Well, it looks like it's the ABCs of forming a cell. The instructions are to get a handful of people together, whether at the mosque or the university, establish an intelligence person, somebody who is the head of the cell, somebody who is part of the – a funder, to train, and then they even suggest assassinating an ambassador to the United States.
It's pretty primitive, I must tell you. It doesn't really tell you much more than what you would normally expect in terms of forming a cell – it's a little bit caricaturish. But on the other hand, people will take this seriously who are committed to jihad. And they say that you don't need to meet bin Laden in order to become a member of al Qaeda.
HILL: Right. That – that was one of the more interesting parts of it because, you know, if we just talk about here in America – and you certainly have studied this, the terrorists living among us – there are so many of the people who preach hatred to the West who actually have their family living here in America, and many members of their – of their extended family living here. And we also know about the problem with radicalizing Muslims in our prison system.
Is this the exact type of thing for people like that – who can't get to Pakistan, who aren't going to meet bin Laden, but are buying into this fashion of being a terrorist?
EMERSON: Well, it could be. I doubt that it would be meant for the prison system, only insofar as it is on the internet, and they wouldn't have access to it, and that it's in Arabic.
On the other hand, to the extent that there are similar types of websites – and I'm sure there are – that issue the same type of instructions and commands and exhortations to form cells. It definitely has an impact.
Remember, we are talking about "al Qaeda 2.0." These are the franchises of al Qaeda that are not directly connected to al Qaeda. We have always worried about the domestic radicalization here of young Muslims and this is a direct call for them to carry out terrorist operations.
HILL: Is that exactly what we see from this? Because you assume that if someone is in Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or Egypt, or Iraq, or Iran, you know, it's easy enough for them to find a radical group there to join.
But this seems to be something that would be the step-to-step how-to for the folks who aren't close to the action.
EMERSON: This would mean – I would suggest – I mean, I would think, that a group like the one in Toronto, or a group like the one in New Jersey, at Fort Dix –this would be typical fodder for them in terms of giving them sort of an idea about what to do if they had no inkling whatsoever beforehand – it gives you the number of people to recruit for that matter.
HILL: It also – it would seem that this could be used by, you know, the folks –the Muslim man who was running down people in San Francisco, the Muslim man who was running down people in, I believe it was, Los Angeles, the guy that was on the campus of one of the universities down South, the team that flew the plane into the building down in Tampa – those sort of fringe folks who are looking for some way to gain legitimacy.
EMERSON: Absolutely. And I think there are more sites like this in English – in fact, I came across one the other day that was in English that talked about how to set up a cell, and talked about how to do reconnaissance in terms of portraying yourself as a peddler, or somebody as a street cleaner – somebody on the street who can do reconnaissance on targets and then relay it to the commander of the cell. So this stuff is all over the Islamic internet.
HILL: Alright. As you say, it is. It is all over, it's in English, it's in Arabic, and it – we need to make sure that we are aware of the threat that is really building against us.
Steve Emerson, thank you very much for being with us.