ALEX WITT: Al-Qaeda is intensifying efforts to get operatives within U.S. borders, and that is according to a new White House report out this week. Administration officials there warning Osama bin Laden's organization could be using safe havens in Pakistan now from which to launch future attacks. There is also growing concern, in intelligence circles, about homegrown terrorists who already are here in the US.
Steve Emerson is a terrorism expert. His new book is Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the U.S.
So Steve, you've said before, with me and others on this network, that you disagree with certain parts of this report so, what is wrong with it?
STEVE EMERSON: Well, first of all, I must say that reading it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. I mean I think my civil rights were violated for forcing me to read 114 pages…
WITT: What? Because it's such a sleeper?
EMERSON: … Let me tell you something, if they let the prisoners at Gitmo read that they wouldn't have to use invasive techniques.
As far as what I disagreed with, I thought it was – there were parts that were very politically correct when it says – it resembles the Rodney King line "can't we all get along," and it talked about how we have to do outreach and we have to make sure that we have an inclusive community, and it talked about the grievances that various Muslim communities have and it basically didn't talk about the grievances that we have with radical Islam. I mean it literally just scoffed over all of that, And I felt that, unlike the New York Police Department report that was issued three weeks ago, this was very short on specifics and very long on generalities.
WITT: Look, there has got to be a lot of grievances with regard to the homegrown threat from Al-Qaeda at this point. How do you characterize its status right now?
EMERSON: I think it's in flux. I think that six years after 9/11 we're now seeing many more would-be plotters. I know, for example, based on law enforcement sources, that there are other plots in different stages now being monitored by radical Islamists here in the United States – that surveys show, including the Pew Poll, that up to a third – up to a quarter of all young Muslims justify suicide bombings. So, I think, there is a recipe for disaster here, unless, of course, the Islamic community and the established leadership start dampening down the hatred for the United States.
WITT: Ok, and where do you get this sense that this is a recipe for disaster? Do you get it from your own research and your own instincts? Do you get it from talking to sources in the intelligence community, which I know you do all the time on the [UI], and they don't want you to give up what they tell you? But are they also feeling like there is a recipe for disaster here, and, if so, in what kind of a time frame might we be attacked?
EMERSON: Well, that's another good question. I mean, I think that classically we think of sleeper cells as people who are planted here and given a green light to act at a certain time in the future. That's not the way it works with homegrown cells. People can be living here for twenty years as normal citizens and suddenly get radicalized because of something they read, they hear, or something they are told about. So it's almost impossible to gauge the time frame, but if you look at a pattern over the last six years, you'll see the last two years really seeing a dramatic rise in homegrown plots – and if we plot that out over the next four years, you'll see even more.
WITT: Ok, and real quickly Steve, because we're out of time – do you fear more of a large-scale attack like 9/11 or those smaller-scale attacks like what we saw in Britain this summer?
EMERSON: I think the Britain style attacks, or the Fort Dix style attacks, are the type of attacks we'll see in the future.
WITT: Ok. You're good when I say we're out of time, man – you hold right up.
Steve Emerson, thank you so much.
EMERSON: You got it.