Saturday, December 25, 2010

EMERSON on CBS Early Show Discusses Terrorist Threats Faced by U.S.

Inverview on CBS Early Show

RUSS MITCHELL: So, how safe are we? Also in D.C. This morning is Steven Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism. Steve, good morning to you.

STEVE EMERSON: Good morning.

MITCHELL: Bob just touched on this but what do you think, are we safer now than we were a year ago? EMERSON: You know, it's hard to really say. I'd say -- if we look back at the past year, the FBI has really batted almost a thousand except for the fact several plots like the air cargo plot or times square bombing fizzled out on their own. But inside the United States, we've seen almost a doubling of would-be attacks and half of those attacks are by converts to Islam. And those who convert to Islam convert to a radical Islam. Number two, there's much more jihadist activity in Europe, and that's connected also to the United States particularly because some of those jihadists have U.S. greencards or passports. So, I would say the threat is greater today. As far as our capabilities, they're also growing vis-a-vis the warning this morning or yesterday given out by TSA. We're trying to adapt to the last war, that's the real problem we face.

MITCHELL: Has our response changed an awful lot since this time last year?

EMERSON: I think so. I think there's much more visibility of U.S. security at non-airport venues, transportation venues and hubs. Number two, more detailed connections are being made outside the United States when someone tries to apply for a visa. That was the mistake that was made last year when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab almost successfully detonated a bomb over Detroit when none of the evidence was connected inside the system.

MITCHELL: Take a look at the next twelve months. What could be the biggest challenges we face fighting terrorism.

EMERSON: Well one, the home-grown Islamic terrorist is still a major problem, and that's growing. And in that category, the number of conversions from people who are not Muslim, Latino or women, white women, has grown exponentially. Number two, the website of Anwar al-Awlaki, as noted by your correspondent, is growing in popularity and they are basically converting new converts to radical Islam and they are willing to carry out acts of violence in the Unites States without any direction from someone outside the U.S.

MITCHELL: Steve, very quickly, any advice for Americans traveling over the Holiday Season?

EMERSON: Well, people say traditionally, look for something something suspicious. Obviously there is a limit to what you can do but you have to be very aware of your surroundings and number two, be sure to inform security officials if there is something suspicous, that you notice, because it's better to be safe than sorry.

MITCHELL: Alright, Steve Emerson joining us from D.C. Happy Holidays to you and thank you for joining us.

EMERSON: You bet.

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