Steve Emerson, True Patriot Hero
TERRORISTS AMONG US
'Jihad in America'
Author explains how he made video, lived to tell about it
Posted: March 20, 2002
1:00 a.m. Eastern
Editor's note: In Steve Emerson's latest book, "American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us," he reveals how active Islamic terror cells have infiltrated the United States and explains the increasing threat the U.S. faces. WorldNetDaily today presents part of chapter 1 of "American Jihad." Tomorrow's edition will feature the remainder of the chapter.
© 2002 Steve Emerson
In December 1992, I was a staff reporter for CNN, covering what I consider one of the worst stories imaginable – a press conference for pool reporters.
In this case, the conference was given by Lawrence Walsh, the former special prosecutor for the Iran-contra affair, who was issuing a statement in reaction to then-President George Bush's pardon of former Secretary of State Casper Weinberger. It was the kind of situation where more than a dozen reporters ask the same question over and over, then go back and write the same story.
In short, I was bored. In Oklahoma City, I found myself with nothing to do on Christmas Day. As I walked around looking for a place to eat, I passed a large group of men dressed in traditional Middle Eastern clothing.
These men had congregated outside of the Oklahoma City Convention Center. I realized there was some kind of convention going on. Drawn to the scene, I wandered inside and found a bazaar of vendors hawking all kinds of radical material. There were books preaching Islamic "Jihad," books calling for the extermination of Jews and Christians, even coloring books instructing children on subjects such as "How to Kill the Infidel." It was a meeting of the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA), an umbrella group that included many smaller groups.
When I asked admittance to the main meeting hall, I was told that as a non-Muslim I couldn't enter. But I found my way into a group of "recent converts," where I was befriended by a man who sponsored my admission. I ended up sitting through the entire program. It was a shocking experience. Given simultaneous translation by a jihadist next to me, I was horrified to witness a long procession of speakers, including the head of Hamas, Khalid Misha'al, taking turns preaching violence and urging the assembly to use jihad against the Jews and the West. At times spontaneous shouts of "Kill the Jews" and "Destroy the West" could be distinctly heard. I had heard such declamatory speakers many times in the Middle East, but it was astonishing to hear it all being preached here in a Middle American capital such as Oklahoma City.
I had some contacts in the FBI at this point and called one to see if he knew that all of this was going on. He said he didn't. Even if the FBI had been cognizant, however, there wouldn't have been much they could do about it, owing to the FBI's mandate to surveil criminal activity and not simply hateful rhetoric.
Just how far behind the FBI had fallen in keeping abreast of these potentially dangerous subversive groups became clear a year later when I attended a five-day Muslim conference in Detroit in December 1993. This annual gathering featured speakers and representatives from some of the world's most militant fundamentalist organizations, including Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and many others. After five days of listening to speakers urging Muslims to wage jihad, I was startled to hear that a senior FBI agent from the Detroit office would be making an unscheduled appearance on the program. Sure enough, the official showed up. After making some perfunctory remarks
about civil rights, the official asked for questions from the visibly hostile audience. A series of scornful responses followed, including that of one audience member who asked, tongue in cheek, if the agent could give the group any advice on "shipping weapons" overseas to their friends. The FBI official said matter-of-factly that he hoped any such efforts would be done in conformance with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms guidelines.
Returning to Washington again, I asked FBI officials if they knew that their Detroit colleague had spoken at this radical gathering. They assured me it was impossible. After checking, however, they admitted within a few hours that their man had indeed been there, mistakenly thinking it was "some kind of Rotary Club."
I soon learned that the FBI could do little or nothing to monitor such groups. Congressional restrictions imposed following disclosure in the 1970s of abuses by law enforcement and intelligence agencies had long since prevented the FBI from performing "blanket surveillance." Investigations could only be done on particular individuals and then only if these individuals appeared to be in the act of committing a crime. Regulations, as former FBI official Oliver Revell has stated, forbade them from compiling even "open source" information – articles that appear in the newspaper, for instance – without receiving prior permission to open up an "investigation." Indeed, individual FBI investigators could be personally sued for engaging in surveillance activities that went beyond these guidelines. Several agents had been the targets of such lawsuits, and most FBI agents had become extremely wary of straying outside the lines. Even more significant, the FBI was particularly hamstrung if these groups operated under the auspices of "religious," "civic," "civil rights" or "charitable" groups. This has provided cover for recruiting and fund raising by jihad warriors in the United States.
I was still working for CNN in 1993 when the first World Trade Center bombing occurred on Feb. 26. As the story unfolded, it became obvious that the whole plot had been hatched among small terror cells in this country. I had heard an excess of explosive rhetoric in Oklahoma City and other places where I had investigated militant organizations. I was sure there must be some connection.
But I was faced with a difficult moral dilemma. I hadn't started investigating anyone to any great degree. All I had at that point was a collection of books and pamphlets and promotional material by which these groups advertised themselves to a very select audience. I didn't know whether it was all rhetoric or whether there was really substance to all this. I had a few videos showing that Hamas had definitely established itself in this country, but that was about it. Would I be risking my career by following up this story, in what might prove to be a wild goose chase?
I decided to take a proposal to Richard Carlson of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Already, I was thinking in terms of a video. I'm a print journalist by background, but here was a story that would be much easier to tell as a TV program. The most dramatic material I was collecting was already in video form anyway. The training and recruitment videos, the fiery speeches at mosques and conventions – it would be hard to convey the bloodcurdling nature of this material except by letting it speak for itself.
Carlson liked the idea and passed it up the line. Before long I was passed over to the Public Broadcasting System, the network subsidiary of CPB. I ended up dealing with Bob Coonrod and Ervin Duggan, who was then president of PBS. They were very enthusiastic but couldn't generate much interest within the bureaucracy of PBS. Finally, Dugin took matters into his own hands and provided me with some research and development money.
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