This article reports on a seminar given by a controversial filmmaker and author of books on Islamic terrorism in America, together with a North Carolina congresswoman. Some consider the views presented to be unsubstantiated and alarmist; others think they should be taken seriously. We at American Diplomacy take no position on their merits, but present them in the spirit of airing material that is occasionally outside the mainstream. We remind readers that we are non-partisan and strive for balance, and we would welcome comments or article submissions with opposing viewpoints. – Ed.
By Andrew H. Ziegler, Jr.
Marshalling a remarkable amount of evidence to describe the Islamic terrorist threat within the United States, noted author and terrorism expert Steven Emerson and U.S. Congresswoman Sue Myrick conducted a seminar recently in Raleigh, North Carolina, titled “Combating Global Terrorism.” This article reports on the major points discussed at the seminar and identifies some of the criticism leveled against Emerson over the years.
Emerson opened with an historical parallel. Noting methods eerily similar to those of communist cells and front groups during the 1930s and 1940s, Emerson says today’s radical Islamic groups are entrenching their members and sympathizers in many critical areas of American society. Local sheriff departments, municipal police forces, city councils, schools, the Justice Department, the FBI, the military, and most other public agencies are unwittingly allowing their ranks to be penetrated by Muslims whose loyalties at best may be mixed and at worst could be fundamentally hostile to U.S. values and interests.
Despite extensive domestic and international counter-terrorism measures, Emerson believes these militant Islamic organizations have gathered considerable strength in the United States during the last decade. In the name of Islam, and under the guise of humanitarian and religious purposes, these groups have embarked on a path of radicalization and violence within our borders.
Emerson provided a handout showing the terrorist network in America. Over 20 states were identified with ties to known international Islamic terrorist groups, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Charlotte, North Carolina, was identified with Hezbollah activity, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was shown to be in Raleigh.
Three Kinds of Terrorists Are Here
Different types of jihadists operate in America according to Emerson. One kind is the al-Qaeda type of jihadists who believe in violently attacking the United States from within. They can be directed by al-Qaeda itself or they may only be inspired by militant Islamic rhetoric. Recent examples of these direct terrorist attacks are the foiled plots against Fort Dix, New Jersey, and JFK International Airport.
A second type of jihadists uses the United States as a place to raise support for terrorist groups overseas. Their activities include fund raising, recruiting, proselytizing, and training. An example is the Holy Land Foundation, which is tied to Hamas. It was on trial in Dallas, Texas, recently in the largest terrorist financing trial in U.S. history.
The third kind Emerson calls “Cultural Jihadists.” This category contains those Muslims living here who believe the United States is an evil country. They accept the “tone” that 9/11 was legitimate, and they believe suicide bombings to kill Americans are justified. These beliefs are based on their radical understanding of Islam. These are not the ones carrying out attacks, but they “provide the greenhouse that produces the terrorists.”
Cultural Jihadists believe Muslims will eventually take over the United States. They teach that this will happen through the process of “Dawa,” which is the propagation of the radical Islamic ideology through proselytizing, converting, and undermining traditional American values and institutions. According to Emerson, Cultural Jihadists can be found in law enforcement, education, all levels of government, and elsewhere throughout American society.
Speaking like a college professor with loads of names and numbers at his command, Emerson provided several frightening accounts of Cultural Jihadists in America. One was about a Muslim FBI agent who refused to wear a hidden microphone during an undercover operation. His reason was that, “Muslims do not wear wires against other Muslims.” This agent remains in the Bureau. Emerson also reported on the Madrassa-type “Islamic Saudi Academy” in Alexandria, Virginia, where six year olds are taught to hate Jews and Christians and 11 year olds are taught to fight against the infidel.
Republican Congresswoman Sue Myrick was introduced as “a member of Congress who was talking about border security long before it was popular to talk about border security.” She voiced her concerns passionately during the seminar.
Congresswoman Sue Myrick
When the panel moderator asked her why the Bush administration is “dragging its feet” on security of the southern border, Myrick answered bluntly, “Darned if I know!” She speculated it may have something to do with trying to win Latino votes, but she believes the President is being poorly advised. Myrick asserted there is a direct connection between the Global War on Terror and illegal immigration.Myrick discussed new legislation she is co-sponsoring called “Secure Borders,” and she encouraged the audience to contact their representatives about the bill. She knows the House Democratic leadership will not advance the measure, but she believes supporters will get the 218 signatures necessary for a discharge petition to force the bill to the floor for a vote.
Her “Secure Borders” proposal contains a mix of familiar measures. It requires 700 miles of southern border fence within six years; a secure Social Security card; English as the official language; and an agriculture card for temporary agricultural workers.
In her feisty manner, Myrick had more to say about passport security and illegal immigrants. She pointed out that 18 government watch lists tracking potential international terrorists are not integrated, severely degrading our intelligence capabilities. And she criticized New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s recently shelved plan to issue drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants. She repeatedly stated her concern that the “number one problem is to secure the border.”
Origins and Evolution of the Threat
Emerson emphasized that international terrorist efforts within America are part of a broad strategy to undermine the position of the United States in the world. Well financed and organized, a large number of Muslim groups with global terrorist ties operate legally in the United States shielded behind the veil of being civil rights or humanitarian organizations. Deception is the modus operandi of these groups.
Emerson pointed to a 1993 meeting in Philadelphia as the starting point for this effort. The intent of those in attendance was to form an organization in America to advance the interests of the terrorist group Hamas. This they did with the creation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). FBI plants at the Philadelphia meeting secretly recorded hours of tape clearly uncovering these terrorist connections and plans; however, the tapes were not translated and analyzed until after the year 2000.
With 32 chapters across America, CAIR today is well known, highly respected, and ostensibly working to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America. Many see it as a kind of Muslim Rotary Club, and it has great relations with many governors, senators, and other officials who attend CAIR events and employ CAIR representatives as advisors. But Emerson said CAIR is working to undermine the United States from within. Several of its members have been arrested, convicted, deported, or otherwise linked to terrorism-related charges and activities. According to Emerson, “They are a fifth column … a clear and present danger to our country.”
Emerson said CAIR and similar groups have been very successful in courting influential Americans and U.S. organizations to advance Islamic interests here. High on his list are the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union, whose efforts he believes are detrimental to the security interests of the United States. The New York Times lauded the government’s loss of its case against the Holy Land Foundation in Texas, which ended as a mistrial, despite “hundreds of thousands of documents implicating the group’s efforts to undermine the United States and calling for jihad.” He lamented that because of the ACLU and other civil rights hawks, we cannot use profiling to screen air travelers. “An 80 year old Swedish woman in a wheel chair must receive the same search as potential terrorists.”
CAIR successfully lobbied Hollywood during the production of the 2000 film “Sum of All Fears.” In the original Tom Clancy novel the terrorists were Islamic fundamentalists. However, CAIR convinced the film’s producers to change the identity of the terrorists in the film to neo-Nazis.
Emerson gave other examples of infiltration. Muslim prison chaplains in the United States are vetted by Saudi Arabia. Many university professors receive funding from the Saudis, who can influence the direction of their research. Many mosques in America are radicalized. By owning the mortgages on numerous U.S. mosques, Saudi Arabia can pick the imams. There are at least 40 episodes of extremists and terrorists being connected to mosques in the past decade. Additionally, some international, non-Muslim banks require Sharia-based finance rules to cater to wealthy Muslim clients.
Since embarking on his research into Islamic terrorism in the early 1990s, Emerson has attracted his share of detractors as well as supporters. His critics often accuse him of sloppy journalism, overstatement, and making errors of fact. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a regular target of Emerson’s, charges: “Steve Emerson makes many dubious allegations.” 
Perhaps the most serious criticism leveled against Emerson deals with his commentary on the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Just hours after bomb exploded, Emerson appeared on the CBS Evening News and claimed: “This was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible. That is a Middle Eastern trait.”  Columnist Georgie Ann Geyer in speculating on the nationality of the bombers relied on Emerson’s claim that the Oklahoma City area is “one of the centers for Islamic radicalism outside the Middle East.” 
Emerson is frequently accused of having an anti-Islamic bias and of being funded by the Israeli lobby in the United States. CAIR calls Emerson “the attack dog of the extremist wing of America’s pro-Israeli lobby.” 
As recently as July 2007, the executive director of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) claimed “Emerson belongs to a network of anti-Muslim pundits who, driven by bigotry and exclusivist ideology, are bent on marginalizing Muslim Americans, and using unscrupulous tactics to distort the image of Muslims and instill fear of Islam …” 
A frequent guest on MSNBC, Fox News, and other national news programs, Emerson has many supporters. “New Jersey Congressman Christopher Smith told the Washington Post in 2001 that Jihad in America, which was distributed to members of Congress after September 11, 2001, ‘played a real role’ in the House passage of the Patriot Act.” 
Richard Clark, former National Security Council counterterrorism director, says “I think of Steve as sort of the Paul Revere of terrorism.” Clark praises Emerson for his repeated warnings of al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the United States. Clark says he would often attend Emerson’s speeches because “we’d always learn things we weren’t hearing from the FBI or CIA, things which almost always proved to be true.” 
In the New York Times review of American Jihad, Ethan Bronner may have it about right on how to take Emerson. While acknowledging questions about Emerson’s general reliability, Bronner is convinced Emerson’s “concerns and data deserve serious attention. The government’s decision to place some of the groups he identifies on lists whose assets are to be frozen is evidence of newfound respect.” 
Bronner concludes that Emerson “is an investigator who has performed a genuine service by focusing on radical Islamic groups in this country. His information should be taken seriously — just not at face value.” 
The “Combating Global Terrorism” seminar took place in the North Raleigh Hilton on October 26, 2007. A private reception was held earlier for those willing to pay extra for some face-to-face time with Emerson and Myrick. About 90 well-heeled guests made up the friendly and attentive audience. Applause broke out several times during the seminar, and questions from the audience were all supportive of Emerson’s and Myrick’s views.
The seminar was a chilling reminder of the dangerous times in which we live. Although policies such as the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act were not discussed in depth, Emerson and Myrick made a strong case for increased government vigilance directed toward the Islamic terrorist threat within America. Implicit in their presentation is the concern that the United States may be either unable or unwilling to take the measures necessary to defend itself against this international threat.
Steven Emerson is an internationally recognized expert on terrorism and a best-selling author. He serves as Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), an organization he founded in 1995 following the PBS broadcast of his documentary film Jihad in America, which won the George Polk Award for Best TV documentary.  According to Emerson, the IPT collects data in numerous ways: websites, list-serves, publications, informants, undercover recordings, government records, court documents, and other sources. “We have acquired close to 4 million documents and 18,000 hours of clandestine audio and video of radical Islamic gatherings, conferences, and speeches.”
Since 9/11, Emerson has testified before and briefed Congress dozens of times on terrorist financing and operational networks of al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and the rest of the worldwide Islamic militant spectrum. His best-selling 2003 book, American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, has been followed up by Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US, published by Prometheus Books in 2006.
Sue Myrick went to Congress in 1995 after serving two terms as mayor of Charlotte. She is in her sixth term representing North Carolina’s 9th district, which covers portions of Union, Mecklenburg, and Gaston counties. She serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and she is a member of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), which she chaired from 2002 to 2004. As an advocate for stronger homeland security, Myrick created her own Homeland Security Taskforce for the Charlotte region.
The Civitas Institute, a conservative research and public policy organization in Raleigh, sponsored the seminar. According to its web site, “The Institute carries out its mission by conducting sound research and analysis of public policy issues; conducting monthly tracking polls; hosting seminars for newly elected officials, community leaders, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as candidates; and communicating with the public and elected officials through the news media, Civitas website, newsletters and monthly magazine.” 
Francis X. De Luca, Vice President of the Civitas Institute, welcomed the audience and introduced the panel. De Luca has worked at various levels of government and served on active and reserve duty for 28 years with the United States Marine Corps, where he holds the rank of Colonel.
The seminar was moderated by media strategist Marc Rotterman. A former member of the Reagan administration, he is a frequent guest on talk shows, having appeared on Nightline, Fox Morning News, and Scarborough. Rotterman did a workmanlike job guiding the panelists through a range of topics as well as conducting a smooth Q & A session.
NOTES: Parvez Ahmed, Ahmad Al-Akhras, and Nihad Awad, “Urban Legends,” www.cair.com/AboutUs/UrbanLegends.aspx (posted January 19, 2007).  Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, “Knee-Jerk Coverage of Bombing Should Not Be Forgotten,” www.fair.org/media-beat/950426.html (posted April 26, 1995).  Ibid.  Zachary Block, “One Man’s War on Terror” (Brown Alumni Magazine, November/December 2002).  Louay Safi, “The Master of Innuendo: Steve Emerson’s Fantastic Obsession,” www.counterpunch.org/safi07022007.html (posted July 2, 2007).  Zachary Block, “One Man’s War on Terror” (Brown Alumni Magazine, November/December 2002).  Ibid.  Ethan Bronner, “American Jihad: Suspect thy Neighbor” (The New York Times, March 17, 2002).  Ibid.  “Previous Winners,” The George Polk Awards, http://www.brooklyn.liu.edu/polk/prev/prev90.html (accessed December 6, 2007).  http://www.jwpcivitasinstitute.org/about (accessed December 8, 2007).
Andrew H. Ziegler, Jr., Ph.D., is an associate professor of political science at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Florida and is a retired U.S. army officer. He has contributed articles previously to American Diplomacy.