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 from them. Yesterday, WorldNetDaily published the first part of chapter 1, in which Emerson tells how he received a serious death threat as a result of his producing a TV documentary revealing the jihad agenda of radical Islamists in the U.S., forcing him to move and live underground to protect himself. Today’s excerpt is the remainder of chapter 1 of “American Jihad.”
Puchase Emerson’s “American Jihad” at WorldNetDaily’s online store, ShopNetDaily.
The police taught me some techniques about living underground. Stay away from the windows. Vary your routine. The important thing is not to leave the house at the same time or take the same route to and from the office every day. When driving a car, make sure no one is following you. Do a quick U-turn every once in a while just to make sure. I did that many times.
“Be careful when you jog,” they said. That was a big problem. I love to jog. It’s my only opportunity to get outdoors and get my mind off things for a while. But jogging through Rock Creek Park at night promised maximum exposure. Now I had to develop a hundred different ways of leaving my apartment and winding through different streets in inconspicuous clothing in order to maintain my daily exercise. If I didn’t, my health – and sanity – would probably collapse. It was trying and unnerving.
Along the way I had to decide whether this was all worth it. Did I really want to live this way? Couldn’t I just move on to another subject and be just as effective as an investigator and reporter? I weighed the idea for a long time. But there was a stubborn resistance in me. I didn’t like the idea of being intimidated. I’d be giving up an extremely good story. I honestly believed this was an important concern for everyone in the nation. I could see the momentum toward domestic terror building. I decided to go on.
One incident that severely affected the course of my reporting was the Oklahoma City bombing of April 1995. That ended up being an albatross around my neck. Less than six hours after the bombing I was asked on television whether I thought militant Islamic groups were involved. There was good reason for thinking they might be. The bombing, after all, was in Oklahoma City, where I had first encountered such militant groups in 1992. Several Hamas operatives were known to be living in the Oklahoma City area. At first, federal law enforcement officials were suspicious themselves.
When asked on a news program, I responded that “federal law enforcement officials” were investigating the possibility that militant Islamic groups were involved. This was true. I also said that “this [was] done with the attempt to inflict as many casualties as possible” and that “this is not the same type of bomb that has been traditionally used by other terrorist groups in the United States other than the Islamic militant ones.” All this was interpreted as my saying point-blank that militant Muslim groups were involved.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and other organizations immediately took offense. Then when Timothy McVeigh was arrested and it turned out domestic terrorists were responsible, Muslim groups claimed they were the real victims. “Surge in hate crimes against Muslims,” was the story on the front page of The New York Times – based, I believe, entirely on unsubstantiated information fed to them by CAIR. The Boston Globe, The New York Times, ABC-TV, National Public Radio – even news outlets that had themselves originally reported that Muslims were among the suspects now took the position that I was the only one who had suggested this. I became persona non grata in many places, including at CBS, which had hired me less than 24 hours after the bombing to be a consultant. They ended up blacklisting me for five years. Dan Rather contended, “It was Emerson who misled us.”
Still, the news media didn’t give up the story themselves. At one point Newsweek called up and said, “We’ll give you $10,000 to help write our cover story.” They were looking for a militant Muslim connection. “Save your money,” I told them. “They didn’t do it.” As soon as the details of the McVeigh arrest emerged, it was obvious that he was responsible and had probably acted nearly alone. Up to that point I had suspected that Islamic radicals were involved. Now I realized I was wrong. I’ve never wavered from that since then, and I have refused to support the conspiracy theorists who insist that McVeigh himself was actually involved with Muslim groups. But to this day I regret my hasty comments.
Meanwhile, I continued to discover more information at The Investigative Project. People in law enforcement would regularly come to me with new data, records and documents. The most disturbing were the calls I would get from federal law enforcement agents who had information and wanted to follow up but were being prevented by their superiors who weren’t interested in these things. More and more, these disgruntled agents turned to us with information that they weren’t allowed to pursue themselves.
Our operations became more sophisticated and far-reaching. One of the unexplored mountains of evidence we inherited, for example, was the trial exhibits from the first World Trade Center bombing. Included were the records of thousands of phone calls made by the suspects to the Middle East and other parts of the world. We knew the individuals who were placing the calls, but we couldn’t tell who had received them. Yet it was obvious that this was the key to investigating how far the network of international terrorism had extended.
We divided the list of calls up country by country. Then, we engaged a number of Arabic speakers and started making cold calls. Every night at midnight – when the tolls were low and it was daylight on the other side of the world – we would begin dialing numbers in the Middle East. When someone picked up we would engage him in random, nondescript conversation. “How are you? How are things going? I’m calling from the U.S. Do you want to know what’s happening here?” One way or another we tried to get them to talk to us.
More than 49 out of 50 calls would be a dead end. The person answering would hang up or wouldn’t have any idea of what we were talking about. But that one in 50 proved to be a treasure trove of information. At one point we ended up talking to the son of blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the infamous Jersey City imam who plotted a day of terror for Manhattan. Another time we reached the spiritual leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Little by little it became obvious that all these groups were coordinating their effort in a worldwide network.
Then one day the phone rang, and we hit an absolute gold mine. The caller was a brave Sudanese who was a member of the Republican Brotherhood, a group opposed to Dr. Hassan al-Turabi’s fundamentalist regime in Sudan. He was now working as a plumber in Brooklyn. He was in the basement of a building and had just come across scores of boxes of old records that appeared to be the property of Alkhifa Refugee Center, also known as the Office of Services for the Mujahedin, the predecessor to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida international network. The records had apparently been moved there after the World Trade Center bombing from Alkhifa headquarters at the Al-Farooq Mosque on Atlantic Avenue. He wondered if we would be interested.
We immediately contacted the FBI in New York and Washington. To our utter amazement, they said they couldn’t do anything about it. The field agents were very interested but when they ran it up to their superiors, they were told it wouldn’t fly. We even smuggled out a few pages to pique their interest but the superiors would not budge. Then we got word that the documents were about to be moved or perhaps even destroyed in about five days.
So we decided to pull off our own covert operation. Our Sudanese contact went into the building at midnight to do his job carrying several large toolboxes. He then immediately emptied the toolboxes and filled them with documents. We met him at the rear of the building in a rented van. We grabbed the toolboxes, each containing about 4,000–5,000 documents, and raced off to a Kinko’s in Manhattan where we spent all night feverishly photocopying the material. Then we would race back to the building by 6 a.m. and return them to the plumber so he could put them back before the building owners showed up for work. We did this for three straight nights.
The papers contained financial records, address books, information about the fabrication of passports and countless other materials showing the Alkhifa Refugee Center’s involvement in the worldwide jihad movement. When we returned to the building the fourth night, however, our contact didn’t show up. We waited and waited, but by 7 a.m. we were very fearful that something had happened to him. We left and found out later that something had triggered the building owners’ suspicion and they had caught him. While we were waiting outside, he was being questioned and threatened in the basement. He is a tough guy, however, and somehow got out of it. We ended up keeping the original records instead of copies. Altogether, we only retrieved about one-quarter of the information that was there, but it was great material. We got thousands of leads. Nevertheless, I still think it would have been much better had the FBI come in.
Although I continue to live at an undisclosed location, I occasionally speak at universities and other public forums. The universities usually provide some form of security, but there are never metal detectors. I’m always looking out for somebody who goes quickly into his jacket. One time at Ramapo Community College in New Jersey, a group of Muslim protesters rushed the stage. For a brief moment I thought I was finished, but the police restored order. Another time I was speaking at Harvard Law School at a memorial for a 20-year-old Brandeis University student, Alisa Flatow, who had been killed in Israel in a car bombing carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The audience turned out to be 80 percent Muslim. No matter how many times I condemned the Jewish Defense League and Christian terrorists, they continued to bombard me with accusations that I was a racist and anti-Muslim.
Up until that point I had thought militancy was a mind-set of impoverished and ill-educated people whose fervor was driven by their lack of opportunity in life. But this was an audience of privileged young people – future doctors and lawyers – and still they openly supported Hamas. This brought home to me that Islamic fundamentalism is a trans-class movement. Poverty and lack of opportunity have little or nothing to do with it. The real proof of militant Islam’s trans-class appeal can be seen in the support for the Islamic Fundamentalism among the unions representing doctors, lawyers and scientists in Islamic countries and in the support for bin Laden in such wealthy countries as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.
Even at my Feb. 24, 1998, testimony before a congressional subcommittee on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the World Trade Center bombing, I had a police escort to and from the hearing room. It was jarring to think that I needed police protection right in the halls of the Senate. Afterward the police escorted me to my car, but that was the end of it. They said goodbye and left me on my own.
Less than a year ago, I participated in a seminar at a public agency in Washington where we spent time trying to imagine the worst possible terrorist calamity that could occur in the United States. Two basic scenarios were presented. One individual suggested that the Chinese would launch a nuclear attack using ballistic missiles. Everybody thought that scenario was the most likely. My suggestion was that we would be hit by a much lower-grade attack by Islamic fundamentalists on American soil. Moreover, I said, our response would be constrained because we would not want to offend the sensibilities of Islamic fundamentalist leaders and their groups. They were already establishing a demographic base in both the United States and Europe and would argue strenuously against any kind of effective response.
Unanimously, the other participants responded, “This could never happen.” First, they said, fundamentalists would never attack us here. Second, they knew that the U.S. would respond so horrifically if such an event did occur that we would wipe them off the face of the earth. Finally, they said, fundamentalists had no real motive to pull anything like this off.
These were very smart people, dedicated public servants. They had no axes to grind. They weren’t arguing the case for one group or another but were sincerely trying to evaluate America’s situation as far as international terrorism was concerned. Yet I walked out of that meeting and e-mailed a friend, “We’re doomed. It is beyond the official imagination of this government to conceive that we can be attacked. There is an underlying assumption that we are such good people that nobody would ever want to attack us here.” There was nothing venal in their attitude. It just meant our defenses were down. We were turning a blind eye toward the many possibilities for terrorist attack and the militants’ infrastructure already in place to help coordinate it. I wanted to grab those people by the lapels and shout, “Don’t you see how far this thing has gone already? Don’t you realize there are people in this country who hate America and everything it stands for and have absolutely no fear or compunction about doing something about it?”
Since Sept. 11, 2001, everything has changed – and yet nothing has changed. The only difference between Feb. 26, 1993, and Sept. 11, 2001, is that there are 3,500-odd more people dead. We are still vulnerable. We have only a short time to prevent the next chapter from unfolding. This is the most important battle of our time. Today we still have a window of opportunity to prevent further devastation. But the window won’t be open for long.
Read Part 1 of Emerson’s excerpt from “American Jihad.”
Read Emerson’s entire story in “American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us,” available at ShopNetDaily.
Also available is Emerson’s video, “Terrorists Among Us: Jihad in America”
Reprinted by permission of The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York.