Steven Emerson: Wikis


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Steven Emerson

Emerson at a convention in June 2008
Occupation Journalist; Author; Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT)
Nationality U.S.
Alma mater Brown University (B.A., 1976; M.A., 1977)
Subjects National security, terrorism, and Islamic extremism
Notable work(s) Jihad in America
Notable award(s) 1994 George Polk Award for best television documentary; top prize for best investigative report from Investigative Reporters and Editors

Steven Emerson, an American former staff member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been referred to by The New York Times as "an expert on intelligence", and by the New York Post as "the nation's foremost journalistic expert on terrorism".[1][2] He is a journalist and author, who writes about national security, terrorism, and Islamic extremism.

Emerson is the author of six books, and co-author of two more. His television documentary Jihad in America won the 1994 George Polk Award for best Television Documentary, and top prize for best investigative reporting from Investigative Reporters and Editors. He is also the Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a data-gathering center on Islamist groups.[3][4] Emerson frequently testifies before Congressional committees on al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist organizations.[5]


Education and early career

Emerson received a Bachelors of Arts from Brown University in 1976, and a Master of Arts in sociology in 1977.[4]

He went to Washington, D.C., in 1977 with the intention of putting off his law school studies for a year.[4] He worked on staff as an investigator for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee until 1982, and as an executive assistant to Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho.[6][7]

Journalist and commentator

Emerson was a freelance writer for The New Republic, for whom he wrote a series of articles in 1982 on the influence of Saudi Arabia on U.S. corporations, law firms, public-relations outfits, and educational institutions. In their pursuit of large contracts with Saudi Arabia, he argued, U.S. businesses became unofficial, unregistered lobbyists for Saudi interests.

He expanded this material in 1985 in his first book, The American House of Saud: The Secret Petrodollar Connection.


U.S. News and World Report and CNN

From 1986 to 1989 he worked for U.S. News and World Report as a senior editor specializing in national security issues.[6][8] In 1988, he published Secret Warriors: Inside the Covert Military Operations of the Reagan Era, a strongly critical review of Ronald Reagan-era efforts to strengthen U.S. covert capabilities. Reviewing the book, The New York Times wrote: "Among the grace notes of Mr. Emerson's fine book are many small, well-told stories".[9]

Wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103

In 1990, he co-authored The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation, which argued for the alternate theory that Iran was behind the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Reviewing the book, The New York Times wrote: "Mr. Emerson and Mr. Duffy have put together a surpassing account of the investigation to date, rich with drama and studded with the sort of anecdotal details that give the story the appearance of depth and weight."[10] The newspaper listed it as an "editors' choice" on their Best Sellers List, and cited it as a "notable book of the year".[11][12] Libya accepted responsibility for the air crash, and paid the family of each victim $10 million apiece.[13]

In 1990, he joined CNN as an investigative correspondent and continued to write about terrorism. In 1991, he published Terrorist: The Inside Story of the Highest-Ranking Iraqi Terrorist Ever to Defect to the West, detailing how Iraq spread and increased its terror network in the 1980s with U.S. support.

Jihad in America

Emerson left CNN in 1993 to work on a documentary, Terrorists Among Us: Jihad in America, for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). The documentary, filmed between 1988 and 1993 at rallies in half a dozen U.S. cities as he posed as an inquisitive journalist exploring the tenets of Islam, exposed clandestine operations of Islamist groups in the U.S.[14][15] It aired as a Frontline TV broadcast in November 1994.

In the documentary, he stood in front of the Twin Towers and warned:

"The survivors of the explosion at the World Trade Center in 1993 are still suffering from the trauma, but as far as everyone else is concerned, all this was a spectacular news event that is over. Is it indeed over? The answer is: apparently not. A network of Muslim extremists is committed to a jihad against America. Their ultimate aim is to establish a Muslim empire."[4]

Emerson noted at the outset that "the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not members of militant groups." But the message of the documentary was that seemingly respectable Muslim organizations have ties with militants who preach violence against moderate Muslims, as well as against Christians and Jews, and that charitable contributions to those organizations make their way to extremists. He documented meetings in American hotels at which Muslims called for a holy war, raised funds for terror organizations, and predicted that terror would ultimately come to the U.S.[4] He also filmed Muslim-American youth training with weapons in summer camps, and interviewed supporters of terror who operated under the cover of charitable organizations.[4]

He showed videos of Muslim fundamentalist speakers such as Abdullah Azzam in Brooklyn urging his audience to wage jihad in America (which Azzam explains "means fighting only, fighting with the sword"), Fayiz Azzam (a cousin of Abdullah) telling an Atlanta audience:

"Blood must flow. There must be widows; there must be orphans, hands and limbs must be severed, and limbs and blood must be spread everywhere in order that Allah's religion can stand on its feet",[16]

Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman

and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman in Detroit (later convicted of conspiring to blow up several New York City landmarks, and sentenced to life in prison) calling for jihad against the infidel. Sheik Mohammed Al-Asi of Chicago said: "If the Americans are placing their forces in the Persian Gulf, we should be creating another war front for the Americans in the Muslim world," and at a November 1993 Hamas rally in New Jersey hundreds chanted: "We buy paradise with the blood of the Jews."[17]

Near the program's end, Emerson prophetically said: "As the activities of Muslim radicals expand in the United States, future attacks seem inevitable. Combating these groups within the boundaries of the Constitution will be the greatest challenge to law enforcement since the war on organized crime."[18]

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim organization in Washington later named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land trial, complained that PBS denied requests by Arab and Muslim journalists to screen the program before its showing, and that Emerson was promoting "a wild theory about an Islamic terrorist network in America." The New York Times opined that CAIR's concerns "prove understandable (which is not to say the pressure to change or cancel the documentary was justified), since 'Jihad in America' is likely to awaken viewers' unease over what some some Muslim groups here may be up to".[19]

After the film aired in South Africa, Emerson said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informed him that a South African Muslim group had dispatched a team to the U.S. to assassinate him. According to Slate, people who visit his Washington, D.C., office are blindfolded en route, and employees call it "the bat cave." [20]

He received the 1994 George Polk Award for best Television Documentary.[21][22] He also received the top prize for best investigative report from the Investigative Reporters and Editors Organization (IRE).[23]

Emerson elaborated on this subject in his 2006 book, Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the U.S.[24]

Voiced concerns

It was Emerson's 1994 documentary Jihad in America that first linked Sami Al-Arian to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).[25] That was met, however, by assertions by some prominent people on the political Left that Emerson was "Muslim-bashing" and engaging in "McCarthyism".[26] When in February 2003 the U.S. indicted Al-Arian, accusing him of being the North American leader of PIJ and financing and helping support suicide bombings, The New York Times noted that Emerson "has complained about Mr. Al-Arian's activities in the United States for nearly a decade."[27] In 2006, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to conspiracy to help a "specially designated terrorist" organization, PIJ, and was sentenced to 57 months in prison.[28]

In testimony on March 19, 1996, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Emerson described the Holy Land Foundation as "the main fund-raising arm for Hamas in the United States."[29] In 2007, federal prosecutors brought charges against Holy Land for funding Hamas and other Islamic terrorist organizations. In 2009, the founders of Holy Land were given life sentences for "funneling $12 million to Hamas."[30]

In early 1997, Emerson told the Middle East Quarterly that the threat of terrorism "is greater now than before the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993] as the numbers of these groups and their members expands. In fact, I would say that the infrastructure now exists to carry off twenty simultaneous World Trade Center-type bombings across the United States."[31]

On February 24, 1998, Emerson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee: "The foreign terrorist threat in the United States is one of the most important issues we face.... We now face distinct possibilities of mass civilian murder the likes of which have not been seen since World War II."[32] And just a few months before 9/11, he wrote on May 31, 2001: "Al-Qaeda is ... planning new attacks on the US.... [It has] learned, for example, how to destroy large buildings.... Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups ... have silently declared war on the US; in turn, we must fight them as we would in a war."[33]

In January 2001 it was reported that Emerson pointed out that the U.S. had missed clues that would have allowed it to focus on al-Qaeda early on. One of the men convicted in the World Trade Center bombing, Ahmad Ajaj, returned to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1992 with a bomb manual later seized by the U.S. An English translation of the document, entered into evidence in the World Trade Center trial, said that the manual was dated 1982, that it had been published in Amman, Jordan, and that it carried a heading on the front and succeeding pages: "The Basic Rule". But those were all errors, as Emerson pointed out. The heading said "al-Qaeda"—which translates as "The Base". In addition, the document was published in 1989, a year after al-Qaeda was founded, and the place of publication was Afghanistan, not Jordan.[34]

The Investigative Project

Emerson is also the founder and Executive Director of The Investigative Project, a large intelligence archive on Islamist groups around the world.[4] He started the Project in 1995, after the broadcast of Jihad in America. Since September 2001, Emerson has testified before committees of both houses of Congress many times on terrorist funding and on the operational structures of groups including al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad.[4] He has also given interviews debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories, and is a contributing expert to the Counterterrorism Blog.[35]

Richard Clarke, former head of counter-terrorism for the United States National Security Council, said of Emerson:

"I think of Steve as the Paul Revere of terrorism ... We'd always learn things [from him] we weren’t hearing from the FBI or CIA, things which almost always proved to be true."[36]

In March 2004, Newsweek ran an article entitled "How Clarke 'Outsourced' Terror Intel; the Former Counterterrorism Chief Tapped a Private Researcher to Develop Intelligence on Al-Qaeda. The Disclosure Sheds New Light on White House Frustrations with the FBI". The article detailed the high level of reliance Clarke placed on Emerson's information, in lieu of that of the FBI.[37]


Emerson has been vilified as an anti-Islamic bigot by pressure groups such as CAIR, which rejects his claim to be a terrorism expert.[38]

A 1999 article in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly criticized the detention of two Saudi airplane passengers who mistakenly tried to open the cockpit door of the plane they were on, thinking it was the bathroom. The newspaper claimed Emerson was the cause of the "Islamaphobia" that led to the authorities' overreaction, as he had "turned denigrating Islam into a full-time job."[39]

Emerson was the target of some media critics and Muslim Americans after the Oklahoma bombing, because he said on CBS that the bomb was intended "to inflict as many casualties as possible. That is a Middle Eastern trait." But Emerson said he was referring only to a fanatical minority in the Islamic community, and pointed out that he was only one of many experts interviewed after the bombing who concluded that there were similarities between Oklahoma City and Middle Eastern terrorism.[40]

A review by Michael Wines in The New York Times of The Fall of Pan Am 103, while noting that the authors were "respected journalists" and "not to be lightly dismissed," and that they "talked to 250 people, including senior law enforcement and intelligence officials in seven nations", opined that charges of Iranian complicity were "without much substantiation".[41]

Media and testimony




  • (1994), Terrorists Among Us: Jihad in America
  • (2005), Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West
  • (2007), Radical Islam: Terror in Its Own Words

Select articles

Select testimony


  1. ^ Martin Tolchin and Richard Halloran, "Washington Talk Briefing; Undercover Talk," The New York Times, June 1, 1988, accessed January 28, 2010
  2. ^ Oppenheim, Noah, "Extremism and Its Apologists," The [[Harvard Crimson], October 22, 1999, accessed January 29, 2010]
  3. ^ "Biography",
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Landau, Benny (December 26, 2009). "Foresight, hindsight". Haaretz. Retrieved January 28, 2010. 
  5. ^ Saudi Arabia : friend or foe in the war on terror?: Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, DIANE Publishing, ISBN 1422323730, November 8, 2004, accessed January 29, 2010
  6. ^ a b Emerson, Steven. Secret Warriors: Inside the Covert Military Operations of the Reagan Era, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1988 (see bio on back flap).
  7. ^ "How Saudis manipulated to win the sale of AWACS, The Miami News, Feb 17, 1982, accessed January 28, 2010
  8. ^ Mink, Eric, "Fitting 'Iran-Contra' Into U.S. History," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 30, 1989, accessed January 28, 2010
  9. ^ Powers, Thomas, "Solderies of Misfortune," The New York Times, June 26, 1988, accessed January 28, 2010
  10. ^ Wines, Michael, "On the Trail of the Terrorists," The New York Times, April 29, 1990, accessed January 28, 2010
  11. ^ "Best Sellers", The New York Times, May 6, 1990, accessed January 28, 2010
  12. ^ "Notable Books of the Year," The New York Times, December 2, 1990, accessed January 28, 2010
  13. ^ "Bloc of Lockerbie Families Urges End to Libya Penalties" June 16, 2004, The New York Times
  14. ^ The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing, Jayna Davis, Thomas Nelson Inc, 2005, ISBN 1595550143, accessed January 29, 2010
  15. ^ Terrorism today, Christopher C. Harmon, Routledge, 2000, ISBN 0714649988, accessed January 29, 2010
  16. ^ Gabriel, Brigitte, "Because they hate: a survivor of Islamic terror warns America," Macmillan, 2006, ISBN 0312358377, accessed January 29, 2010
  17. ^ Emerson, Steven, "Islamic Extremists Are Active in U.S.," The New York Times, February 18, 1995, accessed January 29, 2010
  18. ^ Mink, Eric, "Was 'Jihad' Extremely Prophetic?," The New York Daily News, April 21, 1995, accessed January 28, 2010
  19. ^ Goodman, Walter, "Television Review; In 'Jihad in America,' Food for Uneasiness," The New York Times, November 21, 1994, accessed January 21, 2010
  20. ^ The Slate field guide to Iraq Pundits
  21. ^ George Polk Award
  22. ^ Perez-Pena, Richard, "Report on Nicotine Levels Wins Polk Award," The New York Times, March 7, 1995, accessed January 28, 2010
  23. ^ Steven Emerson's biography at speakers' bureau Web site.
  24. ^ Jihad Incorporated, interview with Steve Emerson, FrontPageMagazine, October 16, 2006
  25. ^ Silvestrini, Elaine, "Al-Arian To Be Deported", The Tampa Tribune, April 15, 2006, accessed January 20, 2010
  26. ^ The professors: the 101 most dangerous academics in America, David Horowitz, Regnery Publishing, 2006, ISBN 0895260034, accessed January 29, 2010
  27. ^ Lichtblau, Eric, and Miller, Judith, "Indictment Ties U.S. Professor and 8 Others to Terror Group," The New York Times, February 21, 2003, accessed January 29, 2010
  28. ^ MegLaughlin, In his plea deal, what did Sami Al-Arian admit to?, St. Petersburg Times, April 23, 2006.
  29. ^ "Defending Judith Miller, II", The New York Sun, September 30, 2004, accessed January 29, 2010
  30. ^ "Holy Land founders get life sentences", JTA, May 28, 2009, accessed January 29, 2010]
  31. ^ Pipes, Daniel, "U.S. Failure; The tactical blame falls on the U.S. government," National Review, September 11, 2001, accessed January 28, 2010
  32. ^ Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty Over Liberalism, Sean Hannity, HarperCollins, 2004, ISBN 0060735651, accessed January 29, 2010
  33. ^ Jacoby, Jeff, "Steven Emerson and the NPR Blacklist," Jewish World Review, February 8, 2002, accessed January 20, 2010
  34. ^ Holy Warriors; A Network of Terror; One Man and a Global Web of Violence," The New York Times, January 14, 2001, accessed January 29, 2010
  35. ^ Steven Emerson, Counterterrorism Blog.
  36. ^ Brown Alumni Magazine, November–December 2002.
  37. ^ "Terror Watch: How Clarke 'Outsourced' Terror Intel; the Former Counterterrorism Chief Tapped a Private Researcher to Develop Intelligence on Al-Qaeda. The Disclosure Sheds New Light on White House Frustrations with the FBI", Newsweek, March 31, 2004, accessed January 29, 2010
  38. ^ Images of terror: what we can and can't know about terrorism, Philip Jenkins, Aldine Transaction, 2003, ISBN 0202306798, accessed January 29, 2010
  39. ^ Atia, Tarek, "Mistaken identities, part X," Al-Ahram Weekly, November 25 – December 1, 1999, accessed January 29, 2010
  40. ^ Penny Bender Fuchs, American Journalism Review Jumping to Conclusions in Oklahoma City? June 1995
  41. ^ Michael Wines, NY Times Books, On the Trail of the Terrorists, April 29, 1990

Further reading

External links


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