by George Michael
1st part of 2
On Christmas afternoon in 1992, Steven Emerson, then a staff reporter for CNN, noticed a large group of men in traditional Arab clothes congregating outside the
Worried by what he had witnessed, Emerson notified a contact in the FBI, only to be told that the agency knew nothing about the conference and also lacked a mandate to investigate it because no criminal activity had occurred or was imminent. This experience indelibly impressed him, leaving a sense of government weakness and suggesting the need for a private agency to explore the threat of radical Islam within the
On graduation from
In 1986, he joined U.S. News & World Report where he worked as a national security correspondent. During this time, he authored two books: Secret Warriors: Inside the Covert Military Operations of the Reagan Era and The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation. In Secret Warriors, Emerson argued that technical breakdowns, bureaucratic disarray, presidential interference, and professional jealousy contributed to the inertia of
Since that early experience in
New Nongovernmental Agencies Emerge
The Islamist campaign to implement Shari'a law presents a grave challenge to the
Compared to Western Europe, the
In response, the FBI relaxed its guidelines for investigations of religious extremists, and the federal government now allows information to be shared between intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Moreover, to augment their investigatory functions, the authorities increasingly rely on recently created, private monitoring groups, including JihadWatch.com and the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Their efforts are complemented by think tanks such as the Middle East Forum and publications such as the Middle East Review of International Affairs.
Operating in a decentralized fashion, private entities can be more flexible and effective than government agencies in providing time-sensitive and actionable intelligence resources. For example, MEMRI releases high-quality, up-to-date information and translations about radical organizations, frequently before such intelligence is processed by government.
Emerson's IPT has established itself as the most effective nongovernmental organization (NGO) monitoring Islamic radicalism. It is the only private entity in the
Emerson's IPT focuses primarily on U.S.-based Islamist groups, some working in legal ways to undermine American society, others with links to terrorist organizations overseas. Along the way, he has created an unparalleled undercover investigative apparatus. According to Rep. Sue Myrick (Republican of North Carolina), cofounder of the bipartisan Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus, "The Investigative Project is the only one out there who is really doing substantial research into what is going on in the world and here in
Emerson has returned the compliment: "Congressmen like Frank Wolf, Pete Hoekstra, and Sue Myrick have shown a backbone that is unparalleled in Congress in courageously tackling the Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR [Council on American Islamic Relations], and other Islamist groups, and radical Islamic groups. So it shows there are brave Congressmen as well." Like Emerson, Myrick focuses less on outright terrorism than the infiltration of American institutions by Islamists. Alliances like this lend strength to Emerson's own efforts. The task of exposing and combating Islamist organizations and individuals takes place in a highly political context and requires high-level lobbying and juristic skills.
Exposing Islamists in
Emerson undertook effective investigations on his own before he started the IPT. Most notable was his 1994 documentary Jihad in America, which raised awareness of the threat of radical Islam in the
After Azzam's assassination in
The Charity Networks
Since August 1994, Emerson has testified before or informally briefed the United States Congress hundreds of times. His efforts appear to have had an influence on lawmakers. The videotape of his first documentary, Jihad in America, was distributed to all 535 members of Congress and, according to Rep. Chris Smith (Republican of New Jersey), it played a significant role in persuading them to pass the USA Patriot Act in the fall of 2001. In 2002, he publientitled American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, in which he traced the development of radical Islam in the
In later testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on November 8, 2005, he charged that
Emerson has focused primarily on the fundraising activities of mainstream Muslim groups and their links to the more radical organizations for which they serve as fronts. As he has observed, one of the most important activities carried out by Islamist groups in the United States has been the establishment of nonprofit, tax-deductible organizations to establish zones of legitimacy within which fundraising, recruitment, and even terrorist planning can occur. Using a technique first developed in the
According to one CIA study, one-fifth of all Islamic NGOs worldwide have been unwittingly infiltrated by Islamist terrorist groups. As Emerson has pointed out, some of the religious and charitable organizations have mixed legitimate activities with illegitimate, thus betraying the true aims of the donations. Investigators who seek to reveal this duplicity run a serious risk of being condemned as bigots who find wrongdoing in a meritorious religious activity that has close parallels to Jewish and Christian charities.
Hamas and Hezbollah Networks
Overall, the IPT, with its access to information and intelligence to which the government is not privy, has been instrumental in shutting down more than a dozen Islamic charitable terrorist and nonviolent front-groups since 2001.
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, offers one notable example of an organization involved in both terrorism and social services. According to Emerson, Hamas developed the most sophisticated infrastructure of all the Islamist groups operating in the
In 1980, Abu Marzouk became founding president of the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), which some sources indicate acted as the Hamas political command in the
The FBI suspects that Hamas may also have established for-profit corporations in the
And the beat goes on: In 2007, the IPT broadcast video tapes on its website showing Esam Omeish railing against
Sami al-Arian and Palestinian Islamic Jihad
Emerson was the first investigator to link a former professor at the
Emerson revealed that Arian was running an organization that was in effect the American branch of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In February 2003, federal law enforcement agents arrested Arian for alleged fundraising and material support activities on behalf of terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In December 2005, Arian was acquitted of many serious charges against him, but the jury deadlocked on nine counts. He pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to provide services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and agreed to be deported after serving the balance of a 57-month sentence.
According to Bill West, the supervisory special agent of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's Miami Special Investigations Section (and now a consultant to the IPT), Emerson's "outstanding and continued original investigative journalism" of Arian and his PIJ connections "was the catalyst that resulted in the launching of the federal criminal investigation against Al-Arian and his cohorts."
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