Steven Emerson

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Steven "Steve" Emerson is a journalist who has written on terrorism for many years, and founded the Investigative Project on Terrorism in 1995.[1] After graduating from college, was on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until 1982, as a speech writer for Senator Frank Church and then began reporting for U.S. News and World Report and the New Republic. Besides the Project web presence, he has written a number of books, and is a contributor to Fox News and Family Security Matters.

While his critics agree that he has worked in mainstream media and indeed has excellent sources, which let him reveal questionable covert intelligence units in his 1988 book, The Secret Warriors, they also accuse him of pro-Israeli bias and slanted reporting.[2] He is, however, widely used as a reference by groups that see an overall Muslim threat and are also critical of the American political left, such as Frontpage Magazine.[3]


Early in his career, Jeffrey Richelson said "I respect his research. He gets to people who were at the events." [4]

He produced a documentary for PBS, "Jihad in America", which reporter Robert Friedman [5] accused Emerson of "creating mass hysteria against American Arabs." The documentary, which appeared on 60 Minutes, also won the George Polk Award for best television documentary.

Shortly after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Emerson, certainly not unique in doing so, suggested it had the signature of Islamist terrorism. His contract with CBS News was not renewed; while he had had a working relationship with the Washington Post, as of 1999, his name did not appear in the Post archives after Jan. 1, 1996. He also stopped appearing in USA Today after September 1996. "He's poison," says investigative author Seymour Hersh, when asked about how Emerson is perceived by fellow journalists." [4]

Richard Clarke, who was the National Security Council counterterrorism director in the Clinton and early George W. Bush Administrations, called him the "Paul Revere of terrorism", and he gained much of his reputation in the 1990s as an early commenter on radical Islam before the 9-11 Attack. Clarke's literary agent, Len Sherman, had done investigation in Afghanistan and had introduced Emerson to Clarke. [6]

Emerson objected to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a major think tank, starting a monthly newsletter, Muslim Politics Report, a forum for a broad range of thought on Islam. He said "It's a front for radical Islamic extremists attempting to legitimize their agenda and to put on a friendly face in the United States." Leslie Gelb, then president of CFR, responded: "We consider the report a major contribution to let people know about a range of thinking by Islamic experts and leaders. It will stay. Period."[7]


NPR's ombudsman denied, in 2002, there is a ban on Emerson there, as Emerson has claimed. Jeffrey Dworkin said

Steve Emerson's ideas may be unpalatable to some, but they are worth hearing, discussing and arguing over. As I have said before in other columns, NPR's value is that it gives voice to people who might surprise us. If NPR is given the benefit of the doubt (rare these days), it should be restated that Emerson was not banned by any newsroom policy. But the way it usually happens is that other ideas and their advocates probably pushed for other experts. It's time to hear what Emerson has to say. [8]

On MSNBC, he emphasized that Nancy Pelosi meeting with a "radical" Islamic group, the Council on American Islamic Relations, but did not mention that George W. Bush and Colin Powell met with the same group. [9]

He criticized Vincent Cannistrano as an apologist for terrorism, because Cannistrano gave a sympathetic explanation for Nada Prouty, who joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation under false pretenses, for Sami al-Arian, associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and offering to testify for the defense in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial. [10]

Emerson said it was the "wrong choice" for the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish denomination in North America, to have talks with the Islamic Society of North America.[11]