Bill Hemmer: Police in Canada now say the gunman in the attack acted alone. Serious questions that remain about whether or not this was yet another instance of a so-called lone wolf attack. Steve Emerson, executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, with me now. Steve, how are you? And good morning to you. You have some sources up on Ottawa. What are you picking up now that we have not yet learned?
Steve Emerson: Canada is no different than the United States. For the last few years, last decade or so, they have experienced at least a dozen major aborted plots to attack major targets [in Canada] including government facilities as well as [other] facilities in [Canada and] the United States. All of them have been stopped with the assistance of either Canadian intelligence or US intelligence. The sound bite you played by Walid Phares was right on, was spot on. The issue is if the government can get inside our minds then they could stop acts of terrorism. But the issue is the point of activization. You can be radical but not cross the line; you are believing in a radical theology. Once you cross that line into carrying out a criminal predicate, then it’s illegal, then the government has the right to stop you. So taking away your passport isn’t going to stop you from carrying out an act of violence.
Hemmer: Yeah you’re precisely right about that. Just so our viewers know, this man’s passport was confiscated. So too are the passports of 90 other suspected Islamic radicals that the Canadians are watching right now. You mentioned Walid Phares. To our viewers who did not hear that, here’s what he said on the record last night.
Clip of Walid Phares: The pool of individuals who are like Rouleau and Bibeau, both in the United States and in Canada, is pretty big. How are we going to be able to determine which one is going to act is the real problem of counterintelligence services.
Hemmer: How we are able to determine which one will act is the real problem of counterintelligence. How do you address that Steve?
Emerson: That is the quintessential problem because when the government becomes too intrusive, when it starts listening to conversations, taking down your phone numbers, looking at the books that you read at the library, the public gets outraged, that’s invading your privacy. Yet those are all indicators, potential indicators of whether you are potentially going to carry out an act of terrorism or whether you’re interested in carrying out an act of terrorism. And yet the problem is that if you are not interested and yet the government does intrude on your privacy, everyone yells, well this is an invasion of your civil liberties. In a free society there’s always going to be this tension here. After 9/11 there was no controversy at all about passing the Patriot Act. I think it passed 99-1. Today if you had a vote in the Congress about the Patriot Act, I’m not so sure it would pass. Maybe it would pass today, but maybe it wouldn’t have passed last week.
Hemmer: It just has a way of rubbing off and the intensity we give the topic rubs off after time. We were speaking last hour with a great guest who was telling us that you need to raise the terror alert just to make sure the thing still work. They did this in Canada, I don’t know if that is something you would support here. Is that even necessary in our country?
Emerson: Well you remember we went through the color alerts. The issue of the alerts is a psychological thing; the purpose is to raise the public awareness. But the reality is, Bill, that the public awareness is raised really only through one thing – through fear. And that fear is engendered ironically through the success of attacks like the ones that were carried out in Canada over the last three days. When the FBI is successful in stopping attacks, the public doesn’t realize the magnitude of damage and death that could occur. So they’re almost victims of their own success. That’s the real irony in stopping attacks.
Hemmer: Steve, it is good to get your analysis here. Thanks for coming back with us today. Steve Emerson out of Washington, DC.
See videos with transcripts of all of Steve Emerson’s appearances here.