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Emerson at a convention in June 2008

Steven Emerson is an American journalist who writes about national security, terrorism, and Islamic extremism. He is the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a data-gathering center on Islamist groups, and the author of six books.

Education and early career

Emerson received a Bachelors of Arts from Brown Universitymarker in 1976 and a Master of Arts in sociology in 1977. 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 Idahomarker.

Journalist and commentator

Emerson was a freelance writer for The New Republic where he wrote a series of articles on the influence of Saudi Arabiamarker in 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, and 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. 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. In 1990, he co-authored The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation, which argued, wrongly, for the alternate theory that Iran was behind the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Libya accepted responsibility for that air crash and paid each of the victim's families $10 million apiece.

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 his account of how Iraq had spread and increased its terror network in the 1980s with United States support.

Jihad in America

Emerson left CNN in 1993 to work on a documentary Jihad in America for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which exposed the clandestine operations of Islamist groups in the U.S., and for which he received the George Polk Award for best television documentary, and the top prize for best investigative report from the Investigative Reporters and Editors Organization (IRE). Emerson elaborated this subject in his next book, Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the U.S.

The Investigative Project

Emerson is also the founder and executive director of The Investigative Project, one of the world's largest intelligence archives on Islamist groups. He started the Project in 1995, after the broadcast of Jihad in America. Since September 2001, Emerson has testified before Congress dozens of times on terrorist funding and on the operational structures of groups including al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. He has also given interviews debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. and is a contributing expert to the Counterterrorism Blog.

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."

Alleged death threat

After his film Jihad in America aired in South Africa, Emerson claimed that the FBImarker informed him that a South African Muslim group had dispatched a team to the U.S. to assassinate him but that claim is disputed. Emerson says he uses a collapsible mirror to check that there are no bombs underneath his car, stays away from windows, varies his routine, does occasional U-turns when driving to make sure no one is following him, wears inconspicuous clothing, and changes his routes and the times he leaves his home. He requires security when speaking at universities, and a police guard when addressing the Senate. According to Slate, people who visit his Washington, D.C. office are blindfolded en route, and employees call it "the bat cave." He left the condominium he had just purchased when Jihad in America was first aired, and now lives undercover.

According to an article in CounterPunch, the Justice Departmentmarker's Terrorism and Violent Crimes' spokesman, John Russell, denied that there is any truth to Emerson's claim of a death threat.


Emerson has been accused of exaggerating the threats posed by Islamists, a willingness "to push an extremely thin story--with potentially explosive consequences," and of "mistakes and distortions." Examples of such stories and errors include an alleged plot by Pakistanmarker to launch a nuclear first strike against Indiamarker and his claim that Yugoslavians were behind the first bombing of the World Trade Centermarker in New York.

In its criticism of his coverage of the Pan Am 103 bombing, the liberal watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting cited the Columbia Journalism Review alleging that passages in Emerson's book The Fall of Pan Am 103, "bear a striking resemblance, in both substance and style" to reports in the Syracuse Post-Standard. FAIR claimed that reporters from the newspaper "cornered Emerson at a conference of the Investigative Reporters and Editors and demanded that he apologize for plagiarizing their work." FAIR reported that a New York Times review (5/19/91) of his 1991 book Terrorist "chided that it was "'marred by factual errors…and by a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias,'" and that "his 1994 PBS video, Jihad in America was faulted for bigotry and misrepresentations". In the same article, FAIR says that "veteran reporter Robert Friedman accused Emerson of 'creating mass hysteria against American Arabs.' "

The FAIR article references CBS News in that Emerson, in his commentary on the bombing of the Federal Buildingmarker in Oklahoma City in 1995, said it showed "a Middle Eastern trait" because it "was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible." These type of comments by Emerson, and others were seen as having led to "a backlash against the American Muslim community during the first few days after the explosion" according to the American Journalism Review.

A review in The New York Times of a book Emerson co-authored, The Fall of Pan Am 103, while noting that the authors were "respected journalists" and "not to be lightly dismissed," correctly noted that charges of Iranian complicity were not substantiated.


  • (1985), The American House of Saud: The Secret Petrodollar Connection, Franklin Watts, ISBN 0-531-09778-1
  • (1988), Secret Warriors: Inside the Covert Military Operations of the Reagan Era, Putnam, ISBN 0-399-13360-7
  • (1990) with Duffy B., The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation, Putnam, ISBN 0-399-13521-9
  • (1991), Terrorist: The Inside Story of the Highest-Ranking Iraqi Terrorist Ever to Defect to the West, Random House; Villard paperback edition, ISBN 0-679-73701-4
  • (1995), The worldwide Jihad movement: Militant Islam targets the West (Policy forum), Institute of the World Jewish Congress
  • (2002), American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, Free Press; 2003 paperback edition, ISBN 0-7432-3435-9
  • (2006), Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US, Prometheus Books (October 2, 2006), ISBN 1-591-02453-6



  1. "Biography",
  2. Emerson, Steven. Secret Warriors: Inside the Covert Military Operations of the Reagan Era, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1988 (see bio on back flap).
  3. "Bloc of Lockerbie Families Urges End to Libya Penalties" June 16, 2004, The New York Times
  4. George Polk Award
  5. Steven Emerson's biography at speakers' bureau Web site.
  6. Jihad Incorporated, interview with Steve Emerson, FrontPageMagazine, October 16, 2006
  7. Steven Emerson, Counterterrorism Blog.
  8. Brown Alumni Magazine, November-December 2002.
  9. The Slate field guide to Iraq Pundits
  10. [1]
  11. [2] "Terror" Slut Steve Emerson Eats Crow (Just for Starters), CounterPunch Wire, May 19, 2003
  12. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting Steven Emerson's Crusade
  13. Penny Bender Fuchs, American Journalism Review Jumping to Conclusions in Oklahoma City? June 1995
  14. Michael Wines, NY Times Books, On the Trail of the Terrorists April 29, 1990

Further reading

External links

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