Jul 1 1995

The ‘Experts’ Speak

Some of the most cited anti-terrorism sources--and their “credentials”

Steve Emerson: Emerson is a journalist (late of U.S. News & World Report and CNN) noted for his anonymous U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources (Extra!, 10-11/92, 11-12/93). These sources led him to announce, in the wake of the World Trade Center explosion, that the “bomber or bombers may be from one of the former Yugoslav republics.” (CNN, 3/2/93) That embarrassing error did not teach him caution: When the Murrah federal building was bombed, he immediately began insisting that all signs pointed to Muslim extremists.

There’s more than a little bigotry in Emerson’s obsession with Muslim terrorists. To him, the fact that many people were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing was evidence that Arabs were responsible: “This was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible. That is a Middle Eastern trait.” (CBS News, 4/19/95)

Vincent Cannistraro: A former CIA official, Cannistraro directed covert operations for the National Security Council under the Reagan administration. His work with Nicaraguan contra rebels who routinely targeted civilians give him first-hand experience with terrorism that few analysts can boast of. In 1991, Cannistraro told the Newhouse News Service (San Francisco Examiner, 4/21/91) that environmentalists were plotting to destroy humanity through the invention of killer viruses. “There are small organized clandestine cells working on the development of technologies to diminish or even eliminate the race of man from the earth,” he said, advancing a conspiracy theory as wacky as anything suggested by the militia movement.

His “expert” opinion was similarly off-base on the Oklahoma City Bombing. “Right now it looks professional, and it’s got the marks of a Middle Eastern group,” Cannistraro told the Washington Times (4/20/95).

Daniel Pipes: Pipes is a Middle East specialist associated with right-leaning, pro-Israeli think tanks like the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the Washington Institute on Near East Policy. In 1987 he wrote an article for The New Republic with Laurie Mylroie title, “Back Iraq: It’s Time for a U.S. Tilt” (4/27/87). “Iraq is now the de facto protector of the regional status quo,” Pipes and Mylroie wrote–a little more than three years before Saddam Hussein attempted to annex Kuwait.

Pipes showed himself to be just as much an Islamic expert in his post-Oklahoma analysis. “People need to understand that this is just the beginning,” he told USA Today (4/20/95). “The fundamentalists are on the upsurge, and they make it clear that they are targeting us. They are absolutely obsessed with us.” Who’s obsessed with whom?

Neal Livingstone: Livingstone is a self-proclaimed counter-terrorism expert who heads his own Institute on Terrorism and Subnational Conflict. He offers tips to clients on how to deal with terrorism (Washington Post, 8/20/86): “If you don’t want to look like an American, wear tinted glasses.” “Don’t sit in first class.” “If armed with a knife and desirous of dispatching a guard or sentry, slip up behind him and, if right-handed, cup your left hand over his mouth, jerk his head upward, and push forward the knife across the side of his neck below the angle of the jaw.”

After breakfasting with Oliver North, Livingstone wrote in the National Review(1/20/87) that “the ‘Iran arms scandal’ could turn out to have been one of the [Reagan] administration’s finest hours.”

Livingstone was one of the most ubiquitous Oklahoma City “experts.” The London Daily Mail (4/21/95) reported that he was

convinced that a Middle Eastern group was behind the killings, and believes more outrages could follow. “Since the end of the Cold War, the biggest threat to the U.S. has come from the Middle East. I’m afraid what happened in Oklahoma has proved that.”

After the arrest of Timothy McVeigh, Livingstone shifted gears smoothly, instantly becoming an expert on right-wing domestic extremist groups: “We didn’t think they were that severe a threat until these events,” he told Meet the Press (4/23/95). “We don’t see these people as terrorists, but there are some troublemakers.”