Terror Experts on Foiled UK Terror Plots

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," July 2, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

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MICHELLE MALKIN, GUEST HOST: Our top story: eight suspects arrested so far in the failed terror bombings in London and a car bomb at Scotland's Glasgow Airport. Authorities believe the incidents were all connected.

Five doctors are among the suspects, including one from Iraq. And a massive manhunt is underway for additional suspects and more clues.

Joining us now from Washington, terrorism expert Steve Emerson. And from London, Peter Caddick-Adams of the U.K. Defense Academy at Kranfield University.

Steve, I want to go to you first. Thanks for joining us. Everyone's talking about these doctors. What do you make of it? What's the significance that you have so many of these suspected Al Qaeda operatives who have medical backgrounds?.

STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, it is intriguing. But remember that the number two of Al Qaeda is a pediatrician, Ayman al Zawahiri . The head of Hamas is a surgeon. So doctors have played prominent roles in terrorist organizations in radical Islamic groups. That's number one.

Number two, I would say that they probably thought it would be easier to enter the United Kingdom as a doctor than it would be as a student. And that's why perhaps this has the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda directed operation, knowing that they could fly under the radar screen a lot better. They were trained in obviously how to create bombs. Obviously, they knew what to do. They were taking commands. They were sent in from abroad. And my suspicion is they may have thought they could have gotten away with it being held immune from any kind of scrutiny as doctors.

MALKIN: So you're saying that it's significant in two ways. One, that they used their medical backgrounds to exploit the issuance of doctor visas to get into England in the first place or the U.K., but then also you're saying that they may be using their expertise as part of their plots? Is there any indication that these two thwarted attempts were somehow dry runs for chemical or biological warfare?

EMERSON: Well, that's a good question. We don't know whether this is the beginning or the end of a radical Islamic terror campaign in London or the European continent.

You know, there was a report today, Michelle, about — from another network— saying that there was chatter which we knew about, but that there was going to be a spectacular attack.

Now that latter fact has not been confirmed. But the chatter that has been picked up by intelligence agencies, Michelle, has been greater now that it's ever been since 9/11. And it indicated that something major is about to happen. The only question was where. And it looked like the European continent. The question now is is this the beginning? Or is this the end of an Islamist terror campaign?

MALKIN: Right, right. Peter, I want to go to you. Steve is not surprised that doctors are involved in these kind of plots. Is that also your reaction? Because there are a lot of folks in the West who are somehow shocked, shocked, that people with upper middle-class backgrounds and this kind of expertise are involved.

PETER CADDICK-ADAMS, TERRORISM ANALYST: Here in the United Kingdom, I think it has caught us by surprise. The incident has certainly caught us by surprise.

Steve was saying there was a general expectation that something was going to happen soon. But we didn't really expect it in this way. I think, given the past experience, we had bombings in London two years ago on two separate occasions in the month of July. What happened then was the bombers were angry young men, students or a bit older, who were born in this country. And we now seem to have seen a shift in tactics. And we've got these people with upscale backgrounds who earn a lot of money, who are married. They have wives and kids. In other words, they've got a lot to lose. And they're the kind of class of people least likely to be suicide bombers in our understanding of this kind of tactic.

MALKIN: Right. Now you've got a mayor there [in London], Ken Livingstone , who in the wake of these thwarted attempts is saying that Muslims shouldn't be blamed. Isn't that kind of — isn't that rhetoric sort of off point? And shouldn't there be more Muslims within your country who are condemning these kind of attacks? Where are they?

CADDICK-ADAMS: As far as I understand, I mean there is a large body of moderate Muslim opinion, which has come out against these attacks and earlier attacks.

But I think we may well take this as a success of the security forces in targeting that angry young displaced generation who committed the first round of attacks a couple of years ago.

And what Al Qaeda have had to do is parachute in operatives from abroad, who smuggle themselves in as doctors. So this tells us, first of all, that this is a long, premeditated attack. These people didn't arrive yesterday and suddenly create this kind of attack. This has been a long time in the planning.

So these are sleepers in the classic Cold War sense. So this attack has been long premeditated. It's also the kind of attack that could be carried out anywhere, in any European capital. I don't think it's a dry run. I think this is the genuine article. And on this occasion, the terrorists were unlucky that their devices exploded prematurely.

MALKIN: Steve, you want to weigh in on that? And also, how widespread do you think these two specific plots were in terms of planning and conspiracy?

EMERSON: Well, I really don't know, Michelle, how widespread the plots were. But I will address the larger point, which is the degree of radicalism with an indigenous Muslim populations. Just because these were — indigenous Muslims from Britain were not involved doesn't exempt them from being appropriately characterized as radical.

51 percent, according to a poll a couple years ago, wanted to impose the Sharia [law] in Britain. And a large number justified the July '05 attacks.

MALKIN: Right.

EMERSON: In the same vein, 26 percent of young Muslims in the United States justify suicide bombings. And I believe that number would even be higher if the pollsters were actually honest.

The fact is that the most radicalizing statement that has been made that turns young Muslims into terrorists is one statement. And that statement is there's a war against Islam and you have to avenge it. That statement has been made repeatedly by the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain, by Tariq Ramadan , and by groups here in the United States. They're not part of the solution. They're part of the problem. They're radicalizing young Muslim generations here.

MALKIN: Do you think that the Brown government understands that? I mean, isn't this — that kind of understanding key to defeating jihad in the U.K.?

EMERSON: I don't think — I don't know. I'll give him a free pass. But I tell you, I don't think Tony Blair understood it. Why would he appoint Tariq Ramadan to all these commissions? Why would he appoint Holocaust deniers, Muslim Holocaust deniers, to these types of commissions to investigate radical Islam?

I mean, it was absurd. I don't think he understood it at all. I think we failed to understand that the real problem is not just terrorism, it's what goes into terrorism. Their proselitization, the radicalization, the recruitment, all of that. This is not a battle for hearts and minds. This is a battle to defeat hearts and minds.

MALKIN: Peter, we've got about 30 seconds left. Do you want to respond? I'll give you the last word.

CADDICK-ADAMS: Yes, I do. I think one of the big problems is this — there's an enormous cultural gap here. And we don't have any anyone on the inside.

Ever since 9/11, all our expertise was in the Soviet bloc. And it's going to take us a long time to grow people who are on the inside of the Islamic culture. And therefore, we're up against it in terms of combating these people. But certainly, we don't want to alienate them by pushing them away and saying we're at war with all Muslims.

MALKIN: Right.

CADDICK-ADAMS: So I think we're quite content with that in the way that we're tackling this in the United Kingdom.

MALKIN: Well, we'll see how you handle it. Thank you, gentlemen.

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