Meet An Islamophobia Network ‘Expert’: Steven Emerson

Reposted by arrangement with Think Progress

Steven Emerson directs the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a group dedicated to exposing the dangers of Islamist infiltration in America through investigative journalism. But his career, as discussed in CAP’s new report “Fear, Inc.,” is marked by shoddy reporting and suspicious financial arrangements between private companies, in some cases listing him as the sole employee, and the nonprofit foundations which collect tax-exempt contributions to support his work.

Emerson got his start as an investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1976 to 1982 and, after serving as an executive assistant to Sen. Frank Church (D-ID), left public service in 1986 to join U.S. News & World Report. In 1990, he joined CNN as an investigative correspondent where he reported on terrorism. In 1995, Emerson left journalism and founded the Investigative Project on Terrorism, which claims to be “one of the world’s largest storehouses of archival data and intelligence on Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups.”

But Emerson’s supposed expertise in researching terrorist networks have frequently been questioned due to his propensity for making false accusations against Muslims and his sloppy approach to investigative reporting. Most notably, in 1995, Emerson claimed that the Oklahoma City bombing showed “a Middle East trait” because it “was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.” And in 1998, Emerson was tied to a false report that Pakistan was planning a nuclear first strike on India.

Emerson’s weak credibility hasn’t stopped him from building a mini-empire from his offices at the well-funded IPT. But his penchant for secrecy — his office location is secret, employees refer to it as “the bat cave,” and journalists who visit it have been blindfolded en route — has raised serious questions about management of IPT’s finances.

As reported first by The Tennessean, IPT helps fund Emerson’s for-profit company, SAE Productions. IPT paid SAE Productions $3.33 million to “study alleged ties between American Muslims and overseas.” SAE Productions is a private company so no data is available on how the money was spent but Emerson’s role as SAE’s sole employee raises serious ethical questions.

Emerson’s finances took an even more bizarre turn when grants directed to the “Investigative Project” or “IPT” were contributed care of the Counterterrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation (CTSERF). A LobeLog investigation into CTSERF’s tax filings revealed that, much like the Investigative Project, all grant revenue was transferred to a private, for-profit entity.

When asked about the IPT-CTSERF relationship, Ray Locker, the Investigative Project’s then-managing director acknowledged to LobeLog that a relationship “exists” but would not elaborate further on how or why IPT donors send funds care of CTSERF.

Fear Inc.” examines Emerson’s role as a a key “expert” in the Islamophobia network and tracks over $5 million in grants to CTSERF and IPT.

IPT donors include: the Donors Capital Fund ($400,000); the Russell Berrie Foundation ($100,000); the Anchorage Charitable and William Rosenwald funds ($10,000); the Fairbrook Foundation ($25,000); and the Newton and Rochelle Becker affiliated foundations ($25,000).

Donors to CTSERF include: the Richard Scaife foundations ($1.575 million); the Russell Berrie Foundation ($2.736 million); The Anchorage Charitable and William Rosenwald fund ($15,000); and Newton and Rochelle Becker affiliated foundations ($4.526 million).

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.