A Project of the Council on American-Islamic Relations

The Investigative Project on Terrorism


What is the Investigative Project on Terrorism?

According to its website, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) “is a non-profit research group” founded by Steven Emerson in 1995. In reality, the Investigative Project on Terrorism is a hate group that curates and proliferates anti-Muslim propaganda and prejudiced content.  

Anti-Muslim Activity

Steven Emerson is the founder of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). IPT is part of the U.S. Islamophobia network. After he asserted that Birmingham, England was a Muslim-only city, then UK Prime Minister David Cameron called him a “complete idiot” and Fox News, where the allegation aired, was forced to apologize. Emerson claimed he had inside information that the 2013 Boston Marathon bomber was of Saudi origin, the terrorist turned out to be Chechen. IPT’s website contains prejudiced content, such as an article decrying the “…pitiful Arab, whose inherent culture left him no shred of sincerity, creativity or courage.”

Emerson also has a lengthy history of factual inaccuracy. 

The New York Times Book Review said Emerson’s 1991 book Terrorist was “marred by factual errors…that betray an unfamiliarity with the Middle East and a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias.”

Emerson said of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, “This [the bombing] was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible. That is a Middle Eastern trait.” Timothy McVeigh, a Caucasian American, was later convicted for committing the terrorist act.

In the 1990s, Emerson, along with organizations, “lobbied the U.S. government to take action against HLF [Holy Land Foundation], claiming that HLF and its officers were connected to ‘terrorism.’” In 1996, Emerson testified before the Senate Subcommittee on the Near East and South Asia that the Holy Land Foundation was the “the main fund-raising arm for Hamas in the United States.” HLF was the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. before it was selectively targeted by the Bush administration less than three months after the 9/11 attacks.

Emerson produced a PBS documentary titled Jihad in Americawhich argued “Islamic militants, supported by prominent Arab- American and Muslim groups, were exploiting constitutionally protected civil liberties to train and organize and to plot acts of terror.” The film won a George Polk Award as the year’s best television documentary, and Emerson was applauded for exposing the threat posed by “Islamic radicals.” 

In 1996, after a plane exploded off the coast of New York, Emerson quickly asserted, “I have no doubt whatsoever, at this point, that it was a bomb that brought down TWA Flight 800 – not a missile, but a bomb…” The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the cause of the tragedy was vapor in a fuel tank, a tragic accident rather than a deliberate bombing.

Emerson’s credibility was further derailed in the late 1990s when Florida Weekly Planet newspaper Senior Editor John Sugg quoted two unnamed Associated Press reporters who said Emerson gave them a document on terrorism supposedly from FBI files: “One reporter thought he’d seen the material before, and in checking found a paper Emerson had supplied earlier containing his own unsupported allegations. The two documents were almost identical, except that Emerson’s authorship was deleted from the one purported to be from the FBI. ‘It was really his work,’ one reporter says. He sold it to us trying to make it look like a really interesting FBI document.’”

According to the Bridge Initiative: “Emerson was also involved in the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, a University of South Florida professor accused by the FBI of being involved in a terrorist organization. In 2003, Al-Arian was “indicted on fifty-three counts of supporting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which had been designated by the government as a terrorist group.” Following Al-Arian’s arrest, Emerson stated, “The indictment shows an elaborate, sophisticated, comprehensive campaign, going back to 1984, and explicitly how Al-Arian and others were serving as actual leaders of a militant Islamic group within the U.S.” In a June 2012 article, journalist and daughter of Al-Arian, Laila Al-Arian stated, “The conspiracy case, which involved three other Palestinian men, was based largely on my father’s charitable contributions, associations, speeches and other First Amendment-protected activities.” 

In a June 2009 MSNBC interview, Emerson claimed that then-President Barack Obama’s outreach to Muslims would “cater to [extremists] in terms of reversing some of the anti-terrorism policies.” He further stated that extremists will “think there is going to be free reign for them with influence of the administration” and that “they are going to have influence over the policies of financial constraints over terrorist activities.” His interviewer, Norah O’Donnell, stated that his suggestions were “ridiculous.” 

A 2011 report by the Center for American Progress noted that Emerson is a “misinformation expert” who “generate[s] false facts and materials used by political leaders, grassroots groups, and the media.” Emerson is the author or co-author of a number of books on terrorism and national security, including The American House of Saud: The Secret Petrodollar Connection (1985), Secret Warriors: Inside the Covert Military Operations of the Reagan Era (1988)The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation (1990), Terrorist: The Inside Story of the Highest-Ranking Iraqi Terrorist Ever to Defect to the West (1991), and Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the U.S., American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us (2006).

In March 2011, Emerson provided false statistics on terrorism at the Peter King Hearings. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) discovered an Emerson article claiming that “more than 80 percent of all convictions tied to international terrorist groups and homegrown terrorism since 9/11 involved defendants driven by a radical Islamist agenda. Though Muslims represent about 1 percent of the American population, they constitute defendants in 186 of the 228 cases DOJ lists.”

After terrorists bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013, Emerson alleged that based on “certain classified information” he was “privy to” he was confident that the bomber was a Saudi national who was at the time in custody. The bombers turned out to be of Chechen descent. The Saudi was cleared of any wrongdoing, but rumors circulated that he may have been deported. This too turned out to be untrue. Questioned about this later, Emerson alleged, “This is the way things are done with Saudi Arabia, you don’t arrest their citizens, you deport them, because [the Obama administration] don’t want them to be embarrassed and that’s the way we appease them.”

In 2013, Emerson also produced a documentary called “Jihad in America: The Grand Deception” which supposedly investigates “the covert structure and growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist groups, masquerading under the false moniker of being apolitical religious groups or civil rights groups in the United States, specifically how they are infiltrating or intimidating major societal institutions from Congress to Hollywood, from the mainstream news media to federal law enforcement, from the publishing industry to museums.” 

According to a January 6, 2014, IPT “special to IPT news guest column,” by Dr. Reuven Berko, “All the evil storms of history visited upon humanity did not expose to the people of Europe (who today host well-established enclaves of radical Islam in their midst) even the surface of the slaughter and injustice carried out by Muslims in the name of Islam, ‘the religion of peace,’ against Jews and Christians.”

Berko, goes on to report, “They know that the Arabs’ thirst for blood has a multitude of causes that are not even remotely related to ‘Palestine,’ but nevertheless they delude themselves into thinking that the chaos in the Middle East will somehow disappear if the Palestinian issue is ‘resolved.’”

Other prejudiced statements in the article include:

“Europe is still. . .captivated by the specious charms of the Arabs and Islam.”

“. . .pitiful Arab, whose inherent culture left him no shred of sincerity, creativity or courage.”

“Those crimes accompanied the Arabs and Muslims from the rise of Islam and accompany them to this day.”

In 2015, Emerson was ridiculed by then British Prime Minister David Cameron as “a complete idiot.” During an appearance on Fox News, the self-proclaimed terrorism expert had falsely claimed that Muslims in Europe set up so-called “no-go zones” that people of other faiths and police are not allowed to enter.  Fox News was forced to apologize for Emerson’s claim. 

Washington Post article in 2017 reported that Steve Bannon listed Emerson as an executive producer in his proposal for a film titled “Destroying the Great Satan: The Rise of Islamic Facism [sic] in America.” The article states that upon “hearing about Emerson’s research,” Tim Watkins, a producer involved in discussions with Bannon about the project, came up with the opening scene portraying a “flag fluttering above the U.S. Capitol is emblazoned with a crescent and star” and “chants of ‘Allahu Akbar’ ris[ing] from inside the building.” 

In December 2021, CAIR discovered evidence indicating that it had been infiltrated by someone working for the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). An investigation, conducted by an independent expert, found that Romin Iqbal, former Executive Director of CAIR-Ohio, had been secretly recording the local office’s meetings with the national organization and sharing those and emails with IPT. Emerson’s hate group had spent years trying to infiltrate and spy upon prominent mosques and Muslim American organizations using ‘moles’ among their staff, volunteers, or partners.

The evidence also indicated that Emerson’s hate group was communicating with and providing assistance to Israeli intelligence with the office of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Leaked emails also show Emerson’s abusive treatment towards his staff. Sample emails can be seen below:


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