Video: About the London attack

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updated 8/3/2005 11:42:22 AM ET 2005-08-03T15:42:22

Shortly after the attacks on the London transit system, terrorism expert Steve Emerson joined MSNBC's Amy Robach to discuss the attacks.

To read excerpts of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the interview, click on the "Launch" button to the left.

Emerson, on who may be responsible and how the attacks compare to past attacks in Britain:
This is a very difficult moment for the British people. They've been through this before ... but the IRA bombings largely left immune civilians except when they tried to target British government officials.

But the M.O., the modus operandi, of the IRA was always to give warning, to evacuate. Clearly, no warning was given here. The simultaneous nature of the bombing and the possibility of a suicide bomber suggests very strongly that it was some type of al-Qaida or some kind of al-Qaida offshoot of known radical Islamic groups or other unknown groups or individuals plotting this for a very long time.

This could not have been done overnight. (It's) absolutely impossible to have really done the spectacular planning needed to carry out such a simultaneous series of bombings.

Emerson, on what impact the attacks could have on U.S. security:
I don't expect it to unless there is some type of intelligence or warning suggesting that that United States itself would be subject to a series of attacks. That type of intelligence has not been received by the U.S. government. Frankly, the British government didn't receive any intelligence ahead of time. The question is whether the British government would decide to warn that this is something that would be spreading to other continents. I doubt very much that there is anything suggestive of that type of intelligence at this point.

Emerson, on comparisons between the March, 2004, attacks on Madrid and Thursday's bombings in London:
With vast subway systems or vast transportation systems - particularly subway systems that provide concealment possibilities for terrorists - it's almost impossible to prevent any kind of terrorist from carrying out such an attack. In particular if it turns out to be a suicide bombing. If it turns out to be planted bombs that were detonated by remote control or by detonation timers, then there are going to be serious questions asked about whether in fact the London subway cars were kept secure overnight or kept secure during the inspection period that they are all required to undergo almost every single day to prevent bombs from being left on the cars.

Emerson on attacks on transit systems:
The intelligence community has to be 100 percent right. The terrorists only have to be one percent right. In this case, they've proven that one percent to be very lethal. In this particular case, the series of attacks on mass transit shows increasingly that as in the United States, the bombings on 9/11, the bombings on 3/11 and now these attacks, clearly show that mass transit infrastructures in the West are very susceptible and almost impossible to protect by Western law enforcement.

Therefore, intelligence is the first line of defense. The fact that they were not able to stop this type of attack clearly shows there was a failure of intelligence. I'm not suggesting that the British government was to blame, but there was a failure of intelligence, and that's going to be subject to a much larger investigation that will happen way after the causalities are counted in this particular incident.

MSNBC Live with Amy Robach and Randy Meier can be seen weekdays from 9 a.m.-Noon.

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