Catching alleged terrorist Alex Ciccolo earlier this month was a combined effort.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and its Western Mass Joint Terrorism Task Force looked into the case for months before arresting Ciccolo on July 4.
The JTTF, comprised of federal, state and local officers, received a tip that a 23-year-old Berkshire County man was showing interest in ISIS and began watching Ciccolo outside his North Adams apartment. He was arrested after they found him carrying rifles and handguns. Molotov cocktails and a pressure cooker were later found inside his apartment. Witness tell officials he was planning a terrorist attack on a local college campus.
“It definitely brings home the fact that they are close by,” Det. Sgt. Louis Tulik, of the Western Mass Joint Terrorism Task Force, said. “These people are here.”
Before Sept. 11, 2001, there were just 33 terrorism task forces in the country. Today, there are more than 100 forces. Together, officers receive tips, scour the internet, conduct interviews and perform undercover missions on a daily basis.
“9-11 was a wake up call,” FBI special agent Vincent Lisi said. “9-11 was a real wake up call to say we can’t ever let this happen again.”
The role of the FBI changed drastically after September 11, 2001, according to Lisi.
"Our biggest challenge is that the next terrorist attack could come from anywhere in the USA,” Lisi said. “With ISIL’s successful propaganda campaign, especially with social media, it makes it that much more difficult for us.”
The FBI encourages the public to come forward whenever they see anything suspicious. They say if you see anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, to contact them immediately.
“When I first started as a police officer, the only concerns you had were your local community,” Det. Sgt. Tulik said. “With the internet and other issues, it’s now come to our backdoor.”
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