FBI Confidential: Social media creates homegrown terrorists

Jul 26, 2018, 9:24 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — Homegrown violent extremists, including those who self-radicalize, remain a top focus for the FBI agents who try to prevent terrorism before it happens. 

Supervisory Special Agent David Fitzgibbons with the FBI Salt Lake City Division’s Joint Terrorism Task Force sat down for an interview with FBI Confidential host Debbie Dujanovic to talk all things terrorism.

When Americans think about terrorism, the attack of September 11, 2001 is usually the first thing that comes to mind, but as Fitzgibbons explains things have changed a lot since then.

“The threat landscape has changed significantly since the 9/11 attacks,” Fitzgibbons says, referring to the change in technology in the years since 2001.

The internet and social media are a big reason. The agent tells about what he calls HVEs, or homegrown violent extremists. These are United States citizens who have been radicalized by propaganda from terrorist organizations.

When asked about the minds of HVEs, Fitzgibbon gives insight:

“They don’t quite assimilate into society, they don’t quite understand the Western society if they come in from another country and gain citizenship. And then they start, sometimes, to alienate themselves and start to really become sympathetic to the foreign terrorist organization’s propaganda online.”

A shocking video produced by the Wall Street Journal showed during the interview shows an American citizen who later became the first United States citizen to carry out a suicide bombing in Syria.

“It is like finding a needle in a haystack with these homegrown violent extremists,” Fitzgibbon said.

That’s why Fitzgibbon reiterates the importance of the adage, “If you see something, say something,” especially when it comes to what you see online. This helps the FBI identify possible recruiting by terrorist groups.

Fitzgibbon promises that the FBI’s main job in protecting America from international terrorism, but it takes a lot of people and a lot of departments to accomplish this.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller once said, “No single police nor intelligence agency can unilaterally accomplish this mission.”

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FBI Confidential: Social media creates homegrown terrorists