FBI investigating 70 to 100 cases in Washington state with possible ties to terrorism
SEATTLE -- Seattle’s FBI division is asking for the public’s help to fight the growing threat of terrorism in the United States.
"Homegrown terrorism" is a threat more than ever, especially with social media, officials say.
The FBI in Seattle revealed Friday that they have 70 to 100 active cases possibly linked to terrorism across the state and that number is changing every day. But officials added that there is no imminent threat in Washington.
“What keeps me up at night is not what I know, it’s what I don't know,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Frank Montoya Jr. said.
Since the deadly attack in San Bernardino, the local FBI branch has been on high alert.
“We try to learn as quickly as possible what techniques were used,” Montoya said.
The more the joint terrorism task force digs into threats in Washington, the more they are finding.
“We are looking at instances and individuals causing us great concern,” Montoya said.
The cases range from suspicious behavior to tracking subjects already talking to terrorist groups like ISIS abroad.
“Sufficient number that we are concerned,” Montoya said.
Experts say social media is making it easier for terrorist groups to recruit sympathizers here.
“Anybody on the battlefield in Syria can reach out to anybody in the world,” Montoya said.
The FBI says they have amped up their engagement with the Muslim community seeking information.
“They are now coming forward and bringing things to us because they are worried about the backlash,” special agent Cory Cote said.
Agents say the best way to prevent further attacks is for the public to be aware and speak out.
“Each of us is raised to not be judgmental about other people around us, right? But what we are saying here today is we need this information,” special agent Kera O’Reilly said.
After the mass shooting in Southern California, neighbors reported the couple behind the killings were acting suspiciously, by spending long hours in their garage before the attack.
“If that information had come to law enforcement ahead of time, would that have helped us mitigate that? Possibly,” O’Reilly said.
They want the public to remain vigilant but not afraid.
“We are coming into the Christmas season. People shouldn’t be afraid to shop. They shouldn’t be afraid to spend time with their families,” Montoya said.
But the FBI says if you ever find yourself in an active shooter situation, you need to run, hide or fight.
If you cannot get away or hide, statistics show that you will end up a victim if you do not fight.