More FBI Agents on Terrorism Beat
DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - FBI agents in Minneapolis who were assigned to white-collar and drug crimes are now working on issues related to terrorism, an FBI official said Tuesday.
Ray Morrow, an assistant special agent, said during a regional training session for local law enforcement agencies that counterterrorism is now the agency's top priority.
"Our mission in Minneapolis as well as throughout the country is to prevent another terrorist attack, and to do that we had to make changes within our division," Morrow said.
The changes, some of which happened this month, include enlarging the foreign counterintelligence team; shifting the focus of some agents from drug crimes to terrorism; and focusing a white-collar crime squad on the illegal funding mechanisms that promote terrorism.
The agency also enlarged the division's "Infrastructure Protection Group" - which tries to prevent attacks on power plants, pipelines, waterworks and other public utilities - from two agents to at least four.
The FBI's Minneapolis division, which includes Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, has about 112 agents.
Besides the FBI's changes, Morrow said the Minneapolis Joint Terrorism Task Force, which consists of federal, state and local law enforcement officers, has more than doubled in size to at least two dozen members.
Morrow credited that group, which includes immigration agents, with summoning the foresight to "grab" Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker, who was arrested in Minnesota before the Sept. 11 attacks and is now charged with conspiring in them.
Moussaoui was detained after behaving oddly at an Eagan flight school.
U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger said northern Minnesota "plays a crucial and vital role" in fighting terrorism because of the Canadian border and the international port at Duluth.