PORTLAND, Ore. — The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Portland has roughly 70 active terrorism investigations in Oregon. The investigations include a broad range of cases, including Islamic State-inspired terrorism, eco-terrorism and anti-government extremists.
The head of Portland’s FBI office declined to provide specifics about ISIS-inspired terrorist investigations, except to say “it is a measurable, significant percentage” of the roughly 70 ongoing terrorism cases.
Special Agent in Charge Gregory Bretzing of the FBI’s Portland Division provided rare insight into terrorism investigations during an interview with KGW.
Bretzing says ISIS has actively tried to recruit in Oregon using social media.
“They don’t have to specifically target a state. They don’t have to specifically target a city,” said Bretzing. “What they are doing is they are targeting an individual who will be susceptible to their message.”
Bretzing used the example of a Portland metro-area high school student to illustrate the problem. He said the teenager was being actively recruited by a member of ISIS who was living overseas.
The FBI worked with the teenager’s parents and school to make sure the online communication with ISIS recruiters didn’t go anywhere. The teenager is not facing any criminal charges.
Bretzing said the community plays an important role in preventing terrorism by notifying the FBI or local police of unusual behavior.
Parents should also be aware of their kids online activity, Bretzing said, especially if they’re looking at websites promoting violent behavior, or sites targeting someone because of race, religion or background.
After terrorism attacks like the one in San Bernardino, the FBI typically receives more tips from the public. Many of those leads don’t pan out, but the FBI is still interested in hearing from the community.
“We can’t investigate a suspicious activity or a potential crime if we are not aware that it is occurring,” said Bretzing. “The only way to find out if it is occurring is either through our investigations or through our partnerships with local law enforcement and our community.”
Over the past 25 years, there have been several significant international terrorism investigations in Oregon.
- In 1999, a group of extremists plotted to open a terrorist training came in Bly, Oregon.
- In 2002, a group called the Portland Seven was arrested after attempting to join Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
- In 2010, Mohamed Mohamud was arrested in an FBI sting after attempting to detonate a fake bomb at Portland’s annual tree lighting ceremony at Pioneer Courthouse Square.
- In June, a Portland man was sentenced to seven years in prison for providing money to a terrorist who carried out a suicide bombing in Pakistan in 2009.
“That is why we spend time investigating and making sure that what’s happened in the past, doesn’t happen again in the future,” said Bretzing.
To submit a tip to the FBI, click here.