HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - There’s something on the FBI’s radar, day and night, and it should be on yours too. Homegrown violent extremists mask themselves well and for the most part, operate as normal people in our society. However, they pose a serious threat.
Homegrown violent extremists are under the radar.
"It’s very difficult for us to detect and interject," says Phillip Celestini, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the national security branch for the FBI's Birmingham Division.
There’s no set profile.
"Each of them is unique in their own way,” explains Celestini.
But once something triggers them, things can go bad. We’ve seen the violence manifest in many instances, like the Boston Marathon bombing or the deadly shootings at Fort Hood. That’s the reason why the Federal Bureau of Investigation makes this a priority.
"The one that’s most immediate for us and that occupies the most time is for us here in this country are those homegrown violent extremists," says Celestini. "You can’t know who’s in their basement on the internet looking at jihadist videos or militia extremist videos or getting all that type of information and getting themselves whipped into an ideological frenzy.”
With so many national assets like Redstone Arsenal, Marshall Space Flight Center, and Cummings Research Park, Celestini says north Alabama is definitely an area of the state they watch closely.
"This is really the nexus for all things national security in northern Alabama and as a result, we spend a lot of time and attention keeping track of things up here.”
Celestini encourages the public to pay attention to the following behaviors:
- Comments against the United States
- Comments against the United States Government, beyond just voicing their opinion.
- A person talks about committing a violent act.
Even if it’s not as easy to spot, Celestini says if you see something, say something.
"We encourage people to just go ahead and let us know," urges Celestini. "If there’s something about an individual or a group, that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. If it makes you uncomfortable, you feel like they may be someone who is more than just speaking out about a certain issue and they may be progressing along the spectrum toward violent activity, we’d like to hear from you.”
If you do reach out to the FBI, it can be done anonymously. The FBI can conduct limited checks to see if what’s been reported requires a more in-depth investigation. The phone number is (256) 539-1711.