FBI in Salt Lake City discusses the expanding reach of terrorism

Posted at 9:53 PM, Jul 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-17 23:53:24-04

SALT LAKE CITY – The director of the Salt Lake City field office for the FBI says while other areas may seem a more likely target for terrorists, everyone needs to be on the alert.

“There used to be a narrative that, jeez, if I don’t live on the West Coast or the East Coast, I’m going to be immune from this,” Eric Barnhart said. “ISIL has changed that narrative.”

Barnhart is the director of the Salt Lake City field office for the FBI. He said recruiting an extremist can be just a click away.

“An ISIL recruiter can get on social media and interact with somebody anywhere around the world,” he said.

From an initial social media exchange, a potential extremist can then go dark, entering encrypted chat rooms where the FBI can’t follow. And these ISIL operatives aren’t recruiting for a distant fight overseas.

“Their message is if you can't make it over here to fight, if you can't join us in the caliphate, so called: kill where you’re at,” Barnhart said.

Local investigations are not all related to large terror organizations, some are tied to local issues.

“In this field office we do have active investigations in our [Area of Responsibility], of what we term homegrown violent extremists,” Barnhart said.

The FBI continues to investigate Utah militiaman William Keebler, who is accused of plotting to blow up a BLM structure.

And Utah’s own success may be breeding more targets for another kind of attack: Cyber terrorism.

“Part of what makes Utah wonderful to live in is also attracting a lot of startups, high-tech businesses,” Barnhart said. “You don’t have to go very far away from this building or down the freeway to see a lot of great businesses pop up, those are targets.”

The Salt Lake City field office covers one of the largest geographic areas in the country, including Utah, Idaho and Montana.