Former FBI agent on what it takes to catch suspected terrorists

A former FBI agent in Houston explains what's involved in catching suspected terrorists.

HOUSTON - A local, former FBI agent says the Houston capture of an alleged homegrown ISIS-inspired would-be terrorist most likely started with a tip from an informant.

Official details surrounding the federal investigation that led to the arrest of Kaan Damlarkaya, 18, on Friday are limited.

The teen is accused of disseminating instructions for how to make bombs to alleged ISIS supporters, pledging to fight for ISIS in Syria and potentially conducting a terrorist attack in the U.S.

Federal prosecutors say undercover FBI agents were able to learn all of this before anything happened.

“What the FBI was then able to do was introduce an undercover operation to control this and stop this act of terrorism before it took place,” said former Houston FBI agent and Global Intel Strategies president Jim Conway.

Conway says agents' jobs are getting tougher as covert-communication technology continues to evolve and change rapidly. He says ISIS propaganda is everywhere thanks to the internet.

“ISIS has an extremely fluid and extremely effective propaganda machine online,” Conway said.  “The case that we saw yesterday, here in Houston, Texas, is clearly indicative of their influence globally, basically through cyberspace methods.”

Conway says teaching both professionals and the general public ways to spot would-be terrorists Is the most effective way to combat the spread of ISIS propaganda, particularly among teens and young adults.

"Targeting young people who are sort of living on the margins and asking them to become a part of this effort," he said. "Many of these are the same people that psychologists would tell you are the same people that would fall into gangs — they’re looking for something to attach themselves to.”

Damlarkaya is expected to appear in court again Thursday. He is charged with unlawfully distributing explosives information and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

© 2018 KHOU-TV


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