The War on Terror: How the 9/11 attacks changed FBI

FBI’s investigation into 9/11 is its largest on record

With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 attacks comes renewed concern -- could another terrorist attack happen here?

DETROIT – With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 attacks comes renewed concern -- could another terrorist attack happen here?

The FBI’s investigation into the attacks is its biggest on record and led to changes in the agency. The Detroit FBI office shares with Local 4 Defenders Karen Drew the lessons learned and how it combats the terror threats at home and abroad.

“We’re watching the events on the ground there carefully,” said Timothy Waters, FBI special agent in charge in Detroit.

The now Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is just one of the places the FBI said it is watching.

Read: Sept. 11 attacks changed how healthcare providers prepare for and respond to emergencies

“We’re focused on international terrorism but there’s also a focus here for us on domestic terrorism, which is seen a rise recently in the last two or three years,” Waters said.

Waters credits the creation of joint terrorism task forces across the U.S. for identifying and spotting threats, like Muse Muse, of Lansing, who was sentenced this summer to six and a half years in prison for conspiring to give support to terrorist group ISIS.

Watch: Oakland County sheriff remembers how he, others helped in the hours after 9/11 attacks

The FBI has more than 200 joint terrorism task forces. It was a direct change because of 9/11.

“That is the mechanism that has allowed us to form those partnerships and bridges to our federal, state and local partners throughout the United States,” Waters said.

“(Sept. 11) was obviously a watershed moment for the organization. I mean for us ... we realized that we had have we had to change,” he added. “We as a government did not do the best job when it comes to sharing intelligence and really across agencies. The 9/11 report obviously went into great detail about that and I think agencies across the intelligence community, but also law enforcement agencies have gotten infinitely better at sharing.”

Read: Forensic dentist from Metro Detroit looks back on her role at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 attacks

The speed at which terrorist groups communicate today is a cause for concern for the FBI.

“Individuals that would take months or years to radicalize, now radicalize sometimes in a period of weeks or just a month or two. So for us, there’s a real sense of urgency when we open these investigations on individuals, especially those in communication with people overseas just because they were concerned that their ability to go from thinking about an idea to executing an idea, that window has shortened dramatically,” Waters said.

The FBI said said in about 80% of cases, someone is aware of changes in behavior of an individual about to carry out a violent attack. But only 40% of time do people report that suspicious behavior.

About the Author:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.