CHICAGO (CBS) — Rarely a day goes by with an atrocity linked to the terror group ISIS and Tuesday was no exception. The Jordanian pilot ISIS tried to trade for its fighters held captive, was executed by fire.
ISIS is also the focus of Chicago’s counter-terrorism community. CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine spoke with those charged with keeping us safe.
Levine reports it’s a job where you can never relax and never let your guard down because the threats are out there, even if you’re not quite sure where to look.
Bob Holley, head of the FBI’s Chicago division, is legendary among FBI agents for his dogged pursuit of terrorists. He now presides over a “fortress within a fortress,” a top secret space for his hundred-strong anti-terrorism group.
“You have to have top secret security clearance to get in and work in there,” he said.
On what he learned from the Paris terror attacks, Holley said, “Those two individuals were on the French radar. They knew of them, so I guess what we learn here is we probably need to go back and look at some individuals that we’ve looked at before to make sure nothing’s changed.”
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy works hand in hand with Holley. McCarthy’s commitment to safeguarding Chicagoans goes back to 9/11.
“I set up the command post that we almost all got killed in, but I also got us out,” McCarthy said.
Asked if he operates under the assumption that Chicago is a likely target for terrorists, McCarthy said yes.
“It could be a sporting event, it could be a building, it could be a location that a lot of people frequent,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy says he is concerned by, “The lone wolf, right now, based on intelligence we have now… there’s ISIS, Al Qaeda encouraging people to go out and do their personal jihad.”
People like the Bolingbrook teenager Mohamad Hamzah Khan whose mother recently made an impassioned plea.
“We have a message for ISIS, Mr. Bagdadi and his fellow social media recruiters, leave our children alone,” said Zarine Khan.
“There are individuals out there that we know, that are young, still live at home, that are enamored with the ISIS message and so if that plea from Hamzah’s mother, reaches another parent, I’m all for that,” Holley said.
Oussama Jammal, represents the Chicago area’s largest Islamic community. He says they believe the ISIS ideology is the, “enemy of Islam.”
The Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview is caught in the middle, between recruiting and revenge. Recent police protection there followed an internet exchange about “an eye for an eye” and “starting with the mosque down the street.” Though two suspects surrendered, were questioned by police and released.
“They really didn’t mean any harm to anybody and were sorry for the problems they caused,” said Bridgeview Police Chief Walter Klimet
For people already struggling, silently, against terrorists who’ve targeted their children, CBS 2 tried to contact the woman who spoke out and others about warning signs, but all declined.
Jammal says, “They fear for their lives,” but their message to their children is limiting those who fall for terrorist social media messages.
Yet three teenaged girls from suburban Denver, allegedly planning to join ISIS, flew from to Frankfurt before authorities stopped them.
“The majority of young people, they know this is unacceptable,” Jammal said.
The challenge is to interrupt the recruiting process before it gets too far. The FBI wants to help.
“I think they’d much rather us get involved when they’re at the low end of the radicalization process where we can interject ourselves and resolve this before an individual breaks the law,” said Holley.
Holley said that had been done, but declined to go into details.
“This is our country by choice,” Jammal said. “We wanted to be in this country and want to make sure it is safe and secure.”
Leaders of the Islamic community are now teaming with other religious leaders in addition to sharing information with local law enforcement. But it’s the recruiting of Americans by ISIS and others which really threatens to expand their reign of terror from Syria and Iraq to the West, even to Chicago.