EXCLUSIVE: Inside Bay Area counter-terrorism program

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The man who heads the FBI's counter-terrorism program in the Bay Area is talking to the ABC7 I-Team, and showing what's being done to keep you safe. It's an interview you'll see only on 7 and so important after this past weekend's attacks in New York and Minnesota.

"I can't talk about the work that I do on a daily basis, even with my own family," said FBI assistant special agent in charge Craig Fair.

The I-Team's Dan Noyes began researching the story in July after a source leaked a law enforcement bulletin about a potential terrorist threat in the Bay Area. We wondered, how many threats like this come in each year? And how many of them turn out to be real?

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You saw what happened this weekend: The pressure cooker bomb in New York City that injured 29 people; the pipe bomb in New Jersey at a Marine Corps charity run; And the knife attack at a Minnesota mall that injured nine people.

St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson said, "There was at least one victim who was asked if they were Muslim."

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And you wonder, could it happen here? After all, ISIS put out a video in June, naming the Golden Gate Bridge and Financial District as possible targets.

"There is always a heightened sense when something like that is pushed out on popular media," Fair said.

To get answers, the I-Team went to the San Francisco Federal Building where the FBI granted us exclusive access to their counter-terrorism program, and to the assistant special agent in charge.

Noyes: "What keeps you up at night? Is there some scenario that just sticks with you?"
Fair: "Certainly, the one thing that concerns me the most is this new face of terror and how difficult it is to detect a single individual acting on his own."

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Case in point, Matthew Llaneza, who is now serving 15 years in prison. The FBI provided infrared video of his night-time arrest after he tried to set off a car bomb at an Oakland bank in support of the Taliban. He got the explosives from an undercover FBI agent, who made sure they wouldn't work.

Fair says, more common are the "aspirants," such as Islam Said Natsheh, who tried to fly out of SFO to join ISIS. He pleaded guilty in July to "material support of a designated foreign terrorist organization" and awaits sentencing.

Technology is helping terrorist groups find supporters in the Bay Area.

"They can reach direct on your phone, through encrypted technology, 24-7," said Fair.

He gave us a tour of the FBI facilities, including Counter-Terrorism One (no cameras allowed). Here, they process 1,000 threats each year. Most turn out to be dead ends.

"And those range from poison pen letters," Fair said. "All the way to information that we receive from overseas that suggests that we may have some nefarious actor with intent here in the Bay Area," he said.

Agents work those leads with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, comprised of state and local law enforcement. Many key JTTF members operate from the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF.

And when a threat becomes imminent, the FBI fires up the emergency operations center. Fair arranged a demonstration.

He said, "During 9/11, thousands of calls came into this exact room." He showed us the workflow, how information comes to the intake center, how it's assessed by analysts, and dispatched to FBI agents, or other law enforcement through crisis management coordinators.

The FBI tells the I-Team there is no Bay Area connection to last weekend's attacks, no imminent threat here, but plenty of reason to be on alert.

Fair: "The message coming out from foreign terrorist organizations now is certainly softer targets by any means."
Noyes: "At a café, someone in a church."
Fair: "That's exactly right."

Fair tells the I-Team San Francisco is like any other European city, with a soft target on every street corner. That's why we all have to do our part, see something, say something.
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