MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The new head of the FBI in Minneapolis said Tuesday that health care fraud and counterterrorism will be his top priorities as he takes over an office that he says has been presented with a “unique counterterrorism threat.”

Donald Oswald was appointed special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division earlier this month. In an interview with The Associated Press, he addressed issues including the ongoing investigation into the recruitment and travels of young Somali men who left Minnesota to possibly fight with a terrorist group in their homeland.

The Minneapolis office of the FBI has been the center of that investigation for the last few years.

“Obviously there is a unique counterterrorism threat presented in this division. That will always be the division’s priority,” he said. He added that the travelers’ case is: “like a big spider with a lot of legs, and there are a lot of moving parts. There’s a prosecution that we are preparing for, and it keeps us active. But it keeps everything ongoing at the same time.”

In recent years, roughly 20 young Somali men left Minnesota to possibly support the al-Shabab in Somalia. When asked Tuesday if more men might be leaving, Oswald said: “We have concern that there are others that are thinking about it, and those are the cases that we need to stay on top of.”

He said many counterterrorism investigations are classified so he can’t give details. He didn’t discuss specific threats or investigations in Minneapolis, and said he’s still learning about the situation in the area.

Oswald, 52, hadn’t been to Minnesota before taking his new role as special agent in charge, a job he called the “pinnacle of an agent’s career.” He’ll oversee the agency’s operations in Minnesota as well as the Dakotas.

A native of New Jersey, Oswald joined in the FBI in 1992 and started working to solve bank robberies in Los Angeles. He also investigated public corruption in New York, then put his law degree to use as a lawyer for the bureau.

He spent time at FBI headquarters, and in 2003 went to Miami where he supervised the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force. Two years later he became assistant special agent in charge of the Miami Division’s Field Intelligence Group, which included surveillance operations. He most recently served as chief inspector at the Office of Inspections.

In Minneapolis, he’s taking over for Ralph Boelter, who left earlier this year to become the deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. Boelter was at the helm when the travels of young Somali men first came to light, and as he managed the investigation in Minneapolis he became well known for his outreach efforts into the Somali community.

Oswald said those efforts will continue.

“I suspect because of the tremendous Somali population that is in our area that we will have plenty to stay on top of,” Oswald said. “That’s why outreach is so crucial to our goal here. It’s knowing, being trusted by the community, that helps us actually endeavor to stay on top of the threat that’s out there for us.”

Oswald hasn’t met with members of the Somali community yet — though he’s done outreach with the Citizens’ Academy and has been meeting with several local and federal law partners. He said within the next month, he’ll attend both a conference of Somali leaders and a youth conference to educate them about the FBI.

He also plans to put a greater focus on health care fraud investigations, with hopes of doubling the number of agents dedicated to investigating those matters, likely by transferring people to new positions.

In the Dakotas, he said, fighting crime on Indian reservations will be a priority, and with limited FBI resources, he’ll work on building task forces with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to get the job done.

Overall, he said, he’s taking over an office that’s running well. While he’ll probably tweak things as he goes along, he said right now he’s sitting back and taking it all in.

“Believe me, every day is like drinking water from a fire hose, and learning the job, learning the area, learning the people — it’s very exhilarating and exciting,” he said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (12)
  1. Tarek ibn Ziyad says:

    The great Satan struggles mightily to silence the word of the Prophet (PBUH).

    1. Paul says:

      Your nothing but a name caller with a superiority complex who thinks you can bully anybody who doesn’t agree with your extremist view point. There are always bullies in the sandbox, and what comes around goes around. You’ll slap some people down, but you will get slapped yourself. In the end, people just want to raise families, no matter what part of the earth you are from.


  2. jeff says:

    the great satan struggles mightily to terrorize a plethora of countries and bully them into having their way………

  3. M. E.H. says:

    One great thing about our country is that if you don’t like it here, you can always leave.

  4. Ed Hoover says:

    I saw fraud and I thought he may have meant the financial sector and their criminal take down of the world’s economy. HAHA! I guess they have bigger problems. The FBI is a joke. Even our U.S. senators don’t buy into their anthrax story. Richard Jewell did it! I mean- wait- it was- it was a one armed man!

  5. Lou Freeh says:

    In reply to the FBI fella’s comment ““Believe me, every day is like drinking water from a fire hose”
    Imagine that fire hose going in the other end. Then maybe you’ll see this country from the citizen’s point of view.

  6. jon says:

    Terrorism is overplayed big time…

    1. Salam E Sandi says:

      Agreed. We’d save more lives every year simply improving our highways and car designs with the trillions we’ve wasted in anti terrorist wars. I think people are catching on though. Glimmers of hope.

  7. Concerned Taxpayer says:

    If they want to return to their own country, who are we to stop them?

  8. Rom says:

    Let those somali one way ticket worry free you can get out but not in why worry about them i thought fbi more importand thing to do if they want leave the country let them go now we have spend more tax money thank to congress who let them in the country now more worry and never know could end up some life later

  9. MeMa says:

    Why don’t you work on something that matters, like jobs, our corrupt government and wall street, etc. Let them go back to Somolia and keep them there.