By Jennifer Mayerle


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new special agent in charge of the FBI took over the Minneapolis division in April.

Jill Sanborn is a FBI veteran with extensive experience in counterterrorism. She most recently oversaw all overseas counterterrorism investigations. Sanborn also led the team investigating the San Bernardino attack in 2015.

Right now, it is homegrown violent extremists that she calls the biggest threat to the nation, and here in Minnesota.

Surveillance video captured a man stabbing people at Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud in 2016, an act investigated by the FBI as terrorism. Minnesota has been home to federal trials of young men charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. And more recently, a student who set fires at St. Catherine University was charged with trying to join Al-Qaeda.

FBI Special Agent Jill Sanborn (credit: CBS)

“Today the biggest threat is the ability for those organizations to come into our home with social media, recruit, radicalize and mobilize somebody inside their home,” Sanborn said.

She said that makes it more challenging to identify who may be on that path.

“Everything they need to do to conduct an attack can be done in their home, and so the ability to have a tripwire or something that rises to our level that gives us an indication that somebody is about ready to mobilize probably isn’t going to be there,” Sanborn said.

Because of that, she knows it is up to the community to help identify behavioral differences in the people surrounding them.

“If they’re spending a lot of time online, what are they looking at? Are they looking at extremist websites? Are they looking at beheading videos? Are they looking at Anwar al-Awlaki videos?” Sanborn said. “More than ever, we need to do this together. We can’t look for those indicators inside somebody’s home without the community. We need the community to be aware of what those indicators are, and to look for them and report them.”

Sanborn places importance on partnerships with the community and other law enforcement agencies — something she says the Minneapolis division does well. The three things most important to her are trust-building transparency, collaboration and communication.

Jennifer Mayerle

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