RALEIGH, NC – Call it a fusion center, an information hub or an anti-terrorism task force. All the descriptions fit North Carolina’s Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAAC) located in Raleigh.
In the wake of a terror attack in San Bernardino, CA that left 14 people dead, and the Paris attacks that left 130 dead, officials at ISAAC work to prevent similar tragedies.
“It can happen in North Carolina, just as easily as it can happen in California,” said Dirk German, Special Agent in Charge for ISAAC, a part of the Special Bureau of Investigation.
Since 2003, 79 fusion centers have been created across the county, including ISAAC, established in 2006. The information sharing centers were jointly created under the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice after the 9-11 terror attacks on the United States.
German explained, “What we found out was prior to 9-11, a lot of the information was out there but the local, state and federal governments were not communicating.”
Detect, prevent, investigate and response to criminal and terrorist activity; the main goals of ISAAC and similar fusion centers.
Some techniques could not be shown or explained because of security reasons, but German told WFMY News 2’s Hope Ford, the center monitors threats locally and abroad in real-time. Over 400 law enforcement officers, comprised of Highway Patrol, State Police, FBI agents and dozens of area police officers and sheriff deputies, are deployed across the state. Tips are fed to ISAAC analysts who run information through databases. If a threat is credible, immediate or emerging, it will be shared with the FBI, DEA, state and/or local fire and police departments.
While the “boots on the ground method” is still pertinent to their investigations, it’s apparent the biggest wave of threats are being tracked online. A report from the George Washington University stated the average recruit is male, 26 years of age and Twitter is the preferred platform to spread terrorists agenda.
“Social media is big now. It’s ISIL and Al Qaeda. They’re using social media to recruit. They are using to it train,” said German. “People are being looked for their allegiance to ISIL and AL Qaeda,”
Just before the San Bernardino shooting, suspect Tashfeen Malik pledged her allegiance to ISIS on Facebook using an alias. Locally, 19-year-old Justin Sullivan of Morganton, NC was arrested for trying to provide material support to the terror group after connecting though social media.
READ: NC Man's Terrorism Case Moves Forward
According to a criminal complaint, an undercover agent learned Sullivan planned to kill U.S. citizens. However, the focus shifted to Sullivan after his father called 911 three times. WCNC reports, during an April phone call Sullivan’s father could be heard saying “I don’t know if it is ISIS or what, but he (Sullivan) is destroying Buddhas and figurines, and stuff.”
Those types of phone calls and red alerts from the community is the number one way to place someone on the screen list for ISAAC.
READ: ISIS Expert: American Terrorist Recruit Fits No Profile
“I know it’s a cliché,” said German, “but, if you see something, say something. What doesn’t look right, probably isn’t.”
German reference reports, of a man working in the area of where San Bernardino shooting suspects Syed Farook and Malik’s lived, who failed to report “suspicious activity.”
“We are here to vet that information out to make sure that it doesn’t fall through the cracks like it did on 9-11,” said German.
ISAAC’s anonymous hotline: 1-888-NC-ISAAC.