He built his career on public corruption cases, taking down criminals in Miami, New Orleans and DC. Now the man running the FBI’s Chicago bureau will tackle the city’s violent crime problem and oversee an area of the city he calls an unpredictable labyrinth. He spoke exclusively with NBC 5 in his first sit-down TV interview in Chicago.
His biggest challenge in his new home city?
“It’s multi-layered,” said Michael Anderson, FBI Special Agent in Charge.
One layer is getting Chicagoans to trust his agents, a feat complicated by a series of Chicago police shootings, including the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, that have come under scrutiny in recent months.
“It is a larger issue which could affect relationships between not just Chicago police department , but all federal law enforcement relationships with the community,” Anderson said, “and that spills over in our ability to investigate violent crimes and gang related activity.”
Another layer? O’Hare International Airport.
“I will say O’Hare Airport is an area that has its own ecosystem,” Anderson said. “It is a city in itself. It’s a labyrinth.”
And at O’Hare, law enforcement often has little or no warning of what’s coming, he said.
“It’s a challenge, and then when you talk about the threat of people traveling to Syria and coming back from Syria, where are they going to come through? They are going to come through O’Hare.”
Homegrown terrorists traveling through O’Hare has already happened – over and over.
“ISIS is the one area where we are most concerned,” he said.
Anderson’s approach is simple: stop them before they hurt anyone.
“If we can identify individuals and potentially intervene, not necessarily await for “kaboom” but intervene at the earliest stage possible to avoid them traveling, to avoid a homeland attack, that is always our goal.”
Surprisingly, it’s not always about making an arrest, he said, at least, when it comes to teens being recruited by ISIS.
“Prevention is our number one priority,” he said. “Disruption and dismantlement is a priority as well.”
Beyond violent crime, cybercrime is becoming more of an issue, including the recent threat of cyber-criminals hacking into personal or company systems and then demanding a ransom.
“Terrorism and foreign counter-intel and white-collar crime and public corruption have a stronger and stronger cyber nexus to it,” he said.