The FBI strategy that combats home grown extremists

FOX 32 NEWS - They’re called home grown extremists: individuals who take up an enemy's cause, working right out of their homes without organized cells or directions from abroad.

“This is the point where they start to consume material,” said FBI Agent Daniel William.

It's a roadmap to the mind of a potential terrorist. William has spent almost two decades in Chicago as a counterterrorism expert. In his first television interview, William illustrated how homegrown extremists typically start by gathering information from the internet and other sources. It's the stage when the FBI might have them on its radar, but only for so long.

“If we come to a point where they're just talking, consuming, you know, not acting upon what they're reading on, we would probably at that point interview them, and make an assessment that these people are consuming, and we have to move on to look for other threats,” William said.

But sometimes, that “consumption" on the left side of the spectrum, over time, turns into "mobilization."

“This part here is what we call the mobilization aspect. Consumption turns to action, where they start to plot their idea. It can be act of violence, travel, or other support,” William said.

It's at that stage where William says investigators learned about the plans of Jonas and Hasan Edmonds, two cousins from Aurora.  Jonas was planning an armed assault on the National Guard Armory in Joliet. Hasan was heading for Egypt to join ISIS. An undercover operative for the FBI recorded them discussing the attack on the armory.

“This was a unique case because these two individuals were truly dedicated to committing their acts of violence. And because they were so dedicated in their belief, it was unusual because there was no wavering, they were going to commit that act of violence,” William said.

The two cousins eventually pleaded guilty. Jonas got 21 years in prison and Hassan got 30.

William says choosing the exact point at when to intervene is rarely easy, based on the FBI's overall goal of stopping acts of violence before they happen.

According to court records, an undercover FBI agent originally reached out to Hasan Edmonds with a friend request on Facebook, which led to further FBI involvement.