Knoxville’s FBI agents reflect on recent terrorism attacks

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Terrorism is on the minds of Americans this week in light of the stabbing rampage at a Minnesota mall and bomb blasts in New York City and New Jersey.

A Knoxville FBI agent on the Joint Terrorism Task Force said Tuesday acts of terrorism are rare, but attacks like in NYC, New Jersey and in Minnesota can happen anywhere in the world, even in East Tennessee.

At Knoxville’s FBI headquarters, agents say terrorism is changing. Violence is much different than it was 15 to 20 years ago.

“Their desire was to have a major impact, airlines, major cause of loss of life, and anything less than that would’ve been unacceptable,” said William Petoskey, Supervisory Special Agent on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

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Destruction on a smaller scale that hurts, kills and scares Americans has been more common lately.

“That’s considered a success in their eyes,” added Agent Petoskey.

There’s also now the threat of homegrown terrorists, like the attack in Chattanooga.

“We try to study as best we can the radicalization process,” said Agent Petoskey.

Because of all this, the FBI wants to remind people to always be mindful of our surroundings.

Related story: Knoxville police explain importance of reporting suspicious activity

“If you’re at a sporting event, a special event, anywhere else and you see something, please don’t hesitate to call. And it’s not something that’s looked down upon,” said Agent Petoskey.

Trust your instincts because courage like that is what investigators saw in New York.

“The FBI gets thousands of tips every year on different situations that don’t look right,” said Agent Petoskey.

So many families saying they simply can’t live life in fear.

“Why do people have to hate? Because you’re only here for such a short time,” said resident Connie Hatfield.

FBI agents say it’s just as important for families and friends to have that same courage, and speak with investigators if they notice someone close to them is researching radical groups, their violence, or showing signs that don’t seem right.

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