Chicago FBI division says authorities are prepared against potential threats amid war on terror

Meet Chicago FBI's new special agent in charge

ByChuck Goudie and Ross Weidner, Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel WLS logo
Saturday, January 28, 2023
Chicago FBI division says authorities are prepared against potential threats amid war on terror
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The special agent in charge of Chicago's FBI division said there are "enduring" terror threats but authorities are prepared for any potential attack.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Federal investigators knew well before 9/11 that Chicago was on Al Qaeda's hit list that fateful day. Afterward, SEAL Team raids on caves in Afghanistan turned up terrorist papers that had Chicago as a 9/11 target.

Now, the newly installed special agent in charge of Chicago's FBI division told the I-Team there are "enduring" terror threats in the city to this day but authorities are prepared with security safeguards against a potential attack.

Robert "Wes" Wheeler Jr. may be from Georgia, but he knows the importance of this Chicago office he now runs in the war on terror.

"There's a lot to worry about and the enduring threats from terrorism," said Wheeler.

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He's also aware of the legacy of lawmen and women who precede him.

For three decades, federal law enforcement officials have tracked the penetration of foreign terror groups and operatives into Chicago, including fundraising and recruiting, training and targeting Chicago landmarks.

As the I-Team first reported in 2010, Al Qaeda made Chicago the backdrop for its new Jihad holy war against America.

Even with the passage of time, Wheeler said the foreign terror threat to Chicago has not diminished.

"I'm looking to gain efficiencies. I'm looking to synchronize resources with our partners. We're looking to innovate but Americans -- Chicagoans -- should be confident that we're in a good place to address what we need to," he said.

Whether a well-engineered plot from a foreign national or violence by your neighbor down the street inspired by radical ideology, Wheeler said the FBI has to try to head off a 9/11 style attack, the lone-wolf radical and increasing concerns about mass shooters, regardless of agenda.

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"What makes it difficult is that you could have a circumstance where almost as much or worse damage is inflicted by just a lone offender. Someone who is extremely hard to know about or address beforehand."

In the middle of these enduring terrorist threats, Wheeler said part of his new position at the FBI is to work with CPD on problems that terrorize Chicagoans every day and night: neighborhood gun violence tied to street gangs and drug trafficking.