Retiring Boston FBI head says no links seen in terror cases

In this Dec. 15, 2014 file photo, FBI Special Agent in Charge Vincent Lisi, head of the FBI's Boston office, takes questions from reporters during a news conference in Boston. Lisi is retiring Aug. 31, 2015, after 26 years with the FBI and two years at the helm in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

BOSTON (AP) — Vincent Lisi, the special agent in charge of the Boston division of the FBI, is retiring Aug. 31 after 26 years with the FBI and two years at the helm in Boston. He arrived three months after the Boston Marathon bombing, when emotions in Boston were still raw from the terror attack.

Just weeks after a federal jury sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death in the bombing, authorities shot and killed a Boston man, Usaamah Rahim, after he allegedly came at them with a military knife, and arrested two others in an alleged terror plot. A month later, authorities arrested the son of a Boston police captain in a separate terror plot to set off pressure-cooker bombs at a university.

The state has had other terror suspects, too, including Tarek Mehanna, a Sudbury man who was convicted in 2011 of conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaida; and Rezwan Ferdaus, of Ashland, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to planning to blow up the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol using explosives-packed remote-controlled planes.

In an Aug. 4 interview with The Associated Press, Lisi, 51, discussed the string of terror arrests and other topics.

The remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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AP: Massachusetts has had quite a few terrorism cases over the last decade, including the marathon bombing and the recent arrests. Is there something going on that is fostering this kind of activity here?

Lisi: I’ve been getting that question more and more, and I’ve told my people, we need to sit down and figure out — do we have a disproportionate number of cases in this region or not, and if so, why and what can we do? How do we develop a strategy to deal with it? What we’re starting to say is, the new profile is there is no profile. When we look across the country, there are no apparent commonalities, other than the (Islamic State) propaganda campaign.

AP: What is the current threat picture?

Lisi: (The Islamic State group) has a business model that’s been very successful. Their social media campaign and their propaganda is really reaching these troubled people in the U.S. and helping to radicalize them. The biggest challenge we have now — in addition to their successful propaganda campaign — this emergence of encrypted communications they have. …We can’t go to court and say, “here’s the information, can we monitor this person?” It’s encrypted.

AP: What have your priorities been and what will your successor’s priorities be? (The FBI has not said who will replace Lisi).

Lisi: National security threats are a priority for every SAC (special agent in charge). One of my priorities has been working hard to develop effective relationships with everybody (including financial services companies, defense contractors, and the 240 colleges and universities in the region). Some of (the tarnishing effects of the corrupt relationship between ex-Agent John Connolly and convicted gangster James “Whitey” Bulger) still lingers and we need to work on that.

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