PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — FBI Director James Comey admitted to Eyewitness News last month that his agency was investigating homegrown, violent extremists in all 50 states.
That became evident yesterday when a man under surveillance was killed by police in Boston, and we soon learned the investigation stretched into Rhode Island.
A neighborhood in the Governor Francis Farms section of Warwick is back open Wednesday night after it was closed off for nearly 30 hours. Members of the FBI and Rhode Island State Police were at a home on Aspinet Drive, conducting court-authorized activity as part of an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation.
Peter Margulies, a national security law professor at Roger Williams University, said it’s not surprising a terrorism investigation extends to Rhode Island, given how close Boston is.
“It’s disturbing,” he said. “We tend to think of Rhode Island as a very gentle and friendly state, but we know there have been terrible events just an hour north of here, in Boston. Look at the marathon bombing, of course.”
Margulies said anti-terrorism agents are fighting a never-ending battle. Even if they foil one plot, there maybe other plots in progress as well.
“We know terrorist groups don’t just have one plan,” he said. “They have a set of plans, and they need only to succeed once. That’s the challenge for law enforcement.”
In the Boston case, law enforcement was tipped off that there was a plot to attack police officers through recorded phone conversations between Usaamah Rahim and alleged co-conspirator David Wright. The plot was never carried out, and Rahim was killed in Boston after being shot three times during a confrontation with police.
Investigators said Rahim lunged at them with a military-style knife, and they opened fire when he refused to drop the weapon.
“Of course, everyone in the public has to be vigilant about terrorism and acts of lawbreaking,” Margulies added. “That’s the reality we live with after September 11.”
Margulies believes police made the appropriate response by opening fire to defend themselves.
Police have not released the identity of the subject of their Warwick investigation, or specifically why he’s being targeted.