A day at the range with the FBI - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

A day at the range with the FBI

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Tuesday morning, civilians stood side by side with FBI agents at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office firing range in Fultondale.  The unusual sight came courtesy of FBI Range Day.  The event, hosted by the Birmingham division of the FBI, was an opportunity for citizen's academy graduates, the media and retired agents to come together for a greater understanding of how the agency works.  

The day included a demonstration by some of the division's 17 SWAT team members in which they reacted to a simulated hostage-sniper situation.   Alabama also has five FBI bomb technicians - three in Huntsville, one in Tuscaloosa and two in Birmingham.  These volunteers receive no special pay for the hazards they face.  During their demonstration, they showed several examples of homemade and commercial bombs.

Birmingham Division Chief Richard Schwein, Jr. stressed the importance of each agency member, saying, "the threat continuously changes.  It has in the hundred plus year history of the FBI, and what makes us good is our ability to adapt."

Philip Celestini is the Special Agent in Charge of the Birmingham division's national security branch.  He says that changing threat is being increasingly seen in the cyber world.  According to Celestini, "it facilitates not only criminal activity but also the national security threats, the espionage, theft of trade secrets, theft of intellectual property...and it's also used by terrorists, for both radicalization and recruitment efforts."

Rob Haley, who heads up the criminal branch of the Birmingham FBI division, also sees new challenges ahead.  Speaking of the danger of homegrown extremists, he says, "we're starting to see a lot more people that are not getting their direction from overseas, necessarily.  (They're) deciding on their own... that they're going to take some action."

As the agency prepares to face these challenges, both Celestini and Haley say agents need the public's cooperation.  Whether that means reporting a suspicious package or a suspicious person, they say the FBI follows up on every lead.


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