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FBI checking possible terrorist planning in city


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The Times-Union

Federal and local law enforcement officers are investigating two reports about Middle Eastern-looking people taking photos in downtown Jacksonville of high-rise buildings, the Main Street bridge and the Skyway.

Bob Cromwell, local FBI special agent in charge, said Monday he doesn't believe Jacksonville faces an imminent terrorist threat. But Cromwell said such tips are taken seriously because the city has its share of potential targets, including Super Bowl XXXIX in February.

At noon Saturday, an off-duty Jacksonville police officer reported seeing one of three people in a minivan with Georgia license plates videotaping images of the Skyway and tall buildings near North Hogan and West Forsyth streets. The people "looked Arabic," the report said, offering no other detail about them.

Cromwell said the FBI would follow up.

"People who are taking an inventory of the infrastructure of this city, I don't care if they look Mid-Eastern or Irish. If it looks suspicious, we're going to track it down," he said.

Saturday's tip came several weeks after police and the FBI got a report of Middle Eastern-looking men photographing the Main Street bridge in July. That tip is now part of an ongoing investigation, FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Wescott said.

Neither Wescott nor Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokesman Ken Jefferson would offer details.

In Saturday's incident, the person in the minivan's front passenger seat immediately put the camera down when the off-duty police officer pulled alongside the vehicle. The minivan then went north on Hogan Street, a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office report says.

The officer didn't follow the minivan because his family was with him in his personal vehicle. He called in the vehicle's license plate and a description. Police couldn't locate the vehicle again but, based on the plate information, believe the vehicle is registered to a 24-year-old Atlanta man.

The registration also showed the minivan was maroon, while the vehicle the officer saw appeared gray.

The Sheriff's Office also shared a report of the incident with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, seaport security and joint terrorism task force officials in Atlanta.

Tips about suspicious activities regularly flow into the local FBI office, some from police and some from the public, Cromwell said.

Right now FBI resources are focused on preventing any attacks before the presidential election.

"We know al-Qaida would like to commit a terrorist attack in our country before the election. We're doing our darnedest to prevent it," Cromwell said.

bridget.murphyjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4161

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._16758926.shtml.

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I thought the same thing. There are architects with a conceptual installation of downtown developments on exhibit at 11 East for the Oct. 6th art walk. They've been actively taking pictures of downtown for some time. I hope they weren't the ones either.

Better safe than sorry I guess, as it shouldn't take much to prove you were a student or new urbanist.

Why did he not call the on duty officers?

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I shudder at the thought of an attack in Jacksonville.  But it is sad, that because of 9/11, Arab people do many "suspicious" things.  Well, this can mean only one thing:  We are now on an ORANGE terror alert!  :w00t:


It doesn't matter what race they are. if someone is acting suspiciously and taking pictures of the underside of the monorail and upclose images of bridges, it may seem suspicious to the police.

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taking pictures and taping are entirely different things. i think jax's superbowl has created a perfect opportunity for terrorists. in an attack you could destroy a downtown or buildings/alltel stadium. hundreds of thousands of people visting, the cruise ships brought in for the game which would affect traveling, the ports, and itd have an effect on upcoming superbowls. hopefully terrorists havent thought of all that and jacksonville is off their hitlist.

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without the superbowl coming this year, I wouldn't give an article like this a second thought. Ya there's the military presence there, but stil, it's justl Jacksonville. This society of fear has got to stop! Michael Moore did a pretty good job of describing it in his movie. anybody remember the middle eastern kids that blew a toll on Alligator alley a couple of years ago?

My second thought; i hope lakelander doesn't get mistaken for an arab.

My third thought; you can talk all you want about it being "any race", but that's a bunch of malarchy in my opinion. racial profiling is alive and well in this country. if it was some rich white kid, no one would even look twice.

my fourth thought; i'll take pictures of whatever the hell i want if i'm on a public street and that includes close ups of bridges, downtowns, etc.. This is still a free country.

my fifth thought; if it is a terrorist, i hope they get them. i'm not opposed to cops doing their job, but i am opposed to them wasting their time harrassing joe public. i'm also opposed to sensationalistic articles like this.

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I've tried to justify the different aspects of racial profiling, but sometimes I find contradictions. Even though Middle-Eastern extremists were responsible for 9/11, there are plenty of other attacks they didn't do. For instance, the Oklahoma City bombing. I hadn't even heard of Al Queida when that happened. (Mind you, I was in elementary school at that time, lol) But you get my point.

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My third thought; you can talk all you want about it being "any race", but that's a bunch of malarchy in my opinion. racial profiling is alive and well in this country. if it was some rich white kid, no one would even look twice.

But that is profiling in itself. Regardless of the race, I would be suspicious. It doesn't matter who they are. If I saw somebody doing something suspicious like that, I would be aware of the situation, not ignore it.

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