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Published: Monday, 6/4/2007

Citizens learn about operations first-hand

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Matthew Haschak, left, and other FBI Citizens  Academy members learn how to handle weapons
when the occasion calls for them. He is a Bowling Green State University security worker. Matthew Haschak, left, and other FBI Citizens Academy members learn how to handle weapons when the occasion calls for them. He is a Bowling Green State University security worker.
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Mark Amos was sweaty and his hand shaky after he just shot and killed a man who was holding a baby and suddenly wielded a knife at him in an alley.

"I didn't know what he was going to do. On TV, you can predict," said the 53-year-old West Toledoan. "It felt real. It didn't feel like a game."

The mock scenario - where the man and baby appeared on a screen - got his adrenaline rushing and his mind reverting back to instructions on when to shoot that were given to him earlier by area FBI agents.

The Owens Corning information security manager said he shot targets as a youngster. But he'd never been in this type of situation.

"It's a lot different with people on the other end of it," Mr. Amos said.

That was one of many facets he learned during a five-week crash course offered by members of the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Justice Department.

Twenty-eight people from across the area with various professional backgrounds - ranging from the general manager of Westfield Franklin Park to the owner of a residential construction firm - graduated from the first FBI Citizens' Academy held in Toledo in seven years.

Participants spent about 17 weeknight and weekend hours learning about everything from counterintelligence to hostage situations.

Sprinkled across the after-work sessions at Owens Community College were programs about cyber crimes, international and domestic terrorism, polygraphs, business ethics, white collar and civil rights investigations, public corruption, technology, and organized crime.

On Saturday, participants lifted 40-pound vests worn by FBI SWAT members; handled handguns and submachine guns, and gained tips on what to do if they're in a hostage situation during the final session at the Ohio Air National Guard 180th Fighter Wing.

They dusted for fingerprints and watched Northwest Ohio Bomb Squad members use a water cannon to blow a hole through a cardboard box to deactivate what was supposed to be a bomb.

"Wow," one participant said after checking out the back of the box.

"Holy smokes," said another.

Along the way, they peppered agents with questions ranging from how their job affects their family life to why a shopping mall hasn't been the target of a terrorist attack.

Many of the topics resonated with Toledo cases - the arrest of several Toledo men in an alleged terror plot; the conviction of Tom Noe for illegally funneling money to people for a re-election fund-raiser for President Bush, and the conviction of members of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, including the international president.

There was the case of former Toledo City Councilman Bob McCloskey, who was convicted of accepting bribes from a businessman who wanted assistance from the city on development projects. McCloskey took $5,000 in cash bribes from the businessman as part of an undercover FBI sting.

Among these and other ongoing investigations - which agents didn't discuss - are bank heists and bomb threats, such as one that was on a ferry boat in Port Clinton and another that was on a departing flight at Toledo Express Airport.

Cleveland FBI headquarters oversees nine satellite offices, including the ones in Toledo, Lima, and Sandusky. The 10 offices have about 320 people, of which 185 are special agents, said C. Frank Figliuzzi, special agent in charge of the Cleveland office.

"It is the 18th-largest U.S. [field] office and has higher total statistics [than the other 55 field offices]. It's number one in terrorism-related indictments and number four in total arrests behind New York, Atlanta, and Philadelphia," he said.

Jeff Schrameck, who lives in Toledo and is a lawyer in Michigan, said he enjoyed learning about the FBI, which he said is not just a "phantom organization."

"They put you in touch with what they do and what to look for as citizens," the 33-year-old said.

The University of Toledo law school graduate said he took particular interest in the international terrorism piece and how it plays out domestically.

The presentation about international terrorism - a priority of the agency after 9/11 - included information about Islam, jihad, worldwide terror acts and plots, and mentioned books on the topics.

It also drew criticism from Dr. S. Zaheer Hasan, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.

He disagreed with the presentation and said that one of the authors mentioned was "no authority on Islam and should not be quoted." He said only one point of view was being presented.

"People [could] leave with a negative image of Islam and Muslims," Dr. Hasan said.

The presenting special agent said he appreciated Dr. Hasan's concern.

"Our enemy is al-Qaeda, not Islam," added Scott Smith, supervisory special agent in the Toledo office.

But international terrorists aren't the only people FBI agents said they have to worry about. There are also domestic terrorists. School shooters don't fall into this category, but some white supremacists do. As do some black separatists. As do some animal-rights advocates, eco-terrorists, and anti-abortion rights extremists.

Special Agent Wes Quigley said the Toledo neo-Nazi riot in 2005 brought a "huge surge" in white supremacy members.

While agents didn't give away all their trade secrets, they discussed informants, wiretaps, and how they've installed cameras in all sorts of locations, such as a pinhole in a wooden sign. They said they have to have permission from a judge before using many investigatory tools, such as wiretaps. There were 1,710 wiretaps authorized nationwide - 730 federally and 980 state and locally, Supervisory Agent Dave Carrell said.

Another tool important is a polygraph - as Kaye Patten Wallace found out.

UT's vice president for student affairs volunteered for the test during the academy's third session.

"You've done this before?" Special Agent Mike Bartholomew asked as he attached various monitors to her while she sat in a chair. "No, I haven't," she said with a laugh.

Ms. Patten Wallace wrote down a number between three and eight. She was told to answer honestly every time Mr. Bartholomew asked her if she picked a certain number. She was to lie when he picked her number.

After three rounds of tests, participants analyzed the different colored lines that showed changes in her breathing, pulse, and sweat glands.

The majority said her number was seven.

She handed him a paper with her number.

It was seven.

Contact Christina Hall at:

chall@theblade.com

or 419-724-6007.



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