Written by Noel Jones.
When it comes to securing our homeland, Joint Terrorism Task Forces are on the front line. These FBI-led task forces chase down leads, collect and share intelligence and respond to threats all for one purpose – protect and defend America from terrorist attacks.
Each of the 103 task forces around the country are a partnership between various U.S. law enforcement agencies – local, state and federal – whose main mission is combating terrorism within the United States. These multi-agency task forces are made up of highly trained, locally based and passionately committed investigators, analysts and other specialists. The task forces enable multiple agencies to pool talents, skills and knowledge from across the law enforcement and intelligence community agencies into a single team to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. By improving interagency cooperation, these task forces enhance the effectiveness of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts.
Out of all of the military service participants operating in Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country, Coast Guard Investigative Service Special Agent Chris Whitaker’s contributions to national security rose to the top.
Whitaker, a member of the Columbia, S.C., division, was recognized by the National Joint Terrorism Task Force as the 2012 Military Task Force Officer of the Year. This award recognizes the top agent from among all military services who participate in the task forces.
“I am humbled by this honor,” said Whitaker. “We work every day, diligently conducting investigations to ensure public safety and defend the Nation from terrorism. It is important and gratifying work, and a great organization to serve.”
Whitaker was assigned to a counterterrorism case in January 2011 involving a U.S. person believed to have contact with other terrorism suspects overseas and a desire to engage in violent jihad against the United States or its allies. Whitaker’s contributions to the ongoing case included the coordination of numerous, complex investigative techniques, including court-authorized surveillance under U.S. national security law. Whitaker credits his background in engineering and nine years working technical protective and investigative issues at the U.S. Secret Service with preparing him to take the lead on this case.
When asked to describe his role at the task force, Whitaker noted due to its small size none of the agents at the Columbia task force are specialists.
“All agents are co-equal, and any of us can be assigned primary agent on any case that comes in whether big or small. This award highlights what I experience every day at the JTTF,” said Whitaker. “Although everyone on the team contributes equally, we are recognized for our individual capabilities; my success is a tribute to the team.”
More than recognition for himself, Whitaker hopes this award shines a spotlight on CGIS and the capabilities of its agents.
“I’m not surprised a CGIS special agent was selected for this prestigious honor,” said Daniel Butler, deputy assistant commandant for intelligence and criminal investigations. “Our breadth of mission, commitment to homeland security, the deep experience of agents assigned to JTTFs around the country and our unique expertise in maritime investigations make us critical partners in the ongoing national effort to disrupt and defeat terrorist plots targeting Americans. Special Agent Whitaker epitomizes that commitment and devotion to duty.”
“I am honored to present this award to Special Agent Chris Whitaker,” said William Callaghan, FBI unit chief for the National Joint Terrorism Task Force. “Investigators from the Coast Guard and other military services deepen the expertise of the JTTFs in which they participate. Through these task forces, we unite agents from a diversity of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. By bringing all of these individuals together, with their varied backgrounds, perspectives, and expertise in criminal investigations, we are able to evaluate every potential terrorist threat from all angles to ensure any leads are addressed comprehensively. This collaborative effort is critical to protecting the American public from terrorist threats.”
CGIS is a member of various Joint Terrorism Task Forces generally located at major ports or maritime-related facilities. These agents serve as maritime liaison agents responsible for coordinating law enforcement operations and intelligence sharing between Coast Guard operational commanders and task force partner agencies. The participation of CGIS special agents in these task forces facilitates the rapid and efficient sharing of intelligence and law enforcement information to Coast Guard operational commanders, decision makers and partner agencies in matters of mutual interest and national security.