After overseeing a massive investigation into the homegrown radicalization of young men in Minnesota, the head of the FBI's Minneapolis division is leaving for Washington, D.C. to help manage global terror threats that affect the entire United States.
Ralph Boelter, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Minneapolis office for the past four years, has been named the deputy assistant director for the FBI's counterterrorism division.
"This move presents exciting opportunity for me to be sure, given the continued seriousness and evolving nature of the threat, and counterterrorism's place as the FBI's very highest priority," Boelter wrote in an email Friday to participants in the FBI's citizen's academy. "Still, I have developed a great many friendships and other important relationships here that naturally, will make it difficult to leave."
In 2008, federal agents in Minneapolis began investigating the disappearances of young Somali-American men from the Twin Cities who allegedly traveled to Somalia to join the terrorist group al-Shabaab.
Friends of some of the men say they were motivated by a mix of nationalism and religious extremism.
Boelter quickly stepped up outreach with the local Somali community, making the rounds on Somali TV and radio call-in shows. He also met with teens in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, home to thousands of Somali immigrants, to better understand some of their challenges, ranging from discrimination to poverty.
In a 2009 interview, he said he urged his investigators to tread carefully, so as not to alienate a community already mistrustful of law enforcement.
"You can potentially do more damage than good if you don't calculate your investigation, or calculate your steps carefully," Boelter said at the time. "Just like a surgeon who can do more damage during a surgery than good, we can also do that."
Boelter will remain in his current position for several more weeks. His replacement has yet to be announced.