Andrew Bland was unpacking boxes last month as the new head of Houston’s FBI office when the news broke: a foiled car bomb plot in London, then another scuttled the next day in Glasgow, Scotland.

“My first reaction was ‘See?'” he said.

He had the urge to fire off an e-mail to his new colleagues.

“This is precisely the kind of situation that we could potentially find ourselves in if we don’t continue to be very vigilant and very diligent about our responsibilities.”

Bland was having one of his passionate fits about terrorism – what he calls “a case of the ‘for reals’.”

Fresh from leading the agency’s largest overseas operation in Baghdad, Iraq, he intends to instill a secondhand sense of urgency in Houston about the “for real” terrorism that he experienced.

“We have to use every tool in our tool box to ensure that we don’t have a sense of complacency. Just because we have certain cases and we may have some intelligence and maybe informants – and everything looks hunky-dory in terms of numbers and stats – that does not truly tell us we’re on point,” he said. “That we haven’t seen the situations in London and Scotland take place is in some small way an indicator of the tremendous work that’s happening deep into the night, when everyone else is sleeping, by members of the FBI partnering with everyone else.” . . .

Shariq Abdul Ghani, who directs the Houston office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he hopes the communication between the FBI and Houston’s Muslim and Arab communities continue.

“One of the governmental organizations our community fears the most is the FBI,” Ghani said. “If people feel they can have a relationship with the agency, I believe people are more likely to report tips and be more cooperative.”

Bland insists that the FBI does not engage in racial or religious profiling. He said Houston’s agents reflect the diversity of the region’s communities, skin colors and languages.

“The onus is on us,” Bland said. “We need to totally eradicate any of those concerns they might have about the FBI.”


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