Editor's note: This article was originally published Sept. 11, 2011.
Six years after the 9/11 attacks, Officer Chris Sosenko, a 21-year veteran with the Redondo Beach Police Department, applied for and was accepted into a Los Angeles-area FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Before the attacks, the FBI had 35 local Joint Terrorism Task Forces; after 9/11, 71 more task forces were formed, including the one Sosenko joined. There is now at least one task force headquartered in every FBI field office in the United States.
The task forces "provide one-stop shopping for information regarding terrorist attacks," according to the FBI's website. Members come from law-enforcement agencies across the country, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Transportation Security Administration.
As part of his new assignment with the FBI, Sosenko investigated local cases with possible ties to terrorism.
Though he did not investigate any terrorist cells in the South Bay, "there's a lot of financial backing here," especially for [militant Mideast political parties] Hezbollah and Hamas, Sosenko told Patch in an interview.
"I think [residents would] be very surprised at how much money is sent back [to the Middle East] from America," he added.
But looking into financial crimes was only one part of the job. After he had been with the task force for about six months, Sosenko was selected to represent the FBI at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for a two-month rotation.
"[It was] a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I decided to jump on it," he said. Fortunately, he said, his wife was "very supportive."
The weather was "unbearably hot and humid" from July through September of 2008, and by that time, the detainees had been at the base for awhile, he said.
As part of his assignment in Cuba, Sosenko conducted yearly reviews of detainees. He also assisted FBI field offices in the United States—when an investigative lead pointed to a Guantanamo detainee, Sosenko would interview the detainee about that particular investigation.
He said he learned "the importance of vigilance" when he spoke with the detainees, some of whom had anti-Western views. It was interesting to talk to them about world affairs and to see how they were "influenced by where they grew up and who was teaching them," he said.
After he logged 2 1/2 years on the task force, budget cuts forced the Redondo Beach Police Department to pull Sosenko back to active duty as a patrol officer.
He's not too disappointed, though. Patrol officers can see things on calls that "might get the wheels turning in their heads," he said.
In a recent incident, someone left a series of notes at the South Bay Galleria that raised alarm bells, Sosenko said. After an investigation, the writer turned out to be a "mentally unstable" person—not a member of a terrorist cell.
Still, "you never know," Sosenko said, noting that people should remain vigilant and proactive. "Unfortunately, people are reactionary by nature."
The officer stressed the importance of vigilance multiple times during his interview with Patch.
"The country's gotten complacent because there hasn't been a successful attack in almost 10 years," he said.
Sosenko still maintains ties with the FBI's task force—he tries to visit the field office at least once a month to see if there's anything going on in the South Bay.
"I had a great time" with the task force, he told Patch. "Hope I get to go back."