Numbers spike with publicity, [the FBI’s John] O’Neill says. An Oprah segment on child predators spurred a flurry of activity. He credits the steady rise this year to growing public interest in news events, such as the upcoming presidential election and the Olympics.
“When you have two candidates talking about terrorism, then you have the public thinking about terrorism again,” he says.
Terrorist attacks elsewhere, such as the London subway bombing, also generate more tips, says Martin Ficke, a retired special-agent-in-charge for Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New York City.
The 9/11 Commission found that intelligence and law enforcement agencies did not connect the dots that would have linked the terrorists to one another and to the hijacking plot, Ficke says.
“The government wants that little piece of information. When in doubt, call it in,” he says. “It may be the one piece of the puzzle that the investigator needs.”