Praising their mutual cooperation in charging the suspected mail bomber, Cesar Sayoc, the nation's top law enforcement officials were rightly proud on Friday. As Attorney General Jeff Sessions put it, "Let this be a lesson to anyone, regardless of their political beliefs, that we will bring the full force of law against anyone who attempts to use threats, intimidation, and outright violence to further an agenda."
The power of those words isn't simply proved by this ended threat, but by the fact that it took law enforcement just three days to catch Sayoc. While this speedy resolution was certainly assisted due to none of Sayoc's devices exploding (enabling them to be examined intact by the FBI's Laboratory Services section), this is a stellar investigative success. And absent the boutique capabilities of the FBI, Postal Service, and Secret Service in particular, Sayoc would likely still be at large. And possibly sending out new bombs to innocent citizens.
So how was Sayoc caught?
Many details are yet unclear, but there are some interesting observations to be made.
Notably, the Justice Department says Sayoc had previously made terrorist threats against federal officials. That would suggest Sayoc's name was registered by the Secret Service protective intelligence division, and thus an early target for investigation in light of the anti-Democratic motive in Sayoc's targeting.
The Secret Service invests great time and resources into its intelligence division, and this is a good example of why. But the more important factor here is that this investigation was a textbook example of interagency cooperation. That truth was evidenced most plainly when FBI Director Christopher Wray called out the leading role played by the bureau-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces in catching Sayoc. Those JTTF units formally embed federal, state, and local law enforcement teams, and thus facilitate information flows and personal connections that can break down bureaucratic walls.
Sessions and his team have a right to be very proud. No other nation can bring together the skill and lawful, scaled capability that we've seen in this investigation. Their work most often goes unseen, and it must always be held accountable to oversight checks, but on days like today, we're reminded why we're lucky.