The curved daggers in ornate sheaths displayed atop Michael B. Steinbach's North Miami Beach office credenza reflect his experience as an FBI counterterrorism expert who has worked in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Israel.
And as of Jan. 30, Steinbach, 46, began leading the bureau's 800-employee Miami Division, which spans nine counties from Key West to Fort Pierce, and has responsibilities in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Though it's going on 12 years since Sept. 11, when some of the terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania received pilot training in South Florida, such threats are still on his mind.
"The homegrown, violent extremist [who may be] in South Florida is my No. 1 priority," Steinbach said Monday. "The good news is we pushed down core Al Qaeda through arrests and captures and killings. The bad news is now they've spread out to Yemen and North Africa, Syria. It's more diffuse groups, with the same goal."
While he said there is "no indication" this region has any more suspects than any other area of the country, he's interested in "affiliates" who may hold U.S. passports but travel overseas for small arms training, munitions and explosives, who could then return to America to cause mayhem.
Some of the Miami division's other priorities:
Income tax refund fraud: "Unfortunately, like healthcare fraud, Miami is leading the country. We have a transient society that is a gateway to Latin America and 20 percent of the population is 65 or older. International banking makes it one of the richest cities in the world. The money is here, so with these schemes and a vulnerable population set, it makes all of South Florida more vulnerable."
About the offenders, he said, "These are former drug dealers who've found out that there is more money to be made, there is less risk and initially, sentences are lower. Stealing IDs and Social Security numbers to steal returns turned out to be very lucrative for these smaller, not even sophisticated groups. They're not in white collars and ties."
Child pornography: "Child victims are the most vulnerable, and there are a lot of opportunities to abuse kids, whether in person or on the Internet. All of my cyber resources could be spent on crimes against children."
Cuba: "We keep our eye on Cuba for a number of different reasons. With the population of South Florida, there is a criminal and counterintelligence vulnerability. We remain watchful because we're so close. We're concerned about China's relationship with Cuba."
Spying: "If a nation-state wants to spy on us, they can do it from afar with a computer. Acquiring our technologies, whether from the Department of Defense or proprietary, like corporate [trade secrets], the ability for others to steal what they can't invent affects our economy and takes away our competitive advantage. You can make an argument that it's a national security problem for us."
Drug cartels: "The DEA, that's their bailiwick. If traffickers are involved in money laundering and human trafficking, we'll look toward those pieces and identify the organizational structure and how they'll influence South Florida. The trade routes are well established for drugs and aliens and if they're being used for terrorists, it's a vulnerability for us."
Public corruption: "[The job is] absolutely not [done] and remains a high priority. We have two full squads in Dade and Broward and are working with local [law enforcement] partners. The FBI will never be able to walk away from it."
Gangs: "We were focused on Miami and are moving to Broward. It's neighborhood-based. Their primary means of revenue is cocaine, half of it rock cocaine. We'll identify where they're selling and are working with local police, including Fort Lauderdale and [the Broward Sheriff's Office] and the Palm Beach County Sheriff. Caribbean and Mexican criminals are dealing in human trafficking, heroin and marijuana, and there are transnational Eastern European groups. South Florida's population is diverse, and that is reflected in its criminal groups, too."
Mortgage fraud: "It's a problem, but not as bad as securities fraud."
Latin America: "There are two squads of agents working on ransom-based kidnappings of U.S. citizens."
Despite the crime challenges here, Steinbach has altered his previous perception of South Florida's criminal culture.
"When I got here, I was expecting 'Miami Vice,'" Steinbach said of the cops-and-cocaine-cowboys TV show from the 1980s. "It doesn't ring true."
In September 2014, the FBI will increase its Broward County presence when it moves from North Miami Beach to a new building in Miramar along Interstate 75, just south of the Pembroke Gardens mall.
Ltrischitta@Tribune.com, 954-356-4233 or Twitter @LindaTrischitta