According to the United States government, just about every single thing one can do is an indicator of terrorism. Everything from complaining about bias and believing in government conspiracies to ordinary bodily movements to bumper stickers to traveling long distances can be considered an indicator of terrorist activity.
That list can be expanded even further thanks to a joint Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bulletin dated July 26, 2010 (PDF courtesy of Public Intelligence).
According to the bulletin, there are a wide range of activities and behaviors that can be construed to be an indicator of terrorist activity, many of which are completely innocuous.
Most of the supposedly suspicious behaviors surround privacy, such as “Not providing professional or personal details on hotel registrations—such as place of employment, contact information, or place of residence.”
According to the FBI and DHS, “Refusal of housekeeping services for extended periods” is suspicious, along with “extended stays with little baggage or unpacked luggage.”
In other words, if you’d rather not run the risk of having your personal belongings rifled through by housekeeping staff or if you travel light, you just might be a terrorist.
“Non-VIPs who request that their presence at a hotel not be divulged,” are also apparently suspicious, although one must wonder who makes the decision about who is a VIP and non-VIP.
Some of the points clearly involve a great deal of assumptions on the part of the observer.
“Using payphones for outgoing calls or making front desk requests in person to avoid using the room telephone,” is apparently suspicious as well, although it is unclear how someone working at a hotel would know why exactly someone chooses to make calls on one phone instead of another.
On that same note, “Interest in using Internet cafes, despite hotel Internet availability,” is seen as suspicious. This completely ignores the fact that some people might not actually have a computer with them on vacation, thus requiring the hardware provided at an Internet café.
Apparently, choosing not to lug one’s computer around on vacation is a sign of “possible terrorist behaviors at hotels,” an assertion which is patently absurd.
Also suspicious, according to the FBI and DHS, is the “use of cash for large transactions or a credit card in someone else’s name.” This means that if you choose to use cash whenever possible, as many people do, you just might be a terrorist. On the other hand, if you use your spouse’s credit card to pay for your room, you also might be a terrorist.
“Requests for specific rooms, floors, or other locations in the hotel” is also seen as suspicious since apparently requesting to have a room that doesn’t overlook a parking lot means you might be a terrorist.
The FBI and DHS also seem to believe that using a travel agent could mean you’re a terrorist since “use of a third party to register” is listed as a potential indicator of terrorist activity.
Among other absurd indicators is, “Abandoning a room and leaving behind clothing, toiletries, or other items,” or in other words, forgetting something in your room.
That being said, some of the listed indicators could indeed be seen as suspicious, such as, “Unusual interest in hotel staff operating procedures, shift changes, closed-circuit TV systems, fire alarms, and security systems.”
Yet the sad reality is that the vast majority of the supposedly suspicious activities can hardly be characterized as such by any thinking person.
The truly suspicious activities are far outweighed by the completely laughable potential indicators listed in bulletins such as these, which is in no way constructive and just serves to create an irrational culture of paranoia.
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