By Katerina Azarova
Do you own flashlights? Or pay with cash instead of a credit card? And do grocery shopping for the week? I do. You probably do – and guess what, according to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, that could make both of us terrorists.
Recently, a Department of Homeland Security video has been making its way around the Internet; it tells people in no mixed terms that “paying cash is suspicious and weird.” In an assertive, yet calm voice, the narrator tells viewers that, “if a patron appears nervous or anxious, or insists on paying cash, contact security personnel. This IS suspicious behavior.”
So basically, if you’ve had a stressful day and don’t have a credit card, you’re done for.
This suggestion, and many others, has been sent out to hotels across the United States as part of the DHS’ ongoing “See something, Say something” program. It even includes an 84-page manual, grandly titled, “Protective Measures Guide for the US Lodging Industry” – which points out that asking for privacy, among other things, is a red flag.
And that’s really what this boils down to: a war on privacy. A potential terrorist, argue the US security agencies, is much easier to track if he uses a credit card. Credit card use provides Big Brother instant access to the buyer’s contact information, purchase history – and, if need be, the ability to cut off his financial supply in an instant.
But the implementation of this idea is a rather grim prospect: instead of using an existing system to aid their efforts, agencies like the DHS and the FBI are effectively taking away the freedom of choice guaranteed in a supposedly free country.
Don’t want to live on credit? Potential terrorist. Nervous? Potential terrorist. Don’t want to be disturbed? Potential terrorist.
And it gets worse. In an FBI pamphlet distributed to military surplus stores, people who “make bulk purchases of items including weatherproofed ammunition or match containers, meals ready to eat or night vision devices including flashlights” should be reported. Because all those things are “potential indicators of terrorist activities.”
Of course, people who, say, want to go camping, can make do without any of the aforementioned items. They can just take their credit cards, march right into the woods and make do that way. Or better yet, take the card, leave the woods and check into a hotel – smiling all the way, never locking the door and burning the “do not disturb” sign immediately upon arrival.
The helpful Bureau booklet also mentions “purchasing bipods or tripods for rifles” as dangerous. Not the rifles themselves – what’s a lethal weapon between friends, right? No, in a country where almost anyone anywhere can buy firearms, people only worry when you buy a tripod for it.
And the absurdity doesn’t end there. The agencies are going out of their way to instill fear into whoever they can, convincing them to report anything they deem suspicious. Of course, that includes sending a text message discreetly if you’re in public. An unsuspicious, law-abiding citizen would obviously have to read his private messages or broadcast his phone calls out loud to be considered above-board. If he’s whispering into his handset, however, the DHS is relying on its “citizen spies” to pounce and denounce the poor guy.
Right-wing political tendencies can also land you in trouble. Vice President Joe Biden recently likened Tea Party supporters to terrorists. But go too far left – and you’re right back where youstarted, with the whole might of the American security system breathing down your neck. If you align yourself with the 99% of the Occupy movement, you’re not above suspicion either. Stories of undercover officers infiltrating various ‘Occupy’ camps across the country have been rife, CIA involvement has been hinted at – and the US’ biggest ally, the United Kingdom, has officially equated the protesters to terrorists.
Add to this:
– Being a veteran. Not that America has that many veterans, of course, having been recent history’s most peace-loving, non-invading, unbiased country.
– Owning a gun. Of course, not only is it legal to own a gun, most people in the country know full well how to use one.
– Owning precious metals. Because the dollar is worth so much nowadays, the government thinks there’s something kooky about people wanting to invest in something other than US Treasury paper.
And then, of course, there are SOPA and PIPA. They might sound like a couple of cute cartoon names, but the two bills – the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts – have caused huge concern in the States. Internet giants such as Google, Yahoo, and Twitter likened the act to Chinese-style censorship.
There’s also the infamous NDAA – or National Defense Authorization Act, which basically allows indefinite detention of terror suspects, including American citizens.
And if you look at what makes a potential suspect, you can pretty much expect to be waterboarded every time you answer your phone. Or buy too much food. Or a flashlight.
The irony of all this, of course, is that while the various agencies spin their citizen-spy web, they’re overlooking the obvious. What they’re doing is in conflict with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
But hey, undermining a country’s founding document is nowhere near as bad as paying cash, right?