You May Be a Terrorist

A Metropolitan Airports police officer walks past a new sign, part of the program US Secretary of US Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced during a press conference called, "If You See Something, Say Something" November 15, 2010 at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards

Public Intelligence

Did you know?  You might be a terrorist.  You probably didn’t know that.  In fact, you probably don’t think about terrorism much.  However, there are a large amount of people at the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and a variety of law enforcement agencies all around the country that do think about it, a lot.  It is, in many respects, their job to think about it.  Yet, the ever-expanding search for potential activities and indicators of terrorist activity has become emblematic of the overreaching and obsessive nature of efforts to combat terrorism in the United States.  Departing more and more from rational depictions of truly suspicious activity, the criteria listed in law enforcement reports as indicating criminal or terrorist activity have become so expansive as to include many ubiquitous, everyday activities.  The following list demonstrates the extent of “suspicious activity reporting” by listing a number of behaviors and activities which are said to potentially indicate criminal or terrorist activity.  Given the breadth of the activities, nearly any reader should be able to identify at least one indicator which they feel personally applies to them.  It is important to remember that these indicators are all taken from restricted law enforcement reports that are normally unavailable to the public, but have since been published by this site.  Each indicator is followed by a number linking you to the source document where that activity was listed as a “suspicious activity.”  Multiple numbers are meant to demonstrate the presence of that particular indicator in multiple source documents.

If you are aware of other indicators in documents we have published or in documents found elsewhere, please consider letting us know or listing the indicator as a response to this post.  Over time, we hope to develop a master list of criteria for “suspicious activity reporting” and we will be updating this post as more indicators come in.  Last updated September 16, 2011.

Do you:

  • Like to pay in cash (1) (2) (3)
  • Visit a storage facility at unusual times (1) (2)
  • Exhibit nervous behavior (1)
  • Have “suspicious” textbooks regarding chemistry or biology (1)
  • Have flight manuals (1)
  • Have photographs of well-known locations (1)
  • Have a GPS unit (1)
  • Have receipts from several hotels (1)
  • Like to take photographs (1)
  • Wear winter clothing (1)
  • Frequently travel to areas “of concern” (1)
  • Appear “not to belong” (1)
  • Stare or quickly look away from people (1)
  • Want to buy a commercial truck or van (1)
  • Have interest in dams or national landmarks (1)
  • Have no current or fixed address (1)
  • Have scuba gear (1)
  • Have large amounts of baby formula (1)
  • Have a blank facial expression (1)
  • Have a map to a shopping mall in a shopping mall (1)
  • Wear scarves, head bands, hooded sweatshirts, or heavy coats (1)
  • Have laboratory equipment (1)
  • Often make inaccurate statements (1)
  • Have stains on your clothing (1)
  • Have burns on your hands (1)
  • Have dead vegetation in your yard (1)
  • Mumble (1)
  • Use a prepaid mobile phone (1) (2)
  • Exhibit apprehension (1)
  • Have an extra car battery in your car (1)
  • Participate in Mixed Martial Arts (1)
  • Have a blender, a slow cooker or coffee filters in your hotel room (1)
  • Appear “stressed out” (1)
  • Live in a home or apartment that smells bad (1) (2)
  • Provide “evasive” responses to questions (1)
  • Have a bumper sticker on your car supporting legal rights (1)

Have you:

  • Traveled overseas lately (1)
  • Refused maid-service at a hotel (1)
  • Requested a specific view at a hotel (1)
  • Used a phone in the lobby of a hotel (1)
  • Used prepaid calling cards (1)
  • Observed a security drill (1)
  • Left a briefcase or a bag somewhere (1)
  • Worn clothing inconsistent with the weather (1)
  • Purchased a respirator or hazardous substances (1)
  • Provided a vague explanation for an injury (1)
  • Asked security personnel for directions (1)
  • Parked a rental vehicle in an unusual location (1)
  • Tried to gain employment at a vehicle dealership, a rental agency, a delivery company, or a freight hauling company (1)
  • Used excessive postage on a package (1) (2)
  • Misspelled words on a package (1) (2)
  • Sent mail without a return address (1) (2)
  • Changed your name (1)
  • Attended public demonstrations (1)
  • Bought night-vision goggles (1)
  • Requested an unusual work schedule (1)
  • Stored batteries in the glove compartment of your vehicle (1)
  • Made a check out to “cash” (1)
  • Purchased large diameter PVC pipe (1)
  • Refused change from a financial transaction (1)
  • Purchased vaccines and preventative medicines (1)
  • Driven by a school in a limousine (1)
  • Flown a private plane over any kind of infrastructure (1)
  • Flown a radio-controlled aircraft near a sports arena (1)
  • Taken a photograph of a courthouse (1)
  • Traveled internationally recently (1)
  • Attempted to purchase a firearm or other weapon (1)
  • Sought training in the use of a weapon (1)
  • Repeatedly extended your stay in a hotel by one day (1)

Are you:

  • Overly concerned about privacy (1)
  • A commercial driver’s license student that appears uninterested (1)
  • A panhandler or beggar (1) (2)
  • A street vendor (1)
  • A shoe shiner (1)
  • A pregnant woman (1)
  • An employee changing shifts or working irregular hours (1)
  • Holding a pressure cooker in an unusual location (1)
  • Unwilling to explain your financial activity (1)
  • Driving to Wal-Mart (1)
  • Taking a photograph of any location where there are no tourists (1) (2)
  • Enrolled in a college criminal justice program (1)
  • An anarchist (1)

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