Communion Of Dreams

Ever been a tourist?

Have you ever been a tourist, and taken pictures of your trip? Have an interest in architecture or large engineering projects? Perhaps like to draw or paint plein air? Or maybe you’re a writer wanting to make notes about a particular location you want to use in a book or story?

Welcome to the Terror List:

Terror watch uses local eyes

Hundreds of police, firefighters, paramedics and even utility workers have been trained and recently dispatched as “Terrorism Liaison Officers” in Colorado and a handful of other states to hunt for “suspicious activity” — and are reporting their findings into secret government databases.

It’s a tactic intended to feed better data into terrorism early-warning systems and uncover intelligence that could help fight anti-U.S. forces. But the vague nature of the TLOs’ mission, and their focus on reporting both legal and illegal activity, has generated objections from privacy advocates and civil libertarians.

* * *

Here are examples of specific behaviors that terrorism liaison officers deployed in Colorado and a handful of other states are told to watch for and report.

• Engages in suspected pre-operational surveillance (uses binoculars or cameras, takes measurements, draws diagrams, etc.)

• Appears to engage in counter-surveillance efforts (doubles back, changes appearance, drives evasively, etc.)

• Engages security personnel in questions focusing on sensitive subjects (security information, hours of operation, shift changes, what security cameras film, etc.)

• Takes pictures or video footage (with no apparent aesthetic value, for example, camera angles, security equipment, security personnel, traffic lights, building entrances, etc.)

• Draws diagrams or takes notes (building plans, location of security cameras or security personnel, security shift changes, notes of weak security points, etc.)

Depending on how someone wanted to perceive it, either my wife or I have done every single thing on that list on our vacations in this country and abroad. Yeah, even the ‘counter-surveillance efforts’ – in trying to find a given location in unfamiliar territory, we’ve often taken wrong turns or had to double back to a missed road. I’ll talk to watchmen or cops, because they usually know the most about a particular location. My wife is an architect, so is interested in structures. I like big engineering projects. We use binoculars. I’ll often make notes about places I think might fit in good with a story idea.

If I’m not already, I’ll probably wind up on someone’s terror watch list. Not because I am the slightest bit of a threat. Not because I am doing anything in the least bit illegal. Because of stupid, pointless paranoia.

Man, I can’t wait for Friday to get here so we can celebrate living in the land of the free.

Jim Downey

(Via MeFi. Cross posted to UTI.)

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Ran into this problem myself. I like to sit at the food court of a local shopping mall and write. Have been questioned repeatedly. Finally gave up and found another spot.

Comment by Daniel

The mindset of turning innocuous activities into “suspected terrorism-related behaviour” is just plain insane. And counter-productive. Seriously, once you start doing that, where do you stop? And how do the police et al get anything else done?


Thanks for the comment, Daniel.

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams

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