4 Sure-Fire Ways to End Up on the Terrorist Watch List

wickedsunshine_unclesam_watchingyou_750x900As the days of “fear” and “terror” being the only sellable news stories increase, we have all heard stories of people named “Johnson” and “Smith” at the top of the terrorist watch list. No matter how many 60 Minutes specials or Dateline exclusives, I can’t help but wonder how in the hell it happens.

The obvious reasons are that some “terrorists” have created false identities that just happen to be the same as ordinary citizens. It makes sense to me and, after all, what rational and reasonable government agent would put an innocent person on the most debilitating international list since Schindler’s?

In reality, this simple list of the potential troublemakers was designed to be a secret intel tool for investigation purposes. Unfortunately, it has morphed into a symbol of governmental inefficiency. Because people are inherently lazy, in leiu of doing any kind of elementary investigation, circumstantial evidence has become the norm for placement on this list.

Accordingly, there are several ways that an average joe can find himself on this list without even knowing it. That is, until they decide to buy a car, get on a plane, go to the grocery store or get a credit card (to start with).



1. Search at Your Own Risk

Compliments of the Patriot Act, several government agencies have the ability to track your internet search habits. Being that there are so many searches performed an hour, these agencies log keywords and look for combinations that they think are tied to you being a “terrorist.” For example, at risk search terms include “Anarchists Cookbook,” “bomb making,” “airport security,” and  “homemade plastic.” The days of Googling keywords out of inane curiosity are over.

Be careful what you search, how often you search it, and the combination of terms that you are searching. I think common sense will prevail, in that, if you THINK you shouldn’t be searching for something – it’s not worth it.



2. Last Minute Flights

If you are a frequent traveler, you are better traveling in patterns. Meaning, if you travel a lot to San Fran for work or a girlfriend, you are set. Last minute flights, however, are a sure-fire red flag. You can look forward to getting the dreaded “SSSS” on your boarding pass, which every now and then, is nothing but a hindrance that will delay your sitting in the terminal for an hour while your flight is delayed anyway.

It is important to note, patterns being what they are, after 12 – 15 instances you are officially red-flagged as a potential threat. At this point, you are dancing a fine line and should start planning your trips a little farther ahead of time because you will get a special security search tag every time you travel.



3. Don’t get Cute with names!

People are into have multiple name, like Ann Marie Madison Smith and other cute WASP-y sounding names. Unfortunately having multiple names is not a traditionally “American” tradition, at least that is what the government thinks. It would appear that terrorists like Abdul Mohammad Ishmael Zacowie have ruined it for the rest of us.

Having 2 first names or even worse, 2 first names and a middle as part of your “proper” name, increases your risk by a double digit percentage. The TWL system looks for multiple names and automatically raises a flag. Being cute-sy is not worth not it! Embrace being boring!



4. Email is not secure, don’t be a smartass!

To think that you are too unimportant for someone to scan you email might have been true 10 years ago. Alas, those days are gone. Many smartasses, especially around Spring Break time, think it will be unique to email friends with messages like, “If the F*&KING plane gets delayed like last year, just yell BOMB or FIRE so we can all get off and drink…”

Of course, on the level, any idiot with common sense will see it as frat banter. Unfortunately, the people overseeing are above average idiots and all they see on their screen is PLANE, BOMB, DELAYED, FIRE. Yeeeaaahhh…not pretty.



  1. johnny says:

    schindlers list was a good thing to be on…

  2. Matt says:

    I don't know about the Google thing- I've been a researcher for a Crime drama on CBS for a few years now, and I've used google to research some seriously illegal things the writers wanted to know about- so far, I've had 0 problems flying.

    Though I've always wondered if it will last….

  3. Frank says:

    So…was there research done on this article? I mean how does the author know that last minute flights and travel patterns get you tagged as a security issue? How does the author know that having more than a first, middle and last name is going to get you tagged as a security issue?

    You can't simultaneously say that the government is set up, and has a system so advanced and complex that it monitors Google searches (in the billions per day) and that at the same time, they would see that hypothetical email between frat boys as dangerous. Intelligence just doesn't work that way; if they're smart enough to detect threats and are invasive like the author suggests, a stupid frat boy sending emails is simply not going to be a threat, because his other emails will be available and they'll see that he's calling his friends "brah", talking about his awesome triple-polo-shirt concept, or complaining about how all his Communication Studies classes this semester aren't offered online, which is "totally gay, brah". Further, there is no way someone named Ann-Marie or some dumb bitch that can't make up her mind on a last name and has it hyphenated is going to be as much of a perceived security threat as someone named Abdul Mohammad Ishmael Zacowie. Again, if they're that good and invasive, they simply would have computer algorithms that while sifting through data would eliminate as many false triggers before they're even reported.

  4. A. Real Flyer says:

    Flown all over the states. Whole article is BS. Except for the 'ssss' on your ticket. That means you're getting searched. It does not mean cavity, just extra. The author is trying to cash in late on what once was prime material for comedy. Nice try. Have another go at it later.

  5. andersen says:

    what a below average op-ed. Then again it is coed magazine and I was only brought here with a link.

    Good attention getter headline though.

  6. PeterB says:

    Blow shit up. Those homeland security assholes get really heavy and authoritarian when you do that.

  7. Editor says:

    Research for this article was done by speaking directly to law enforcement officers in the Department of Homeland Security. None of it is bullshit.

  8. Mike says:

    I don't think this article is very accurate. The google thing is without a doubt BS. The government can see a list of google searches yet the IP Address is replaced with a randomized ID. Even if the had an IP, they can only get the name on the account for the ISP, ascertaining who actually was searching is next to impossible.

    When you said you spoke to law enforcement officials, are you referring to the TSA employee's at the airport? I wouldn't give much weight to what they say, they might see who's flagged but are they the one's compiling the list? I think that's above thier government pay-grade. It is most likely classified what attributes the government, I would assume the FBI, uses. This is to make it more difficult to stay off of if you are indeed a terrorist.

    I know for a fact of one person who is on the list. He owns a software company and contracts work to programmers in Russia. He believes, as do I, all the international money transfers is what put him on it.

  9. Paul says:

    What a load of garbage.

  10. Frank says:

    @ Editor:

    Why on earth would LEOs from the DHS tell a random civilian (you) how their secret list of flagging travelers worked? It just doesn’t make sense why they’d tell you this information because people trying to circumvent it now know at least some of how it works, and isn’t the entire point to catch people surreptitiously? It would make more sense that they’d try to keep that information as closely guarded as possible.

    And again, I have only a modicum of programming experience but I could very easily see how if one was to go through passenger names flagging people for additional screening, I would easily include an algorithm that would look for multiple named individuals but toss out entries that weren’t middle-eastern sounding. It’d be very easy to write database code that would look for multiple names and then look for patterns in spelling that would flag people that you’re looking for as far as a middle eastern name.

  11. […] 4 Sure-Fire Ways to End Up on the Terrorist Watch List […]

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  13. Andrew - Hunter Coll says:

    To all of you people who think this is bullshit – fine, do whatever you want. Search for whatever you want. Fly with 15 first names – whatever. Just don't come crying to us when you end up in Syria in an orange jumpsuit with a bag over your head…

  14. bob says:

    Andrew, you made me laugh. :)

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  17. eyespy says:

    Open source garbage for mass consumption. Enjoy it and pretend you are safer or better informed.

  18. Robin says:

    this is a gross violation of privacy of an individual.
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