As 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.