Mind your expressions of dissent

October 8, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More

Popular social news site Reddit provides a dramatic example of how innocent and ordinary conversations are enough to trigger terrorism investigations in our modern America.

Reddit logo. Image via Wikipedia (commons)

Reddit allows anyone with a free account to post items of interest, and the discussion generated by postings provides much of the site’s appeal.  About three months ago, a user named JayClay posted the following query in regards to the TSA’s security screening procedures at airports:

“So if my deodorant could be a bomb, why are you just chucking it in the bin?

And if it’s just harmless deodorant, why are you taking it from me?!

But no. I did not say this aloud. Like everyone else, I didnt want to say or do anything that would jeopardize making my flight. So I just turned around and walked towards the room after security.

Where they just happened to sell deodorant.

The thread on Reddit has generated 1,563 comments as of now, mostly critical of the security theater that is the TSA.  User DonutsCureCancer posted the following comment:

The best, easiest, and most cost-effective place for a suicide bomber to kill a lot of people, anywhere even remotely connected to air traffic, is in an airport security line on a holiday weekend.

Which quickly drew these two comments in follow-up (sic throughout):

[User:] kleinberg

Or you could just go to a mall and cause even more panic, since everybody goes to a mall. Or a hundred other softer targets than airplanes. The whole thing just plays off people’s fear of being stuck in a tin can up in the air where they have no control over their situation.

[User:] khaledthegypsy

bombing a mall seems so easy to do. i mean all you really need is a bomb, a regular outfit so you arent the crazy guy in a trench coat trying to blow up a mall and a shopping bag. i mean if terrorism were actually a legitimate threat, think about how many fucking malls would have blown up already.. you can put a bag in a million different places, there would be no way to foresee the next target, and really no way to prevent it unless CTU gets some intel at the last minute in which case every city but LA is fucked…so…yea…now i’m surely bugged : /

Little did khaledthegypsy know how prescient his statement “so…yea…now i’m surely bugged” would prove to be.  Cut to 4 days ago, khaledthegypsy posted this thread to Reddit asking if the FBI was after them after finding what appeared to be a mysterious tracking device on his friend’s car.  Yesterday, Wired posted the updates and confirmation:

A California student got a visit from the FBI this week after he found a secret GPS tracking device on his car, and a friend posted photos of it online. The post prompted wide speculation about whether the device was real, whether the young Arab-American was being targeted in a terrorism investigation and what the authorities would do.

It took just 48 hours to find out: The device was real, the student was being secretly tracked and the FBI wanted their expensive device back, the student told Wired.com in an interview Wednesday.

The answer came when half-a-dozen FBI agents and police officers appeared at Yasir Afifi’s apartment complex in Santa Clara, California, on Tuesday demanding he return the device.

His discovery comes in the wake of a recent ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saying it’s legal for law enforcement to secretly place a tracking device on a suspect’s car without getting a warrant, even if the car is parked in a private driveway.

The agent who initially spoke with Afifi identified himself then as Vincent and told Afifi, “We’re here to recover the device you found on your vehicle. It’s federal property. It’s an expensive piece, and we need it right now.”

Afifi asked, “Are you the guys that put it there?” and the agent replied, “Yeah, I put it there.” He told Afifi, “We’re going to make this much more difficult for you if you don’t cooperate.”

Afifi retrieved the device from his apartment and handed it over, at which point the agents asked a series of questions – did he know anyone who traveled to Yemen or was affiliated with overseas training? One of the agents produced a printout of a blog post that Afifi’s friend Khaled allegedly wrote a couple of months ago. It had “something to do with a mall or a bomb,” Afifi said. He hadn’t seen it before and doesn’t know the details of what it said. He found it hard to believe Khaled meant anything threatening by the post.

“He’s a smart kid and is not affiliated with anything extreme and never says anything stupid like that,” Afifi said. “I’ve known that guy my whole life.”

So mind what you write about online, the FBI is watching.  Pointing out the futility of attempting to protect everywhere in America from terrorism will get you a visit from the Feds.

O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

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Category: Internet, Orwellian

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is a full-time wage slave and part-time philosopher, writing and living just outside Omaha with his lovely wife and two feline roommates.

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