Suspect America

Uploaded by theifilestv on 01.08.2012

Imagine you're on vacation.
With your family.
You're visiting … Las Vegas, Disneyworld, The Mall of America, or the Golden Gate Bridge.
You take a photo.
And that's when things get weird.
A security guard stops you, wants to ask you questions. He writes down your name, the details
on your driver’s license, asks where you live, where you work. He reads your information
into a radio.
He says surveillance cameras captured you taking photos of a location considered vulnerable
to security threats, like terrorism.
“Terrorism?” you think. “No, not me.”
He takes your camera, looks through the photos, and confiscates the memory card.
He pats you down for weapons.
“Weapons? This is crazy!” you say. “What have I done wrong?”
It’s entirely possible you’ve broken no known rules or laws at all. You didn't see
any signs banning photos.
But this is the new reality of a post-9/11 America.
Let's rewind a bit.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, then-President George W. Bush deeply reorganized
the federal government and created a massive new Department of Homeland Security.
The U.S. government was determined never to miss intelligence again. No lead would be
unfollowed. No stone unturned.
Part of this department's job was to give billions in homeland security grants to state
and local agencies, so they could participate in the fight against terrorism.
Hundreds of millions of those dollars were used to build more than 70 intelligence “fusion
centers” across the U.S.
Inside these command centers local police and sheriffs join forces with the FBI, the
Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. Their mission is to collect,
analyze and share vast amounts of information about possible criminal and terrorist threats.
And from their perspective, you could be one of them.
See, after that security guard wrote down all of your personal information, it may have
become a “suspicious activity report,” beginning a journey from his notepad to the
local police department and then on to a fusion center.
At the fusion center your data can be put into a database – where it may be kept indefinitely.
Your info could then be accessed by other law enforcement agencies, like nearby police
departments and the FBI.
An FBI agent could even come knocking at your door.
This won't happen to everyone, but suspicious activity reporting appears to be on the rise.
More than 15,000 reports are already stored in one national law enforcement database,
with only half of states participating so far.
In DC, researchers examined 40,000 suspicious person and vehicle calls made over 20 months
from 2005 to 2007. None were confirmed terrorist threats. 200 were deemed “potential” threats.
Here's how it works.
In LA, a dry cleaning employee found a thumb drive in a customer's dirty laundry. On it
were photos of the Burbank airport. The employee called police and they filed a suspicious
activity report.
At the Mall of America in Minnesota, an elderly Pakistani man left his cell phone on a food
court table.
When he came back for it, security guards had created a perimeter around the phone,
and other unattended items that weren't his. He was interrogated, and an FBI agent later
showed up at his family’s home.
This is life in America since hijackers killed 3,000 people in terrorist attacks a decade
Since then, we've had no major attacks in the U.S. But civil liberties watchdogs say
some of our basic freedoms may be at risk—like freedom of movement, freedom from harassment
by police, and the right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.