Photo: Phyllis Hanson via Dvidshub
Words like ‘terrorist’ can always be turned around depending on who is the “authority.” In the case of documents acquired by Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room, the U.S. Army takes a very liberal approach to it’s definition of possible insider threats.
As Ackerman said about the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group’s “Threat Indicator Card”:
[The document’s] “indicators” of radicalization are vague enough to include both benign behaviours that lots of people safely exhibit and, on the other end of the spectrum, signs that someone is so obviously a terrorist they shouldn’t need to be pointed out. It’s hard to tell if the group is being politically correct or euphemistic.
Here’s a few of the more absurdly undefined words and phrases included as “indicators” of possible “terrorist” behaviour :
– “Is frustrated with mainstream ideologies”—Tired of swallowing establishment party slogans?
– “Uses extremist acronyms”—Think you’re Taxed Enough Already?
– “Changes type of off-duty clothing”—Don’t wear your suit to bed?
– “Expresses a political, religious, or ideological obligation to engage in unlawful violence directed against U.S. Military operations or foreign policy”—Are you a Ron Paul write-in this November?
– “Has peculiar discussions”—Get back to work
– “Dissatisfaction with the status quo of political activism”
– “Social networks”
Competition? Youth? Ackerman goes to great pains analysing and breaking down how these “threat indicators” could just as very well be aimed at the innocent bystander as at some devious deviant.
Someone who “takes suspicious or unreported travel (inside or outside the United States)” could be linking up with a terrorist group. Or he could be hooking up with a lover, or a going on a road trip with friends, or anything else. Yet that’s an example of “Actions conducted by the subject that would indicate violent or terroristic planning activities that warrant investigation.” The unreported aspect of the travel might be its most blatantly problematic feature.
What’s more, this whole system advocates a creepy style of crowd sourcing in order to report possible “terrorists.” Like every dystopic novel since 1984 has illustrated, the future crime fighters will be the children, friends, and those close to the possible “terrorist”—the “Indicator Decision Chart” walks every soldier through how he/she can report one of his friends to the chain of command should that friend deviate from “normal” behaviour.
Granted, even Ackerman admits, it’s possible that the threat card is a response not just to avert future Fort Hood shooters, but also the insider attacks hampering the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.
As Americans have seen though recently, often these anti-terrorism tactics and equipment comes home, to be applied to regular citizens.
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