Homeland Security Gets Walmart To Tell You To Inform On Your Neighbors

from the are-they-serious? dept

Sometimes you just wonder what folks in our government are thinking half the time. The latest is that Homeland Security, when it’s not busy seizing domains of hip hop blogs, is apparently on a campaign to enlist shoppers at Walmarts in a somewhat creepy attempt to get people to spy on their neighbors. The program is officially called “If You See Something, Say Something” which could be shortened to “Inform on Your Neighbors” if DHS is looking for efficiency.

More bizarre is the Walmart tie-in. As you check out, you’ll see a video from Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano reminding customers to watch and report any “suspicious activity.”

Does anyone in Homeland Security actually think this sort of thing is effective? I think most people know perfectly well to report anything really suspicious that they see. But seeing Janet Napolitano’s talking head at Walmart checkouts telling people to keep an extra special eye out just feels creepy and Big Brother-ish.

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Companies: walmart

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Comments on “Homeland Security Gets Walmart To Tell You To Inform On Your Neighbors”

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DJ (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, but only because of the amount of leeway he was given to investigate people. It wasn’t his cause that was bad, it was his methods. Unfortunately the lesson of “ends DO NOT justify means” has been apparently lost on both the Executive and Legislative branches (regardless of party) of US gov’t; here’s hoping that at least one branch remains sane.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Communism works, just not as a form of government or in any system where money is present.

There are successful communes operating in the United States and Europe where small groups of people band together and provide for one another’s needs. But they have the option of excluding people from the group and are small enough that social mores dictate most of their behavior.

DJ (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually yes, but to a Constitutional lawyer, not DHS:

Amendment IV
“The right of the people to be secure in ther persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

but that’s off-topic

art guerrilla says:

um, not total info awareness at all...

the paranoid in me says: what if it is there precisely to annoy traitor-amerikans who are caught scowling, flipping off, or merely looking askance at Big Bother ? ? ?
images of everyone are collected and disseminated to the -you know- Appropriate Authorities; with the face-recognitioned traitor-amerikan’s digital photo transmitted to the local red squad and der dept of faderland insecurity…
your pained look lands you a spot on numerous secret blacklists, and you will have no means of redress… you enter a kafkaesque bureaucracy which wants to grind you to soylent green, and an uncaring gummint which murders hundreds of thousands to secure korporate profits…

you just can’t be too police-statey when looking at these things…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Famous Coward says:

Re: um, not total info awareness at all...

This probably explains why I used to get “extra attention” all of the time, before I stopped flying for good… and this was BEFORE 9/11. I’m just your ordinary, middle-aged, white bread Joe Average who, in the late 1990’s, was dusted, frisked, etc., at EVER checkpoint. My luggage was singled out for interior inspection and special handling (when picked up, garment bag and suitcase together, off the belt, to one side, suitcase only partially closed because of a defective latch that only I knew how to close, and that took quite an effort (but useful to know that it had been snooped). One I had my camera opened and film exposed (it was a miniature Leica, about 3 inches wide) in a search for who knows what. Finally I said, enough! Either I drive (or train) or don’t go at all. Irony: One one business trip to another state, I selected a leather jacket I hadn’t worn for a couple of years, and after I returned (through four check points) I discovered, much to my dismay, that I had forgotten about a 4 inch (folding) knife I had zipped in the breast pocket, and even though I was wanded, fondled, etc., in both directions, it was not discovered. Last note: Flying Southwest to California, a guy seated behind me, quiet, no problems, was approached by a team of goons and asked if he had been drinking. He said yes, he had two beers on his last (connecting) flight, which he had just left. The goon squad ushered him off the plane. We took off and the attendants immediately broke out the booze cart and began dispensing alcoholic beverages to those who wanted them. Alice in Wonderland would have appreciated the scene.

Pitabred (profile) says:

Socialist Nationalism


Relevant pullquote:
“But I had evidence right there in my hands that supported a different story,” Gellately explains. “There were relatively few secret police, and most were just processing the information coming in. I had found a shocking fact. It wasn’t the secret police who were doing this wide-scale surveillance and hiding on every street corner. It was the ordinary German people who were informing on their neighbors.”

Anonymous Coward says:

from the article:

“Napolitano’s message reminds customers to watch for and promptly report to law enforcement any suspicious activity in the stores or parking lots.”

What sort of suspicious activity do they expect to find in a wal-mart parking lot? I’m all for people reporting car break-ins or shoplifting, but those don’t seem to be a federal DHS issues. Maybe they suspect that some of those store-shelvers are really terrorists looking to hone their box-cutter skills.

Russ (profile) says:

Police State

These stories make me cringe. Perhaps there is a corollary to the second law of thermodynamics: Security always tends to a Police State unless acted on by an outside force.

Although we are not there yet, I suspect that it will resemble more a slowly changing environment like the frog in the hot water than an event like 1917 or 1945.

James Carmichael (profile) says:

Culture of fear

Wow, that’s low. Hey, I have an idea! How about setting up a website where people can report illegal activities their neighbors did?! Some place where people can be exposed for their secrets. Some kind of… wiki… where people would submit, post, or… leak information. It would allow us to better ourselves by encouraging good behavior and teaching accountability.

It would be called Wikiflow, and the government would LOVE it.[/sarcasm]

So the US Government is trying to have people critic their neighbors instead of their government? Wow you guys are screwed… I hope Canada doesn’t drop onto Mexico when the US finally sinks.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Just Where Have We Gone Wrong

When I was a kid, so many years ago, I was constantly reminded that we (Canadians) and Americans were different from those folks behind the Iron Curtain because we weren’t constantly spying on each other and living in total paranoia.

So we were free, had liberties and rights those people didn’t. Perhaps a bit overstated even for the 1950s but essentially true.

And now we’re being asked to be government informants while standing in line to pay for shoddy goods in the world’s largest retailer. (BTW, those folks behind the Iron Curtain had shoddy goods, too, when they could get them at all.)

Do you suppose this was what Eisnehower was warning about when he left office warning about things like the Military-Industrial comples and other dangers?

Just suppose.

cj martin says:

walmart and big brother

this is a real attempt to make sure that folks continue to “argue for their own limitations” if the alarms can keep going off enough…folks will continue to be in an internal place of “high arousal” and our “state” can get away with even more stuff because “its protecting us citizens”…
time to rise up folks…this is going after the poorest, the least educated,
the most vulnerable….

Joe says:

Letters to and from Wal-mart

The following are the emails I sent and received from Wal-Mart, please pass this on if you are so moved:

Dear Wal-Mart,

I will boycott Wal-Mart for life and never enter your store again EVER, if you enter into an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security concerning the “If you see something, say something” spy campaign against the American People. Again, I will never, ever, enter your store again and will for the remainder of my life tell every living soul they shouldn’t, I will shop at food lion, farm fresh, ace hardware, home depot (this includes boycotting your store Lowe’s by the way), for the rest of my days. If the following link is true, then I absolutly will never enter, support, shop virtually, or otherwise fund any of your stores again, ever, in any country which they exist.



Dear JCR,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us with your feedback. It’s important to Walmart to help protect the safety of the communities we serve all across the country. We’re proud to be the first national retail partner of the Department of Homeland Security’s awareness campaign. Everyone has a role to play and we urge our customers and associates to join us. A short video message from Secretary Napolitano will play at select checkout locations reminding customers to report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement.

Beginning December 6th, all Walmart stores that are equipped with video screens ( nearly 600 ) at the checkouts will feature this message. For more information, customers can be encouraged to visit our website @ walmartstores.com/pressroom and look under ‘recent news’

Thank you again for your correspondence.

Walmart Customer Care


Dear Wal-mart,

Thank you for your prompt reply. However, I will do everything within my power to campaign locally and any other forum which presents itself against your store because you are decided on this track. It is wrong to encourage Americans to spy on other Americans, and you “cozying up” to the DHS is an affront to private business practice and the United States Constitution; this also reflects a horrid standard which other business may emulate. It is inevitable, mark my words, that this will be just the first step in so called “security measures” which will lead to the same assaults suffered everyday by Americans who undergo TSA checkpoints in airports and other public transit stations. This is the road to tyranny, if it isn’t then I will be utterly surprised. It’s your job to run your store, it’s not your job to be a puppet of some spy agency that sets itself against the American people.

Furthermore, allow me to better clarify my statements earlier. I am not boycotting you until you find the true American path again, I will boycott you regardless of your choices in the future once you cross this line. When the first “messages” (which sound Orwellian in nature) are displayed in your store by the unspeakable head of the DHS, I mean to NEVER AGAIN, NO MATTER WHAT, FUND YOUR STORE IN ANY WAY IMAGINABLE, EVER. I will encourage, rally, and speak out vocally against you as strongly as I possibly can to any single true American who will hear me, and ENCOURAGE them to mirror my actions in not supporting your store in any way, shape, or form.

I, and the millions of more honorably before me, have not served overseas in hostile warzones, harsh climates, and unseated tyrants to watch this kind of creepy, camera-over-my-shoulder, neighbor-spying-on-neighbor activity become a reality. Your unchecked paranoia of the American people is repugnant, impulsive, unfounded, unneeded, unwanted, mislead, and above all just plain silly and ignorant. WE are a good people, with good hearts, strong minds, independent yet loyal to what we believe is right, supportive, tough, innovative, hard-working, dedicated, and we have a fantastic nation to SHOW this is TRUE (THIS PROVES MY STATEMENT). Your crude opinion of us is spoken loudly and clearly through your actions “If you see something, say something.” Well I see something. I see you are either stark raving mad out of your mind and imagining a thousand enemies that do not exist, or you have suffered a severe blow to the head collectively and have taken leave of your senses for a time. Regardless, you are setting your foot on a path that is Un-American, and I will not support you.

May the spirit of America be with me, and not you.

Long live a free America, may the giant in me be stirred, may the giant in all America wake up, for tyranny is not far at times.


Pierre Wolff (profile) says:

Oh, what fond memories of my youth

I remember a time, when I was 10 yrs old or so some 35 yrs ago, and hearing a story of a primary school kid who told one of his teachers that his parents we bad mouthing the Russian gov’t. Sure enough, the parents were soon arrested and thrown in jail. It was amazing to me that something like that could happen anywhere. I was also thankful that I lived in a country where not only did that seem absurd, but where no citizen would ever accept such behavior. That was then and this is now. Oh how times have changed.

stacey says:

Re: Response to: Bruce on Dec 9th, 2010 @ 7:01am

I worked for a Walmart distribution center. I liked my job except for the fact that you are spied on outside of work. They want a awful lot of control over what you do, who you talk to and your life outside of work. Even if you are no one you know is breaking the law. Many people also report things that may not be true about people for whatever reasons they may have. I watched it happen all the time when I worked there. And yes it was creepy and kind of scary

Elizabeth Conley (profile) says:

DHS Resists Accountability Across the Board

They refuse to be accountable to their employers, the American Citizens:


Illegal Alian Montano killed American citizens in a drunk driving incident committed while awaiting deportation (pretty much indefinitely). :

“The [Montano] inquiry is complete, but Homeland Security does not plan to make the results public, according to the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter.
‘It’s a document that includes law enforcement sensitivities, so it will not be made public,’ the official said. He declined to discuss the nature of those sensitivities.
Judicial Watch requested the DHS report on October 12, 2010. DHS acknowledged receipt of the request on October 21, 2010, and granted itself a 10-day extension to respond. By law, a response was due to Judicial Watch by November 26, 2010. However, to date, DHS has failed to provide any records responsive to the request or to demonstrate why the records should be withheld, prompting Judicial Watch’s lawsuit.”

Lawsuits against these clowns just keep stacking up, but our legislators sit on their hands and do nothing to protect us. Our judicial system works in a glacially slow manner and our press reports nothing.

We must be more forceful with our elected officials with regard to DHS malfeasance.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Preventing attacks is probabilistic – the more places interference can happen, the more likely it is that a potential attack will be detected and stopped. Encouraging people to report their suspicions is a good thing, and the reason for a campaign is to lower their inertia about doing so. This campaign differs from the Stasi’s in that it is not illegal in this country to disparage the government or its institutions, and doing so does not constitute a suspicious event that would be reported or investigated unless it is coupled with potential illegal activity.

Tony Maroni says:


Uh is this just a little Hitler meets Stalin.
And with a huge fortune of our tax dollars that has gone into worthless private info spying, which could have been used more wisely Like I don’t Know Our National Debt? All this money and they want us to do there job for them now? I don’t think so you corporate fascists! If you got a problem with innocent people who are far from being terrorists, then take them to your corporate fascists run jails yourselves. I know you are desperate to fill them up more. But I am not going to report someone just because I don’t like them or think they are weird. This is suppose to be a free country were people have the freedom to act weird if they want to. statistics say Americans stand more of a chance getting struck by lightning than being attacked by a terrorist. And I highly doubt Mrs. Parker is with al qaeda. And I seriously doubt that Mrs Parker will get so fed up one day that she would join al qaeda. I mean this is like the games we played as kids. But I think we had a better imagination. It makes me mad that innocent people are now getting targeted for this when its there money that funds it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Letters to and from Wal-mart

Just thought you might like to know I have already boycotted WalMart. I used to be a regular shopper there and one day I saw something that really upset me and I have not been back since It’s been a couple months. Wal Mart didn’t even want to back their own return policy. When I witnessed them try to rip a customer out of his money I was furious. Then they treated him as if he was a criminal because he was upset about the situation. I couldn’t believe they would do something so blatantly underhanded. Wal Mart is a dirty word in my house. When I hear other people mention it I tell the same and why.


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