DHS Wants To Expand 'See Something, Say Something' To Retailers Selling You Pressure Cookers

from the well,-more-than-they-do-already dept

“See something, say something” continues to be the Dept. of Homeland Security’s favorite words. Concerned that its sprawling reach and 100-mile, border-encompassing “Constitution-Free Zone” aren’t protective enough, it has routinely called on the American people to report anything suspicious activities their fellow Americans might be participating in… like taking pictures of public structures… or using a hotel’s side exits.

Now, the DHS wants to take it further. The DHS wants to turn every retail store into the haphazard debacle that is the TSA’s screening process. No, store employees won’t be frisking your kids or detaching medical equipment from your friends and neighbors, but they will be making uninformed decisions about your purchases. (via Ben Swann)

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said his department will be issuing new guidance to retailers this week giving them pointers on how to spot potential terrorists among their customers by looking at what they’re buying.

While saying the government cannot prohibit sales of some everyday materials, Mr. Johnson said retailers should be trained to look for anyone who buys a lot from what he described as a “long list of materials that could be used as explosive precursors.”

He said it was an extension of the “If you see something, say something” campaign launched by his predecessor, former Secretary Janet Napolitano, which tries to enlist average Americans to be aware of their immediate environment.

Since it would be impossible to train thousands of retail store employees properly, this will likely take the form of an item watchlist, one that will be constantly subject to change. It will probably also instruct employees to view perfectly normal shopping behavior as suspicious.

As has been the result of previous “see something, say something” efforts, this new directive will create another massive database of false positives for Fusion Center employees and local law enforcement to deal with. Johnson specifically cited pressure cookers (while stating the government couldn’t actually forbid their sale) as one example. If so, then this directive has no chance in hell of catching terrorists and is guaranteed to serve up a lot of unsuspecting (and unsuspicious) consumers for further government examination.

Pressure cookers are a legitimate item that thousands of consumers use. Now, they’re viewed as the equivalent of buying a U-Haul truck full of fertilizer. Past incidents are prompting future actions, much as they do with the TSA (shoe bomber? off with your shoes!). Constantly being one step behind the clumsiest terrorists isn’t going to keep the country any safer. It’s just going to make it a worse place to simply “go about your business.”

Johnson says the DHS is looking for “explosive precursors,” which could be nearly anything. Because retail outlets don’t share customer purchase data with each other, this may result in the DHS attempting to justify the requisition of data from multiple retailers using credit/debit card numbers as a starting point. (Just business records, folks. No Fourth Amendment to see here.) And as has been common for forever now, people using cash to purchase stuff will be viewed as extra suspicious.

This is another dangerous, stupid step that won’t catch terrorists but will generate tons of budget-justifying busywork for the DHS, and put more people on the government’s radar who’ve done nothing more suspicious than buy things they need or want.

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Comments on “DHS Wants To Expand 'See Something, Say Something' To Retailers Selling You Pressure Cookers”

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62 Comments
TheResidentSkeptic says:

See how fast this will grow...

1) Grocery Stores… I can buy a gallon of ammonia and a gallon of chlorine…
2) Big-Box Stores… I can buy brake fluid and pool shock in major quantities. Know how exothermic that is?
3) Home Improvement/hardware … They sell Acetone and MEK by the gallon! you know how much fun I have with that stuff?

These folks are WAY behind the curve… there are thousands of possibilities out there that we need to be protected from…

And I just thank God (or Allah or whoever) that they are finally going to protect me from Grandma and her pressure cooker full of cabbage!! That stuff is REALLY explosive…

/s

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Well...

—-Time to buy everything with paper money again.

Retailer: “We have this suspicious dude here”
DHS: “What makes him suspicious?”
Retailer: “This guy always buys pressure cookers, bleach, ammonia, food and sometimes lighters and cigarettes”
DHS: “Oh, so you think he might be making a bombs and poisonous substances?”
Retailer: “No, he always pays with cash!”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Or as the government likes to call it 'Creating job security'

They should just follow the FBI’s lead and make their own, much easier and more reliable that way.

Not to mention they’d never have to worry about money troubles again, any time a budget review is on the horizon, just go crazy hunting, spin up a few ‘terrorists’, and instant boost to PR for ‘stopping the dangerous terrorists’. /s

andrew_duane (profile) says:

Be careful what you ask for

I say the way to combat this stupidity is to give the DHS exactly what they want. Let’s see how they handle a few hundred thousand reports a day every day for the next year. Spun this way, every box of nails, every roll of duct tape, every bottle of bleach is a potential terrorist threat.

“When the gods want to punish us, they answer our prayers”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said his department will be issuing new guidance to retailers this week giving them pointers on how to spot potential terrorists among their customers by looking at what they’re buying.

I think they aren’t taking it far enough. They should be going after the retailers for supplying terrorists. Better go after Wal-mart, Target, and all the others! Throw the ownership in Guantanamo! /s

Seriously fuck this stupid security theater bullshit.

Joel says:

I find this new policy to be racist! (Against asians though, so at least they are changing it up a little)

Seriously though, I bought 3 pressure cookers in the last year or so. All were combination rice cookers/pressure cookers.

One was a replacement for my own rice cooker that bit the dust.

The other two were wedding/xmas gifts.

I guess being addicted to rice with every meal is going to get me the no fly list…

aldestrawk says:

Not only can we use purchase of pressure cookers to catch terrorists, it can also help in the war on drugs. A pressure cooker can be used as a cheap autoclave to sterilize equipment used to grow certain kinds of mushrooms (don’t ask me how I know this). I seem to remember a story that the police were able to get a search warrant based on purchases of large amounts of baggies.
Forget about training sales clerks. Just have the government provide incentives to businesses to expand their customer loyalty programs which allow the business to gather everyone’s purchases in a, 3rd party business records, database. If all goods cost twice as much unless you provide your loyalty account info, who is going to purchase anonymously except terrorists and other criminals? Of course, this requires those loyalty accounts to reliably tied to your actual identity.

John85851 (profile) says:

1930's Germany all over again

I really hate to say this, but between this article about “see something, say something” and the previous article about a secret court secretly ordering Yahoo to pay a secret fine, it does seem like this country is becoming more like 1930’s Germany.

Of course the government is doing these things to “keep us safe”… I mean “make us feel safe”, but how far is too far? Will the next step be ratting out your friends to the (secret) police because you saw them buy a pressure cooker?
And why do we have to jump to the conclusion that most people are doing something bad when one person used a pressure cooker as a bomb?

Or do we have to wait until the government asks us to report something more idiotic before we “say something” about how absurd it is to report someone for buying a kitchen appliance!

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: 1930's Germany all over again

“Of course the government is doing these things to “keep us safe…”

Close, but no cookie.

Try this for size though:

Of course the government is doing these things to keep the members of the government and their friends and associates safe…. from us.

Now doesn’t that explain their actions a whole lot better than what you said at the top.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

It could never happen here.

Don’t forget the bit about law enforcement officers being regarded as a different, elevated caste of citizen who does not have to conform to the same laws that civilians do.

And don’t forget that the Jewish Question is being posited, this time about a wide range of people allegedly subversive ergo undesirable to society, whether it’s non-whites, the impoverished, fringe religions and atheists, counter-cultures, computer hackers including white-hats and dissidents of the current administration.

It keeps me awake at night that our state is so opaque, and revelations have already come out showing the depths to which our nation will descend, that I wouldn’t actually be surprised if we already had an eradication program in place, if a final solution program has already been enacted.

But relax. It could never happen in the US!

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