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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  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 11 Sep 2014 @ 6:11pm

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Eric Stein, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:35am

      Re: See how fast this will grow...

      Well, not until it's been through you...

      Roughage, it won't have any exothermic potential if you don't eat it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bengie, 12 Sep 2014 @ 8:43am

      Re: See how fast this will grow...

      Don't forget to report anyone purchasing gasoline. They're all potential terrorists.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 11:09am

      Re: See how fast this will grow...

      does DHS know that flour is not only an 'explosive precursor', it IS explosive all on its own...
      takes the right conditions, but then so do nearly all explosives...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    silverscarcat (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 2:33am

    Well...

    Time to buy everything with paper money again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 9:47am

      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!"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:06am

    I'm glad I read this.

    I was just about to go buy a pallet full of pressure cookers. I should get cash first so I don't have to use a credit card.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:38am

      Re:

      I seriously just bought two pressure cookers yesterday, with cash, for my wife and her mom. So. Probably on some list already, though good luck trying to find m- oh wait someone is knocking at the door.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:10am

    The DHS seem to be desperate to catch a terrorist, and so they are going to drive otherwise normal people to terrorism by being totally obnoxious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:22am

      Re:

      Every US citizen is already suspected,
      is how they justify collecting data and spying on everyone

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:47am

      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

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Guardian, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:11am

    hail hitler

    yes you too can help the state , ask not what we can do fo ryou cause we won't , you WILL do it for us cause if you don't you are the enemy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:20am

      Re: hail hitler

      Rest assured, people asking what the state can do for them is what got us into this shit in the first place.

      If you won't defend yourself then you should not expect others to do it either.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    andrew_duane (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:15am

    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".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:20am

    household precursors?

    table salt has chlorine,
    and of course water has hydrogen!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:26am

    While I was filling up a 30 gallon container with flammable liquid this morning, I think DHS was watching...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:35am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:37am

    Alternative Narrative

    "If everyone had a pressure cooker nobody would think twice about causing trouble"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:42am

    '"See something, say something"'

    add on 'then get shot or if lucky locked up' and i think that would cover most times!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:49am

    Will lead to citizen on citizen assaults.

    Cant wait till a "citizen employee" decides that a pressure cooker buyer isnt responding to their questions properly and decides to execute a "terrorist" in the middle of walmart to protect all of us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:51am

    The pressure is mounting quickly here in the US.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    OolongKaloofid, 12 Sep 2014 @ 6:54am

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    George Orwell was right, just a bit early with his prediction.

    I think Germany started like this in the 1930's. See something, say something.

    Let's drive DHS crazy - have lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant weekly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 7:01am

    I already get funny looks when I use cash at certain places and refuse to give them my zip code.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 12 Sep 2014 @ 7:08am

      Re:

      I already get funny looks when I use cash at certain places and refuse to give them my zip code.

      At certain places taking cash they will have problems providing adequate return value when you insist on keeping zipped up.

      Way to get funny looks.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      phils, 12 Sep 2014 @ 1:49pm

      Re:

      Perfectly reasonable explanation for using cash at places like Home Depot and Target -- Don't want my credit card hacked.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 7:05am

    So they want the public to be aware enough to help them with TERRORISM©™ but oblivious to the fact that they themselves are the terrorists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ThruthHurts, 12 Sep 2014 @ 7:13am

    Your phones will be on the watchlist

    Lithium Ion batteries can be easily modified to be explosive / high temp fire ignition sources. You don't need a bomb if you can set fire to the entire airplane with a few modified cell phones or laptops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joel, 12 Sep 2014 @ 7:51am

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldGeezer (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 7:53am

    What's next?

    Someday some idiot will smuggle a bomb onto a plane up his ass. Cavity searches for everyone will become mandatory.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2014 @ 5:38am

      Re: What's next?

      Maybe it will take a bit longer and at first they're only going to do cavity searches for when you seem to be walking funny.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    The Original Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 7:58am

    Watch for signs on store and bank doors

    The next thing will be signs on the doors of stores and banks saying that pressure cookers are not allowed in their establishments. That will certainly prevent anyone from attempting to use said device in a criminal enterprise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 8:06am

    I wonder...

    ...what they think about the nitro-glycerin tablets I carry for my heart condition?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 9:01am

      Re: I wonder...

      Apparently that would require about a warehouse full of pills to distill any useful quantity. But they're all fascist morons looking for excuses to persecute so that might not matter.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David M, 12 Sep 2014 @ 8:30am

    Two way street

    Dear TSA, Target just sold me 2 GALLONS of bleach and 3 GALLONS of ammonia. They are OBVIOUSLY a TERRORIST FRONT!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    LduN (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 8:38am

    Concerned that its sprawling reach and 100-mile, border-encompassing "Constitution-Free Zone" aren't protective enough

    Constitution-Free Zone? You mean the US constitution doesn't apply withing these borders? I thought something had changed since I last went there...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 9:16am

      Re:

      It's a name given for land within some 100 miles of the U.S. border, where the border patrol has pretty much free reign with regards to searching whatever they want.

      Of note that certain states, such as Florida, lie entirely within this zone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 8:41am

    This doesn't surprise me.

    http://www.privacysos.org/node/424

    and from this article:

    http://www.securityinfowatch.com/article/10702225/minneapolis-safezone

    I'm guessing a lot of the big box retailers are directly wired into a fusion center so law enforcement and "third parties" can get at all this info in the name of . . .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Trevor, 12 Sep 2014 @ 9:11am

    So...

    Can I assume that anyone who shops at Home Depot or Lowes is now on some sort of watch list?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mick McNulty, 12 Sep 2014 @ 10:01am

    Pressure cookers

    Don't forget spoons. These explosive mixes have gotta turned with a spoon. Everyone who owns a spoon is a suspect and if you own more than one you've got some explaining to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aldestrawk (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 10:28am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      aldestrawk (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 10:41am

      Re:

      p.s. contact me if you're interested in anonymously purchasing a 28 quart pressure cooker. I do require proof of religious affiliation first. Atheists are OK unless, they also communists or anarchists.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 12 Sep 2014 @ 10:33am

    Diesel fuel?

    So they want gas stations to report anyone buying diesel fuel?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 10:59am

    Pressure cooker alert elevated .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 11:07am

    I think a list is needed to see which companies are on-board with profiling their customers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    wec, 12 Sep 2014 @ 11:31am

    'see something, say something', remember Snowden saw something and said something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 12 Sep 2014 @ 11:46am

    The next time there is a pressure cooker on Woot.com, is the terror level going to go up?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 12:19pm

    The Iron Law of Bureaucracy

    Wow, the DHS went really fast from the doing-their-job stage to the ensuring-the-agency-persists stage. I suspect because other than "fight terrorism" they didn't have a clear function.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 3:50pm

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      GEMont (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 3:09am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 4:28pm

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TestPilotDummy, 12 Sep 2014 @ 5:38pm

    Deactivate the DHS

    They were never needed, they were oath breakers from the birth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2014 @ 6:04am

    America, sort out your shit! These people work for you!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 13 Sep 2014 @ 11:29am

    One thing I know

    If the DHS wants me to do anything at all, especially ratting out my fellow citizens without evidence of wrongdoing, then I am disinclined to do that thing without long, hard consideration.

    The DHS is not to be trusted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 13 Sep 2014 @ 5:57pm

    Legal Misdirection

    "See something, say something"

    Otherwise known throughout history as:

    "Divide and Conquer"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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