New Blog Details The Unfortunate Experience Of Being On Homeland Security's Terrorist Watchlist

from the the-S's-stand-for-'stupid' dept

You don't have to be affiliated with any known terrorist group to be added to the government's terrorist watchlist. The Intercept's publication of the numbers behind the massive amount of people the government's keeping an eye on made that perfectly clear. A full 40% of the list -- 288,000 people -- are there without any particular justification. The agencies making these nominations clearly can't articulate why certain people should receive enhanced searches and questioning each and every time they seek to board a domestic flight. But they nominate these people anyway, using something no more scientific (or counter-terroristic) than a hunch.

Kashmir Hill at Forbes has a great profile of (not-very-anonymous-after-all) blogger Peter Young, who has received the dreaded SSSS designation from the TSA. Ringing up 4 S's means every TSA agent thinks you're a terrorist and every visit to the airport means extra patdowns and questioning. Young has been detailing the humdrum existence of your everyday terrorist over at his blog, "Jetsetting Terrorist," where he notes that his decidedly non-terroristic appearance causes the consternation and confusion at smaller airports where 4-S designations are few and far between. Not that being a jetsetting terrorist doesn't have its upsides…

He discovers some of the hidden benefits of being labeled a terrorist: his boarding pass is a ticket to the front of the security line. He realizes he can turn the confusion over his flying status into a free flight and drink vouchers.
He also speculates as to why those on the terrorist watchlist aren't allowed to sit by emergency exits.
Terrorists hate humans so much we would physically block exit points in the event of a crash and/or fire.

They make you do that weird verbal confirmation thing after the fight attendant recites that exit row speech, and we’re known for only speaking Arabic.

The TSA just likes making stupid rules vacant of any rationale.
"Stupid rules vacant of any rationale" aptly describes a large swath of the Terrorist Watchlist, including Young's 4-S status, which prevents him from utilizing technological advancements like checking in electronically using a mobile device or a kiosk.

As far as Young can tell, it's a nearly two-decade-old misdemeanor that's keeping him from traveling without additional molestation.
His full time job is running an online business, but he is also a prominent animal activist; the latter is what garners him the extra TLC from the TSA. The property crime for which he was convicted dates back to 1997 when he went on a cross-country road trip freeing minks from fur farms in three states. His weapon of mass destruction was a pair of bolt cutters. On the lam for a number of years, he was apprehended and tried in 2005, and found guilty of “animal extortion terrorism.”
"Animal extortion terrorism" isn't covered under the guidelines for the Terrorism Watchlist. In fact, Young was only ever convicted of a misdemeanor (pleading down from a felony) and served on two years for his federal crime. But that's still enough to make him a feared traveler, one who is never to be trusted, not even 17 years removed from the "crime spree" that first drew the government's attention. While the prosecutor tried to connect Young with a group the DHS actually recognizes as domestic terrorists (the Animal Liberation Front), it didn't stick. Young denies any connection with the animal rights extremists.

There's another reason Young is blogging about his experiences: this very public outing of his TSA-stained laundry makes it that much tougher for the US government to simply "disappear" him, air travel-wise.
According to the Intercept, there were 16 people on the No-Fly list in 2001; in 2013, it had exploded to 47,000. “I’m worried the government will slowly move people from the Selectee list to the No-Fly list,” Young says. “I want a podium to speak from in case that does happen to me.”
As has been noted here, the No-Fly list is an unconstitutional joke. The "redress process" is so horribly ineffective that a court actually declared it to be a violation of Americans' civil rights. The Terrorism Watchlist is not only broader, but it's possibly more damaging. While it won't actually prevent you from flying (provided you don't mind every trip to the airport being the Full TSA Security Theater Experience), it does open your life up to a whole lot more government scrutiny.
In addition to data like fingerprints, travel itineraries, identification documents and gun licenses, the rules encourage screeners to acquire health insurance information, drug prescriptions, “any cards with an electronic strip on it (hotel cards, grocery cards, gift cards, frequent flyer cards),” cellphones, email addresses, binoculars, peroxide, bank account numbers, pay stubs, academic transcripts, parking and speeding tickets, and want ads. The digital information singled out for collection includes social media accounts, cell phone lists, speed dial numbers, laptop images, thumb drives, iPods, Kindles, and cameras. All of the information is then uploaded to the TIDE database.

Screeners are also instructed to collect data on any “pocket litter,” scuba gear, EZ Passes, library cards, and the titles of any books, along with information about their condition—”e.g., new, dog-eared, annotated, unopened.” Business cards and conference materials are also targeted, as well as “anything with an account number” and information about any gold or jewelry worn by the watchlisted individual. Even “animal information”—details about pets from veterinarians or tracking chips—is requested. The rulebook also encourages the collection of biometric or biographical data about the travel partners of watchlisted individuals.
This is from the same rulebook and documents that admitted that nearly 300,000 of the 680,000 people on the government's Terrorist Watchlist have "no recognized terrorist group affiliation." Just another ridiculous facet of the Dept. of Homeland Security's security theater: loading up on unrelated "extras" just so it can boast it has a "cast of thousands" (and demand a budget of billions!). No terrorism experience necessary. Enjoy your flight!


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 8:01am

    "Animal extortion terrorism" isn't covered under the guidelines for the Terrorism Watchlist

    I'd ask what does "animal extortion terrorism" mean but I'm afraid we would need a psychiatrist, an alien, a clown and a lawyer to explain it. Not necessarily in that order, lawyer optional.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 9:29am

    The good old "mysterious, arbitrary second class citizen list."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 9:36am

    This is still a tough pill to swallow ,realizing this is happening in America , blacklisting citizens for discriminatory reasons should be illegal by now , and i'm still of the belief that if a person is charged with a non-violent crime does their time ,it can't be held against you at a later date .

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 10:58am

      Re:

      Honestly, it's really nothing new. I've got a friend that was adopted when he was probably 2 years old that gets the special treatment every time without a criminal record. The problem, he was born in North Korea. We usually head up to Canada every year for a camping trip and one of the few things they ask is where were born, even though he's got a valid passport, driver license, and everything else.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 3:36pm

      Re:

      It is illegal, but the ones to actually enforce the laws, have found reasons to ignore those inalienable rights.

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 26 Oct 2014 @ 9:46am

      Re:

      If they called it what it is -- a political watch list -- it would be equally illegal under the constitution, but far more understandable to the average citizen.

      That's probably why they use the word terrorism instead of politics.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 9:38am

    just commenting on this site probably has us all in a fusion center database somewhere. since dissent is terrorism to the facists

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

  • identicon
    Nim the Invincible, 23 Oct 2014 @ 9:49am

    Animal extortion terrorism

    A quick google of this turns up Mr. Young and PeTA.

    As ridiculous as his situation seems to be it smells a bit put up and seriously releasing minks into the wild (where they mostly die) is stupid.

    I guess I just think that absolutely everyone involved in this story is stupid, Mr. Young the TSA, DHS other alphabets the real solution here is to not let any of them fly or interact with society at all.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 9:55am

      Re: Animal extortion terrorism

      There are animal and environmental rights groups that engage in actual terrorist actions (bombing forest service offices, spiking trees, etc.) I don't know if this guy was in such a group or not, but this highlights one of the problems with the "terrorist" label (and therefore the no-fly lists). Groups like ALF are technically terroristic -- but they have very narrow and specific targets. None of these groups would do something like hijack or bomb a commercial airline. So putting them on a no-fly list isn't making anyone safer at all. It's purely punitive.

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

      • identicon
        Nim the Invincible, 23 Oct 2014 @ 10:08am

        Re: Re: Animal extortion terrorism

        If you consider tree spiking terrorism then you have to admit that law enforcement is terrorism, it is the forcing of people to conform thru fear, the state is terrorism.

        This story demonstrates that, but everyone involved is still stupid.

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

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 4:54pm

          Re: Re: Re: Animal extortion terrorism

          "you have to admit that law enforcement is terrorism, it is the forcing of people to conform thru fear, the state is terrorism."

          Yes indeed. I've said as much several times here.

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

        • identicon
          Pragmatic, 27 Oct 2014 @ 6:20am

          Re: Re: Re: Animal extortion terrorism

          If you consider tree spiking terrorism then you have to admit that law enforcement is terrorism, it is the forcing of people to conform thru fear, the state is terrorism.

          This story demonstrates that, but everyone involved is still stupid.


          Would you change your mind if your house was robbed? How would you react to something like that?

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

    • identicon
      jackn, 23 Oct 2014 @ 11:24am

      Re: Animal extortion terrorism

      Don't forget to put yourself in the stupid bucket.

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

  • identicon
    mcinsand, 23 Oct 2014 @ 9:51am

    If freeing minks gets 4S ratings...

    What about being a member of AARP? The average American faces far more risk every day as a result of AARP than from any self-declared terrorist group. Anytime discussions begin that might increase scrutiny over renewed drivers licenses (permits to control thousands of pounds of metal on any significant speed on a road), the AARP opens the lobbying floodgates to defeat any proposed legislation. Guys, our driving requirements are a joke, and we have too many unqualified drivers on our roads at any age. However, because of AARP, clamping down on unqualified drivers is far more difficult.

    So, if Hill gets a 4-S, then any member of AARP certainly should!

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

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 9:59am

    His past activity may explain this

    > 1997 when he went on a cross-country road trip freeing minks from fur farms

    Now this makes sense.

    The TSA is just trying to save us (and the children) from the dangers of MINKS on a PLANE!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 10:06am

    Always loved Arlo Guthrie's take on things: "You don't understand, I'm on the list from way back! ...I am not the threat I'd *hoped* to become!"

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

    • identicon
      Nim the Invincible, 23 Oct 2014 @ 10:12am

      Re:

      Utah Philips does it better:
      "..for gods sake don't let them into the back yard, that's where the guns are buried!."

      Utah Phillips Trolling the FBI before the internet, got his garden ready for planting gratis the FBI :)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymouse, 23 Oct 2014 @ 10:41am

    "The digital information singled out for collection includes social media accounts, cell phone lists, speed dial numbers, laptop images, thumb drives, iPods, Kindles, and cameras. All of the information is then uploaded to the TIDE database. "

    I now will make sure to load my camera with pics of my junk and trunk for this database and Law enforcement perusal. Thank you Techdirt for giving me another weapon in the war on our rights. Or least something to snicker over on the flight.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 11:17am

    "cross-country road trip freeing minks"

    So he used a car...

    How is searching him before boarding planes going to help here? Clearly they should be placing TSA agents beside every car door.

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

    • icon
      Oblate (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 11:30am

      Re:

      > they should be placing TSA agents beside every car door

      I think the public would be best served, and safety most increased, by placing the TSA agents inside the mink cages.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 11:59am

        Re: Re:

        I think the public would be best served, and safety most increased, by placing the TSA agents inside the mink cages.

        I hope with a mink already inside of said cage. (Cute and ferret-like they may be, but mink can be mean little critters.)

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

  • identicon
    Whoever, 23 Oct 2014 @ 11:29am

    Spying on US Citizens

    This page is rather interesting, in the wider context of the NSA spying:
    http://jetsettingterrorist.com/flying-internationally-as-a-convicted-terrorist-part-two/

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

    • icon
      Rikuo (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 12:08pm

      Re: Spying on US Citizens

      What he should do next is have a file on his phone/laptop called "Super-Duper-Secret_Evil_Plan_Bomb_White_House.txt" (no password of course) and write out a fake plan to bomb the white house (one that would never work in reality).
      Then at the end say something along the lines "If you've read this far and still believe that this a genuine plan to bomb the white house, and that I must be detained as a terrorist 'mastermind'...then you are just fucking hopeless".

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 2:37pm

        Re: Re: Spying on US Citizens

        only problem is that they would conveniently lose that portion of the file during your prosecution. And as they'll have confiscated your phone when they arrested you... well have fun with that...

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 5:24pm

          Re: Re: Re: Spying on US Citizens

          So send a copy to your lawyer in advance

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

          • icon
            art guerrilla (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 5:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Spying on US Citizens

            i'm not sure you are catching on to the ways of Empire, citizen...
            1. the rules will change or be made up to suit *THEIR* purposes, not yours...
            2. there are plenty of 'catch-all' regulations which essentially give them power to do what they want...
            3. there are almost certainly various laws which forbid such actions because you are then interfering with their sacred mission, blah blah blah...
            4. you don't get it: MERE mockery of them constitutes a sort of terrorist enabling, and they will jack you up and make your life miserable, as only the feds can...

            you aren't going to outwit them, or pull some funny business to make them look like fools: they will simply tase or shoot you into submission...

            because MOTHERFUCKIN' EAGLES, bitchez...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 11:38am

    the really worrying thing is that not just the TSA know about this and do what they are so adept at doing, fucking up peoples travel plans, they cast the list over the pond to the UK and they watch for similar things there. the whole issue is nothing but a paranoid member of government/security (maybe both?) who has gotten it into their heads that there is a terrorist behind every corner!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 1:27pm

    PETA

    People for the Ethical Terrorism of Animals.

    Yea, totes should be on that list! Way to go you DHS/NSA/TSA ass clowns!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 1:38pm

    What is the "saturation point"?

    Is it 18%, 62% or what? At what point are we all terrorists? The TSA will then need to start a non-terrorist list. Or have we past this point already and its a secret? We are playing silly word games, billion dollar word games with NO demonstrable positive results. Your government at work for you, or SOP.

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

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 2:33pm

    Misdemeanor

    > Young was only ever convicted of a misdemeanor (pleading
    > down from a felony) and served only two years for his
    > federal crime.

    That makes no sense. A misdemeanor, by definition, is a crime for which the punishment is less than a year. If he served two years for the crime, then it's (again, by definition) a felony.

    Either someone got the crime classification wrong, or the punishment wrong here.

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

    • identicon
      Legal Eagle, 23 Oct 2014 @ 4:03pm

      Re: Misdemeanor

      Peter Young received the maximum sentence for two misdemeanors, served consecutively. Thus the two years.

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

  • icon
    McFortner (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 3:54pm

    Yeay TSA!

    I don't know about you, but *I* feel safer knowing this man is on the watch list.

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

  • identicon
    Mr Big Content, 23 Oct 2014 @ 8:06pm

    This Could Never Happen In Teh USA

    Our freedoms are safe, not like in these foreign places. You know why? Because of the Second Amendment. The Government knows, if it ever tried to trample on any of our IMPORTANT rights, our guns would be out and trained on them like a ton of bricks.

    So don't sweat the small stuff. We can sleep safe at night, with that ultimate guarantor of our rights close at hand, under that pillow.

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

    • identicon
      Pragmatic, 27 Oct 2014 @ 6:23am

      Re: This Could Never Happen In Teh USA

      ROFL! You should do stand up, Mr Big Content.

      Define IMPORTANT rights, if you please. Take your time.

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

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 9:52pm

    Jeebus.

    This kind of ass-hattery is what made me announce on an open forum (somewhat) recently that I will never voluntarily set foot on USA soil again. If you see me there, it'll be because I've been extraordinarily renditioned.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psYQMY69gLo (David Bowie - Under Pressure).

    Yanquis are certifiably insane (generally speaking). Their gov't, not so generally. I'll miss Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon especially.

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

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 12:03am

    Do they really think a hacker isn't eventually going to slip a crafted image into their database and cause actual damage.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2014 @ 12:13am

    So, his crime was freeing mistreated caged animals that are seen as nothing but a source of revenue to be exploited?

    No wonder the TSA is so worried about him. Imagine what he might do if he saw the Coach section of a plane on a heavy travel day.

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

    • icon
      BernardoVerda (profile), 25 Oct 2014 @ 4:21pm

      Re:


      "So, his crime was freeing mistreated caged animals that are seen as nothing but a source of revenue to be exploited?

      No wonder the TSA is so worried about him. Imagine what he might do if he saw the Coach section of a plane on a heavy travel day."


      {applause}

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

  • identicon
    Pragmatic, 27 Oct 2014 @ 6:24am

    {joins in}

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


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