Paying Cash for That Latte? It May Land You on FBI’s Terrorist™ List

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Did you pay cash for that latte this morning at the Starbuck’s drive-through? Well, that smiling lady who handed you your frothy espresso and your change may have been taking down your license plate as you drove off – before jumping on the phone to report your "suspicious activity" to the FBI.

Really? Yes, crazy as it sounds, in our post-9/11 snitch/spy/surveillance society, if you "always pay cash," you may be marked as a potential terrorist. That’s according to an FBI flyer that appears to be aimed at proprietors and employees of Internet cafés. The single-page flyer (see below), entitled "Communities Against Terrorism: Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities Related to Internet Café," asks: "What Should I Consider Suspicious?" The flyer then answers that people should be viewed with suspicion if they:

"Are overly concerned about privacy, attempts [sic] to shield the screen from view of others."

That’s the first of six bullet points that are considered "indicators of potential terrorist activities."

The next bullet point indicator targets people who "always pay cash or use credit card(s) in different name(s)."

Internet Cafe flyerSo, if you are security conscious about your computer screen because you are concerned about preventing identity theft, or if you simply don’t want busybodies and snoops minding your private business, you may wind up on an FBI terrorist suspect list. Ditto if you carry on your daily transactions with cash, whether it’s because you’re trying to avoid paying banking fees associated with plastic cards, are trying to avoid credit card debt, or because you value your privacy.

Paying with cash is a suspicion marker that appears on many of the 25 flyers that are part of the "Communities Against Terrorism" series sponsored by the FBI and the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), and various regional and state agencies. At least they appear to be officially sponsored by the FBI and BJA. However, although the flyers have been treated as authentic in many media stories, The New American has not yet been able to locate them on an official FBI, BJA, or other governmental website, nor have we received unequivocal confirmation from official spokespersons that they are authentic.

The entire series of 25 flyers or bulletins are available here on the website. In addition to the flyer on Internet cafés, there are separate flyers aimed at supposedly suspicious activity concerning electronics stores, home improvement stores, farm supply stores, boat/dive shops, financial institutions, beauty/drug suppliers, hobby shops, rental cars, hotels/motels, storage facilities, shopping malls, and tattoo shops.

Considering that the flyers have received substantial mention in media and Internet circles, we were surprised that our initial inquiries with federal agencies met with "never heard of it" responses from the public affairs officers at the DOJ, BJA, FBI, and the Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC), which is the Los Angeles-based federal-state-local "fusion center" that is listed on the FBI/BJA Internet café flyer. However, we did receive a confirmation of sorts on a call back from FBI public affairs spokesperson Cathy Wright in Washington, D.C. Although she wouldn’t vouch for the authenticity of any of the 25 flyers posted on the website, she did confirm that an Internet café flyer was produced by the FBI several years ago. The one that has been appearing in various places on the Internet says in small print at the bottom of the page: "This project was supported by Grant Number 2007-MU-BX-K002, awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice."

That document and other similar ones, said Wright, "were not intended for general public distribution," but were intended, rather, for law enforcement. However, this reporter pointed out that the text clearly is aimed at the public, not law enforcement. Many of the flyers state, for instance, under the heading "What Should I Do?":

"If something seems wrong, notify law enforcement authorities. Do not jeopardize your safety or the safety of others."

Obviously, if the target audience of the flyers were law enforcement agencies, they wouldn’t be instructing the recipients to "notify law enforcement authorities."

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