Just days after the White House announced a community-based approach to combating terrorism in the United States, the FBI and other agencies are asking managers of surplus stores to spy on their customers, watching whether they pay in cash, make “extreme” religious statements or purchase products such as waterproof matches.
And the request from the government also is going to gun shops, fertilizer suppliers, motels and hotels, authorities say.
Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced a new plan titled “Empowering local partners to prevent violent extremism in the United States.” In it, Obama wrote, “Communities – especially Muslim American communities whose children, families and neighbors are being targeted for recruitment by al-Qaida – are often best positioned to take the lead because they know their communities best.”
The report warns that while the Constitution recognizes freedom of expression, “even for individuals who espouse unpopular or even hateful views,” it also is the responsibility of government to deter “plots by neo-Nazis and other anti-Semitic hate groups, racial supremacists, and international and domestic terrorist groups.”
“The best defenses against violent extremist ideologies are well-informed and equipped families, local communities, and local institutions. Their awareness of the threat and willingness to work with one another and government is part of our long history of community-based initiatives and partnerships dealing with a range of public safety challenges,” the report says.
One of the apparent elements of the White House strategy is a series of brochures being handed out to farm supply stories, gun shops, military surplus stores and even hotels and motels. The brochures ask proprietors, clerks and others to watch out for “potential indicators” of terrorism, including “paying with cash,” having a “missing hand/fingers,” making “extreme religious statements coupled with comments that are violent or appear to condone violence” and making bulk purchases of “Meals Ready to Eat” or “night flashlights.”
The following was handed out to surplus stores by agents of the FBI in Denver in recent days.
The flyer was reminiscent of the Department of Homeland Security’s 2009 report “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” that suggested “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups.”
The report from the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis defined right-wing extremism in the U.S. as “divided into those groups, movements and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups) and those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”
The DHS report had followed only by weeks a report from the Missouri Information Analysis Center that linked conservative groups to domestic terrorism.
The Missouri report warned law enforcement agencies to watch for suspicious individuals who may have bumper stickers for presidential candidates such as Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin. It further warned law enforcement to watch out for individuals with “radical” ideologies based on Christian views, such as opposing illegal immigration, abortion and federal taxes.
Officials with Oath Keepers.org noted the document was similar to one earlier given to gun store managers in Utah. Authorities in Denver confirmed to WND that related brochures are going to surplus stores, hotels and motels, farm supply companies that handle fertilizer and gun shops.
“This new handout expands the absurdity by now also targeting customers of military surplus stores, and by specifically targeting the purchasing of very common, and very popular, preparedness items such as Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) as ‘potential indicators of terrorist activities,'” said a statement from Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.
“Islamic terrorists are not known to hang out in local Army-Navy surplus stores, stocking up on MREs, high capacity magazines and bi-pods for their long range rifles,” the statement said. “As Brandon Smith, over at Alt-market.com notes, ‘These are very common purchases, not for terrorists, but for Preppers and Survivalists, who are obviously the targets of the FBI profile, not secret al-Qaida agents.’
“Spot on,” Rhodes wrote. “Obviously, the current crop of FBI ‘leadership’ considers anyone who wants to be self-sufficient and prepared to be a ‘threat’ that should be relentlessly tracked and reported.”
An FBI spokesman in Denver confirmed to WND that the flyer is genuine.
“It has been disseminated throughout the United States by the FBI. The flyer and the information on it, stands on its own merit. It was created by FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Denver Division has placed our contact information on the flyer and distributed it to local businesses within the states of Colorado and Wyoming.
“I assure you the process and the information has been well vetted by the Department of Justice before being released.”
In addition to contact information for the FBI, the flyer also had a telephone number for the Colorado Information Analysis Center, a law enforcement “fusion” center where director Dana Reynolds told WND it’s just part of the information-collecting done by the government.
He said when tips are turned in about suspicious activity, they are evaluated to determine whether there should be a police investigation.
“If it turns out to be nothing, if there’s no probably case, then the contact is ended there.”
However, when asked about profiling for suspicious behavior, such as that done successfully by security authorities in Israel, he said that was not being done, and why it is not being done “is a good question.”
One-time Colorado congressional candidate Rob McNealy, who also is a decision-maker in the Libertarian Party, told WND he came across the flyer to surplus stores among his circle of friends and quickly confirmed it was genuine.
He pointed out to WND the irony that the government, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, specifically advises citizens to collect “ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables” as well as “flashlight and extra batteries” and “matches in a waterproof container.”
Then the FBI asks store managers to report the “suspicious” activity of buying the same items.
“It’s almost like entrapment,” McNealy said.
He warned that such practices could be used as attacks on free speech, the right of association and other constitutional provisions. And he believes authorities are targeting Americans who choose to prepare themselves for emergencies.
“Al-Qaida terrorists are not running around buying MREs,” he said.
McNealy said he has information “from somebody who sat in on one of the [fusion-center type] training things in their class they will talk about all the groups out there who are dangerous to cops, sovereign citizens, neo-Nazis – and Oath Keepers and tea party groups.”
“They lump them all together,” he said.
Oath Keepers reported last year that it appeared the Southern Poverty Law Center had become “officially” part of DHS. That was because the chief of the SPLC “now sits on the DHS ‘Working Group on Countering Violent Extremism’ along with the leaders of other so-called non government organizations,” the group reported.
The move came after a government agency accused a father of being associated “with a militia group known as Oath Keepers.”
“It should come as no surprise to see Joint Terrorism Task Forces in states now listing the purchasing of firearms, high capacity magazines, bi-pods, night vision, MREs, weatherproofed ammunition containers, etc. as ‘potential indicators of terrorist activities’ since SPLC is almost entirely focused on going after the militia movement and the Patriot Movement, and is also focused on relentlessly demonizing and smearing nearly any individual or group on the political right that advocates strict adherence to the Constitution or who advocates for the right to bear arms, for state nullification of unconstitutional federal laws, etc. which is why SPLC also has a special animus toward Oath Keepers, which it has labeled as one of the most worrisome groups out there, because it contains active duty police and military who advocate for strict obedience to the Constitution and who pledge to refuse to obey unconstitutional orders,” Rhodes wrote at the time.
“They see all of us on the patriot right as being terrorists or potential terrorists, and they intend to use all the power of government to control, suppress, marginalize, investigate, track, and if possible, prosecute us all until they stamp out our beliefs and views,” Rhodes told WND.
“How far we have come from the Founder’s ideal of a ‘well regulated’ (well equipped and well trained) citizen militia where ALL able bodied citizens were expected to keep and bear their own weapons, ammunition, field gear, and other supplies essential to personal military capability and competence. And the Founders expected us to keep that military gear at home and to actually train together in its use so we would ‘be prepared’ for anything, you know, like the Boy Scouts motto. That motto is a sad remnant of the Founders’ ideal of a prepared citizenry,” Rhodes wrote.
“Under the logic of this most recent handout, the Boy Scouts should be reported as ‘suspicious,'” he wrote.
“The Founders would have wanted all of us, every one, to ‘be prepared’ for ‘any old thing.’ They would have wanted us to have night vision, gas masks (which come in handy in many situations), ‘high-capacity’ magazines – and the powerful military pattern rifles that use them – bi-pods so we can shoot accurately at long distance, and plenty of ammunition in ‘weatherproofed’ containers (also known as surplus ammo cans). They would have wanted us to have plenty of MREs for handy field use, and even ‘night flashlights.’ I suppose ‘day flashlights’ are OK with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, but those dangerous ‘night flashlights’ are verboten, and anyone who buys one must be reported! I certainly hope it wasn’t actually someone at the FBI who wrote that.
“Funny thing is, who exactly do the authors of these handouts think they are talking to when they ask gun store and military surplus store owners and staff to spy on their customers and serve as a network of government snitches? These stores are usually owned and staffed by veterans, who are also very preparedness minded – in other words, just like the customers the government wants them to inform on. That’s like handing the MIAC report to Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin supporters and asking them to keep an eye on those pesky, subversive, and potentially dangerous Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin supporters. It’s absurd,” Rhodes wrote.
The U.S. administration has made clear in a number of cases that it is concerned about conservatives as a potential danger and even has argued in court that it wants the authority to track American citizens in order to develop “probable cause” needed for search warrants.
That argument is being made before the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute over whether police investigators and other authorities should be allowed to track American citizens who have not done anything that would ordinarily prompt a judge to issue a search warrant.
“The court of appeals’ decision, which will require law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant before placing a GPS device on a vehicle if the device will be used for a ‘prolonged’ time period, has created uncertainty surrounding the use of an important law enforcement tool,” said the government’s brief in the case, U.S.A. v. Antoine Jones.
“Although in some investigations the government could establish probable cause and obtain a warrant before using a GPS device, federal law enforcement agencies frequently use tracking devices early in investigations, before suspicions have ripened into probable cause. The court of appeals’ decision prevents law enforcement officers from using GPS devices in an effort to gather information to establish probable cause.”