FBI Enlists Internet Café Owners to Spy on Customers

The Government’s Pretexts for Arresting Virtually Anyone

cafeThe US government has developed massive surveillance capabilities to monitor communications, travel and financial transactions in this country and abroad. But, even the government cannot monitor everything Americans do—not directly, anyway.  Thus, it created the Communities Against Terrorism (CAT) program to enlist your friendly local businesses as spies for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The CAT program, funded by the State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training program (SLATT) is described as a “tool to engage members of the local community in the fight against terrorism.” The program interprets “local community” to mean businesses, and only registered businesses may access the program’s flyers listing “potential indicators” of terrorist activity.

Each flyer is designed for a particular kind of business. For example, this list was prepared for owners of internet cafes. Unquestionably, someone planning a terrorist attack has engaged in one or more of the “suspicious” activities on that list. But so, too, have most of the estimated 289 million computer users in this country.

The government’s flyer designates people as suspicious if they “always pay cash” at an internet café. That’s a jaw-dropping assumption considering that we’re talking about businesses that sell $2 cups of joe, not $600 airline tickets. Good luck paying with a credit card for a purchase under $10.

Evidence that one has a “residential based internet provider” (such as Comcast or AOL) is another pretext for government snooping. If your home internet connection is unreliable, if you are on travel, or if you simply relish a good cup of coffee with your internet browsing, you run the risk of acquiring an FBI file. Trying to shield personal information on your computer screen from the prying eyes of others will mark you as a potential terrorist, also.

It is officially creepy to use a café hotspot to download “photos, maps or diagrams” of a stadium, metro rail stop, or any “populated locations.” To be safe, confine your travel plans to the Alaskan tundra. And, should there be another terrorist attack, do not demonstrate any “preoccupation with press coverage” of the attack. Just move along--nothing to see here.

If you engage in these or any other “suspicious” activities listed on CAT flyers, businesses are encouraged to “gather information” about you, including “license plates, vehicle description, names used, languages spoken, ethnicity, etc.”  At least 25 CAT flyers, collected by Public Intelligence, are known to exist.

The CAT list of “suspicious” internet café activities suggests appalling ignorance of the ways ordinary Americans use computers. Those who are computerless can become surveillance targets, too, if they own guns or precious metals, store a seven-day supply of food, buy a flashlight, believe in conspiracies or participate in peaceful demonstrations.

The government’s paranoia would be laughable were it not for the potential consequences for citizens who find themselves in its crosshairs.  Under the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the government may detain indefinitely any terrorism suspects--including U.S. citizens. And, since the government has created pretexts for arresting virtually anyone, no one is safe.

The consequences for public safety are no less grim. If the FBI cannot distinguish between legitimate computer use and credible evidence of terrorist activities, it cannot zero in on genuine threats.  So, what is the purpose of Big Brother and his business partners spying on millions of Americans if it doesn’t make us any safer?  Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?


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Linda Lewis is a policy analyst with degrees in emergency management and geosciences.  Her experience includes 13 years as a policy analyst and planner for the U.S. government.  During that time, she brought attention to serious deficiencies in government preparedness prior to the disasters that confirmed her analyses.  Those included emergency communications (9/11 terrorist attacks), federal assistance (hurricane Katrina) and decision making (Columbia shuttle disaster).

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  1. Yeah, I found a link to this a few days ago and posted to my FB page. It’s insane! And we cannot understate the importance of how the NDAA might tie into this. So someone engaging in the “suspicious” terroristic type activity of paying cash at an internet cafe can now be indefinitely detained under the vague and overreaching verbiage of the NDAA. Unfortunately, it seems that many of my warnings about such things go mainly unheeded by my friends in FB land, at least to my knowledge. Some people refuse to see what is in plain view…

  2. TragedyandHope says:

    Check out the link to SLATT….they are a private police and data gathering/sharing organization who create the CAT. Then, look at the disclaimer at the bottom of their website. Follow that to their parent organization ‘Institute for Intergovernmental Research’…note that both are wholly private police state entities funded through US Justice Department grants. Our tax dollars funding private companies to get citizens to spy on citizens….Orwell and Huxley, take notes….you boys did not dream it would get this out of hand.

  3. jschoneboom says:

    I’ve tried to get my friends excited about this kind of thing, but no matter what dodgy surveillance and legal framework gets laid down before their very eyes, they pretty much just shrug it off because they don’t believe it will ever affect them. At worst, they think it’s the government being silly. It’s all about capturing genuine bad guys but gosh darn it the government sure is silly sometimes. I’m convinced that most people won’t sit up and take notice until they themselves or one of their family members gets tossed into Guantanamo for some innocent act of dissenting democratic expression.

    Unfortunately, it’ll probably me that gets thrown in, and then they’ll just think, well, there was always something strange and paranoid about that guy…

  4. This is being posted from my TOR browser link anonymously. I also use encryption in my email, a program called Enigmail with Firefox and Thunderbird. These are not purchased products, but part of the effort by the open source community to retain free speech. I have no criminal record, nor criminal intent. My desire is simply to share information without fear of being locked up such as isoccurring to students in Bahrain or those who foolishly choose to use Facebook. Dataminng may be commonplace and legal, but the average citizen should be able to protect their anonymity. I have been listed among those on the terrorist watch list for reasons unknown. Last year I tried to check on my status, and learned that TSA could neither confirm nor deny my status. I did get an honest person within the system who stated to me that any law enforcement agency could redact information several chains of command back from TSA. Infragard is a growing citizen watchgroup that can submit suspicious persons who are guilty until proven innocent. If this is not a duplication of the Soviet State under communism, then it is only because so far it is not a profitable enterprise. I further advise anyone reading this post to befriend a geek or two and then download Ubuntu for those familiar with Apple or Kubuntu for those familiar with PC format. The software allows the user to keep their present operating system and run the new operating system side by side, until personal concerns are allayed. Keep the Internet free! Immer macht frei.

  5. I recently told a friend of mine about the NDAA, during our conversation about the “unelectable, isolationist.” Ron Paul. He said that I must be mistaken or he would have heard about it! It seems that people will never wake from their slumber. Our obligatory education system has been hard at work making ” good citizen soldiers “. Why can’t we be satisfied with rapeing the Afgans for the past four decades, now we need to brainwash them into forgetting the assault on their lives, land, culture and freedom. The scary thing is how well compulsory eduction has worked on the people of the west. Unfortunately it most likely will work on the battered minds of the Afgan children. One of my “main stream media mind washed” friends recently said those Afgans had it coming to them, and that they deserved the occupation of the last decade, that they were just begging for it! Well I’m just begging for them to have peace, and to enjoy the prosperity of their mineral rich and beautifully shaped country, forward this article to everyone you know, it’s easily read for people with a mind “washed” or dirty. Peace and love!

  6. Sorry Fellow Commentators,
    I’m half asleep right now, I read this article moments after reading this (http://news.antiwar.com/2012/02/06/us-funded-textbooks-teach-afghan-children-whitewashed-history/ ).
    copy and paste if you want to read something equally disturbing. I’ll go get some sleep before I post again.

  7. Hi all. Been out of the loop for a few months since a hard drive crash with no moolah to fix it. I’m reduced to using the Local library computers to do day-to-day stuff. Read this article but am hardly surprised. As a 30+-year telecom guy, I can assure you,


    Since the passage of the Patriot Act of 2001, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the NDAA of 2012, our rights have been abolished, due process is a sham, guilt or innocence is irrelevant, our courts have devolved into an Inquisition and the Rule of Law is Chaos. I will check in from time-to-time as I can. My wife is in a convalescent hospital here in Bethlehem from which she will never leave so my first loyalty is to her for as long as she lives. My stepdaughter is figuring a way to sen me her old computer so I can return to the online world. Until then, I must say farewell

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