The DHS And FBI Present: You Might Be A Terrorist If... (Hotel Guest Edition)
by Tim Cushing
As we seem to be told repeatedly, seeing something and saying something is perhaps the greatest duty an American citizen can perform in service to this country. It's simply not enough anymore to install an American flag in the front yard and purchase domestic vehicles. Now, every citizen should be keeping his eye out for (and on) his fellow citizens. The price of freedom may be eternal vigilance, but the price of security is endless paranoia.
To that end, the DHS and the FBI have joined forces to compile a list of oddities that might well indicate you are sleeping one paper-thin wall away from death personified (via Bruce Schneier's fine blog).
Possible indicators of terrorist behaviors at hotels: The observation of multiple indicators may represent—based on the specific facts or circumstances—possible terrorist behaviors at hotels: [Place of employment? Seriously? "Alan Smithee, 123 Main Street, Anytown USA 5578H. Occupation: Death Hug Merchant."]
- Not providing professional or personal details on hotel registrations—such as place of employment, contact information, or place of residence.
- Using payphones for outgoing calls or making front desk requests in person to avoid using the room telephone. [Payphones? Are terrorists unaware of "burners?"]
- Interest in using Internet cafes, despite hotel Internet availability. [This seems to suggest that the Feds have already let themselves in the back door on the (sometimes prohibitively expensive) hotel wi-fi.]
- Non-VIPs who request that their presence at a hotel not be divulged. [Let me get this straight: normal, "non-VIP" people will just have their information divulged to whoever asks, simply because they're not "important" enough to deserve privacy? Perhaps that should be posted on a sign somewhere up by the check-in desk: "All guests are created equal, but some are more equal than others."]
- Extending departure dates one day at a time for prolonged periods. [Something only a terrorist would do. Let me give you a real life, happened-to-me example: in town to visit the famous Mayo Clinic seeking medical help for my wife. What started out as three days turned into seven days, with the stay at the hotel being extended one day at a time. Open-ended hotel stays: not just for terrorists anymore.]
- Refusal of housekeeping services for extended periods. [This I believe. No one wants to make their own bed.]
- Extended stays with little baggage or unpacked luggage. [Unless the staff have been instructed to do a little snooping in every room, how would anyone know how much baggage someone brought and never unpacked? No doubt this will soon make its way onto propaganda posters: "HAVE YOU PACKED ENOUGH? Traveling light is traveling with terror."]
- Access or attempted access to areas of the hotel normally restricted to staff. [Close to the parking lot, ground floor. Convenience or criminal intent?]
- Use of cash for large transactions or a credit card in someone else’s name.
- Requests for specific rooms, floors, or other locations in the hotel.
- Use of a third party to register.
- Multiple visitors or deliveries to one individual or room. [Ruthless cabal or post-prom drinking party?]
- Unusual interest in hotel access, including main and alternate entrances, emergency exits, and surrounding routes. [IN CASE OF FIRE, PLEASE REMAIN IGNORANT.]
- Use of entrances and exits that avoid the lobby or other areas with cameras and hotel personnel. [Like the one nearest your vehicle?]
- Attempting to access restricted parking areas with a vehicle or leaving unattended vehicles near the hotel building. [During your stay at the hotel, please remain in your vehicle at all times.]
- Unusual interest in hotel staff operating procedures, shift changes, closed-circuit TV systems, fire alarms, and security systems. [You'd think the Feds would be happy to have CLUES and EVIDENCE just laying around.]
- Leaving the property for several days and then returning.
- Abandoning a room and leaving behind clothing, toiletries, or other items.
- Noncompliance with other hotel policies. [Ah. The handy catch-all. If the other points don't directly implicate you, then maybe something from this list will!]
So, to be a standup, non-terrorist citizen, here's what you need to do:
Pack for two weeks if you're staying for two days. Park your vehicle a safe distance away from the hotel, perhaps across the street or at another hotel. Leaving your vehicle dangerously unattended, walk directly through the main entrance with hands open and displayed in a non-threatening manner.
When registering, present as many forms of ID as possible. Be sure to mention where you work EVEN if no one asks. Brag if you have to. Hand out business cards to the staff. Let the desk clerk know that your stay here is no secret and that your room number should be given to anyone who asks, including those who don't ask. When asked if you have a room preference, answer with a bright, but unfrightening, "I've never had a 'preference' in my life! I'm easy to please and an American citizen!"
Head directly to your room, carefully avoiding eye contact with doors marked "Employees Only." Immediately unpack all of your luggage. Make several phones calls using ONLY the in-room phone. Call the front desk several times so as to avoid appearing suspicious. Return to your unattended vehicle and clone yourself using existing, but non-potentially-dangerous technology. Make no sudden movements and keep your ID and passport displayed prominently. Return one of yourselves to your hotel room, again using the front entrance in a non-threatening, flag-waving manner.
Stay in your room. Use the provided wi-fi. Avoid sites that use any form of encryption. Be careful not to stay in your room too long. When venturing out for something to eat or a non-suspicious conversation with the suspicious staff, avoid stairwells, hallways, exits/entrances, and connecting roads. On second thought, just stay in your room. This will make it easier to avoid being caught up in the middle of a personnel shift change.
If you must leave your room, smile and wave at each and every security camera. Lift your shirt to display lack of weapons, explosives or identifiable scars and tattoos. If purchasing anything from the hotel, use only credit cards, checks or DNA. Return to your room using the most surveilled route. Use the in-room phone to order room service. Turn down the delivery when it comes, stating that you're trying to keep visitors and deliveries to a minimum. Apologize for not having any cash to tip with, but explain that this lack of cash directly contributes (not monetarily, of course) to the safety of everyone in the hotel. Repeat this apology to housekeeping when they arrive, being sure to answer the door before they get to the second knock. Try to ignore their just-out-of-earshot griping about having to clean around the scattered contents of four large suitcases. Smile in a non-threatening fashion and shrug as if to say, "LOOK AT HOW MUCH I DON'T HAVE TO HIDE."
If you find that, despite your careful planning, your stay is going to be extended indefinitey, switch hotels. Pack all of your belongings carefully. Police the room for any stray socks, unused condoms or stealable toiletries. Turn the coffee maker OFF (if applicable). Leave in an unhurried fashion, but don't dawdle. Return to your attended vehicle and (most likely) dead clone. Drive to another hotel, preferably one a non-suspicious distance away and repeat the process. Once you return to your hometown, turn yourself into the nearest authorities for a thorough post-travel debriefing.
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