[Dan Olivas, Monday's regular contributor, will return to posting in two weeks.]
With the DNC over, like Kitty Koch's 11-year-old grandson, delegates and Colorado residents might have asked, "Why are there so many police?" (Denver Post: Democracy sure takes a lot of police)
But there's stranger questions that I wonder about. Like, besides the reported 3300 police officers, how many undisclosed numbers of "non-officers" like ATF, CIA, FBI, HomelandStaffo, and their like invaded our fair city and apparently found little to take back to their office mantles, other than containers of feces? Denver skies rumbled with helicopters, the streets shook from military tanks, and I don't doubt anti-aircraft gear sat somewhere awaiting what never came.
Apparently, even this much "security" is not enough.
At least since 2007, "hundreds of police, firefighters, paramedics and even utility workers have been trained and recently dispatched as "Terrorism Liaison Officers" [TLO] in Colorado and a handful of other states to hunt for "suspicious activity" — and are reporting their findings into secret government databases." (Denver Post: Terror watch uses local eyes, 06/28/2008)
As a Homeland guy put it, the reason for putting aside our civil rights this time is: "Future terrorism is going to be noticed earliest at the most local level."
When I read that thefts of copper were on the list of suspicious activity because they "could be used in bomb-making," it got me wondering what a TLO would think of all the wire I save to sell to the recyclers. Can that utility worker on the pole in the alley report me because wire might equal bomb? Will those railroad workers who saw me salvage a propane tank from an abandoned house think I plan to use it to derail Amtrak (as if it wasn't already)?
To save time, I've spent considerable time comparing the "suspicious activities" on the TLOs list to what occurs everyday in my neighborhood and have come up with an astounding conclusion: there's a terrorist on every corner of my barrio. If yours is anything like mine, try hard to look innocent next time you engage in any of these. Here are my comparisons:
TLO List: • Engages in suspected pre-operational surveillance (uses binoculars or cameras, takes measurements, draws diagrams, etc.)
In my barrio: "Ese, I don't think this is such a good place to film our secret romantic video. And get that tape away from my chichis!"
TLO: • Appears to engage in counter-surveillance efforts (doubles back, changes appearance, drives evasively, etc.)
Barrio: "Ese, I told you something would happen if you kept driving around lost 'cause you don't think machos need maps! Plus, why can't you change T-shirts at home like normal esposos?"
• Engages security personnel in questions focusing on sensitive subjects (security information, hours of operation, shift changes, what security cameras film, etc.)
"Sir, could you tell me how much longer mí y mi familia have before you close down? It's taking us longer than we thought 'cause we have to translate everything for abuela. And are those really cameras?, 'cause she's a bruja and thinks you're trying to steal her soul."
• Takes pictures or video footage (with no apparent aesthetic value, for example, camera angles, security equipment, security personnel, traffic lights, building entrances, etc.)
"Esa, I told you not to buy your hija a cheap knockoff camera that only works sideways. And why did she have to have a picture of us in front of that cute Chicano guard? I always said she takes after you."
• Draws diagrams or takes notes (building plans, location of security cameras or security personnel, security shift changes, notes of weak security points, etc.)
"See, Ese? If you got two regular jobs instead of just looking for side-work landscaping, you wouldn't have to always be making all those drawings that keep getting us in trouble."
• Abandons a vehicle (in a secured or restricted location, such as the front of a government building, airport, sports venue, etc.)
"Come on now gente: everybody push! Just a little more, and we can leave the Chevy in that empty spot there. I'm sure it'll be alright for the night--who's gonna steal from in front of the FBI? And don't worry, Esa; nobody's gonna rob your boxes of garage sale stuff. People don't even think they're worth buying--ha, ha! Now, don't hit me again, or I'll scream for that ambulance driver staring at us."
• Makes or attempts to make suspicious purchases, such as large amounts of otherwise legal materials (for example, pool chemicals, fuel, fertilizer, potential explosive-device components, etc.)
"Esa, the price of oil is just going to keep going up. Acuérdate, in five years you'll be thanking heaven you married the burrito man who cornered the market on cheap fertilizer for his chiles y tomatillos. Don't worry; the smell won't stay."
• Acquires or attempts to acquire uniforms without a legitimate cause (service personnel, government uniforms, etc.)
"Remember this, next time you try to be cute with your 'let's buy used and save mucho moola, mama.' Who ever heard of a mechanic wearing a Post Office uniform, anyway?"
• Acquires or attempts to acquire an official or official-appearing vehicle without a legitimate cause (such as an emergency or government vehicle, etc.)
"What do you mean, will I ever go out with you again?! I'll be the only girl who walked home from senior dance 'cause her cheap novio borrowed a car from his uncle's work. Limousine, my ass!"
(If you find any humor here, make a copy so you'll have something to read to the driver on your way to the TLO detention center.)
Rudy Ch. Garcia
[Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Major Cities Chiefs Association and Department of Homeland Security final draft of the Suspicious Activity Report Support and Implementation Project]