<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Cyberactivist

Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Almanacs - The New Terror Tool?  

This post might seem a bit off-topic at first, but you will see where I am going with this fairly quickly. You see, I read an article this morning that came in one of the newsletters that I subscribe to called "The Agribusiness Examiner." The claim that they are:

Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective

"In its over five years of existence THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER has not only sought to sort out the news that effects family farmers, rural communities and consumers alike, but to also offer informed commentary on such news. In short, it has striven and hopefully will continue to strive to monitor corporate agribusiness from a public interest perspective."

This newsletter is a good source of information as to how the practices of the factory farming industry affect us all, from the farmer to the consumer. But, this morning there was an article in there from the AP that just had me completely shocked. I even laughed out loud. But, this is really not a laughing matter. What is this country doing? Has the administration lost its mind? This is absolutely ridiculous, and if I hadn't known better and already heard something similar somewhere else recently, I would have sworn that this story had come from The Onion or some other satirical paper.

But, no, this is real. Check this out:

The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.

Yes, you read it correctly, ALMANACS! I can see it now when one of these farmers/hunters gets stopped for speeding. "Oh no, he's got an almanac! Put your hands on top of your hand and step away from the almanac!" Off he goes to be interrogated by guys in suits for hours. I don't even want to speculate on how that conversation might go. I'm sure you all have very active imaginations and have seen enough cop shows to know how it works.

Aren't we getting just a little bit paranoid here? I mean, come on - almost everyone around here has an almanac around the house. They have guns, too. I even suspect that it is not uncommon to find an almanac and a gun in some farmer's pickup truck, as he heads home from the feed-store back home, especially during hunting season, as most of the farmers around here are also hunters. After all, that is about the time of year that the new almanacs come out - hunting season. Does that mean that we need to stop and search their vehicles, search their homes, and question their neighbors, maybe even - OH NO!!! - talk to their librarians about what books they may have checked out lately? This does seem like a bit of an overreaction, does it not?

But the Feds are dead serious about this, apparently. Here is some more:

In a bulletin sent Christmas Eve to about 18,000 police organizations, the FBI said terrorists may use almanacs "to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning."

It urged officers to watch during searches, traffic stops and other investigations for anyone carrying almanacs, especially if the books are annotated in suspicious ways.

OH MY GOD! Please don't make ANY kind of notes in your almanacs! That would be too suspicious! Noooo!!!! Even having maps in your vehicle could be considered to be suspicious. Just to be on the safe side, you better not make any marks on your maps, either. Never know what they might make of that. How scary. Still want to know more? Okay, then read on for the rest of it. I'll control myself until you finish it. I promise. ;)

The practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning," the FBI wrote.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the bulletin this week [December 29] and verified its authenticity.

"For local law enforcement, it's just to help give them one more piece of information to raise their suspicions," said David Heyman, a terrorism expert for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It helps make sure one more bad guy doesn't get away from a traffic stop, maybe gives police a little bit more reason to follow up on this."

The FBI noted that use of almanacs or maps may be innocent, "the product of legitimate recreational or commercial activities." But it warned that when combined with suspicious behavior --- such as apparent surveillance --- a person with an almanac "may point to possible terrorist planning."

The publisher for The Old Farmers Almanac said [December 29] terrorists would probably find statistical reference books more useful than the collections of Americana in his famous publication of weather predictions and witticisms.

"While we doubt that our editorial content would be of particular interest to people who would wish to do us harm, we will certainly cooperate to the fullest with national authorities at any level they deem appropriate," publisher John Pierce said.

The FBI said information typically found in almanacs that could be useful for terrorists includes profiles of cities and states and information about waterways, bridges, dams, reservoirs, tunnels, buildings and landmarks. It said this information is often accompanied by photographs and maps.

The FBI urged police to report such discoveries to the local U.S. Joint Terrorism Task Force.

I can see it now. A few college buddies get together to go on a weekend visit to Hoover Dam. They have maps in the car to show them how to get there. One guy is driving. One member of this group happens to have an almanac with all the dates that are meaningful to him in whatever personal way - birthdays, anniversaries, etc. - circled in red. Maybe he has even underlined interesting things he has wanted to share with the others about the dam so that he could find them easily again. Jut for fun, let's put a Muslim guy in there of Arab descent, but let's keep him a born-and-raised American citizen for this particular situation. Maybe he even carries a Koran or something. The car seems crowded enough, so that'll do for now.

Now, these guys go have their visit, they take some pictures of themselves at various landmarks along the way, especially at the dam itself. They have had a wonderful time and are heading back home (or to school or wherever). They are clipping right along on the interstate, even doing the speed limit - or at least no more than a few miles over. They come along some signs warning of an impending roadblock and traffic stop to check for license, registration, insurance, and just generally hassle you. (Yeah, I have seen these before. If you haven't then you are lucky. I have even been stopped in these random stops as have many other people I know.)

Now, what is going to happen to these guys given that the officers have received the above warning? I'm sure that these dudes had never even thought about something like this. I mean, we are talking about maps and almanacs here. I didn't even give these guys a gun with a permit or anything like that, like I could have. I wonder if these guys would make it back home that night. I wonder how many stupid questions about their personal, PRIVATE lives they would be asked. I wonder if they would be reported to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, like the memo requests. I further wonder how many questions these poor guys could really answer to the satisfaction of the suits, especially the kind that wants to know exactly where you were at a given minute weeks or months, or even years ago. Why you are reading a certain book and where you got it, or why you have an Arab friend. Why you went to certain web sites or read pamphlets from different groups in an effort to try to become informed on issues that affect all of us. When exactly did we decide to give up our rights for a false sense of security?

Not long ago I (like many others) was warning that if they were able to label activists as terrorists and take away their civil rights, that it wouldn't be long before that abuse of authority started spreading to other groups of people, and eventually to every one of us. I mean, they were warning of agri-terrorists going to state fairs to infect the animals shown by our schoolchildren with bioweapons. Don't you dare take pictures or videos of cruelty to animals, either! Is there any situation at all that is not suspicious and criminal, a "threat to national security" in some way to this administration? Is anybody considered "innocent until proven guilty" anymore? How many more "threats to national security" can they possibly dream up before the public finally screams, "ENOUGH!"? Hmmm????

Now, I thought they crossed the line a long time ago, especially with legislation like the Patriot Act and ALEC. There has been even more abuse of authority and heavy-handedness shown by this administration. They have purposely taken advantage of the fear of the public after 9/11 (which was whipped into an absolute frenzy by the corporate-owned media) in order to enact measures that rob people of their rights.

Well, this time they have gone too far. Interrogating people that have maps and almanacs is WAAAY over the line. What happened to the protesters down in Miami is WAAAAY over the line. Asking librarians what books citizens are reading and barring them from telling anyone is WAAAAY over the line. Grabbing people and making them disappear without telling anyone where they are or what they are charged with is, also. That line needs to be pushed back to where it belongs.

This is still America, home of the free. At least it is supposed to be. That's what we tell ourselves because they tell us that.

Well, from my humble point of view here, this country looks a little less free every day. I don't know how you all feel, but this is NOT what several generations of my family fought (and some died) for.

Almanacs. I can't believe it. I guess anything a terrorists might have and use is now suspicious. That could cover so many things. Too many. Almanacs and maps. Everyone has those around here. Maybe they should go talk to the feed store people. They have whole stacks on their counter. I even thought I saw some at Wal-Mart the other day. Better get down there, guys. Go find out who bought those incriminating things and track them down. I bet they even have maps in their trucks!

I gotta go now. I've got an almanac to account for. And I better get those incriminating maps out of my truck. I wonder what else I have that might be in any way suspicious or incriminating... I guess I better go start a fire. Well, I needed to burn some more brush, anyway, before all the pine beetles hatch again in spring and kill even more of our trees. Maybe I should use an alias at the library, too. Maybe I will wake up soon and find this all a bad dream.


Ow. No, it's real. Damn.
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