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Terrorist Spotting 101

by Stephen Lautens


June 20, 2003

It has been revealed that the U.S. Homeland Security Department has been sending bulletins to American law enforcement agencies with helpful hints about how to spot possible terrorists among the general population.

Some of the things U.S. intelligence says to be on the lookout for seem pretty obvious - like their suggestion that anyone wearing "explosive-filled suicide vests and belts" may be up to no good. I’m sure there’s someone in the U.S. who will claim it is their right under the Constitution to wear an explosive-filled suicide vest to protect their home or for duck hunting. I suppose the theory is that when explosive-filled suicide vests are criminalized, only criminals will be wearing explosive-filled suicide vests.

The U.S. Homeland Security Department also suggests that law enforcement agencies be on the lookout for people with a "pale face from recent shaving of beard". They might be terrorists trying to look their best before meeting God. Either that or they might be men whose wives finally got tired of kissing a guy with a face like a scrub brush.

For some reason they also report that potential terrorists like to wear lots of perfume. It never occurred to me that terrorists were so concerned about how they smelled. I suppose it makes sense, considering how much time they may have to spend in a cave in Afghanistan with a couple dozen of their sweaty fellow fanatics: "Excuse me Akbar, would you pass the plastic explosives - and is that the new Old Spice body wash I smell?"

Law enforcement agencies are also supposed to keep an eye open for people who "express a dislike of the attitudes and decisions of the U.S. government." Better hope no one from the government in Ottawa heads south of the border for a quick holiday.

Some of the helpful hints for uncovering terrorists among ordinary decent Americans are a little more vague. The Homeland Security Department said that if you notice someone for whom "waiting in a grocery store becomes intolerable," you may well be looking at a terrorist. If that’s the criteria, you might as well slap the cuffs on me right now, and the five people who were in line behind me the last time I went shopping.

It seems to me there are a few more signs they might have missed in identifying potential terrorists. Like if the person is spotted wearing satin slippers with those curly toes like in Aladdin.

If instead of taking the bus or carpooling, someone gets around by flying carpet, that could be another sign that person should be closely watched.

I suppose as well that anyone downtown on horseback in flowing Lawrence of Arabia type robes and waving a curved sword over his head should have his ID checked too.

If they’re wearing a tee-shirt that says: "I spent nine months in a cave with Bin Laden and all I got was this lousy tee-shirt", better bring them in for questioning to be on the safe side.
At a restaurant, if instead of writing "Have a nice day" and a happy face on your bill, your waiter writes "Death to America" you should turn him in. Or at least report him to his manager and tip no more than 10 per cent.

Finally, if their family pet Rover has more than one hump, please give the Homeland Security Department a call. Operators are standing by.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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