Sticks, stones and dangerous words
The scholars and wordsmiths at the Department of Homeland Security leave everyone who aspires to good citizenship perfectly speechless.
Some of the wordsmiths put together a manual for agents who track the Internet, looking for evil-doers and those who aspire to evil-doing. These agents are assigned to pick up suspicious words for further investigation. Some of the worst of the evil-doers have been caught after their schemes, plots and intrigues were detected in e-mails intercepted by agents of the Department of Homeland Security.
Long lists of words the innocent should never use were acquired by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy watchdog group that obtained the lists through a request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act. It’s clear that federal agents who conduct Internet searches for offending words can succeed only if they have a lot of time on their hands.
Some of the words, like “attack” or “terrorism” or “dirty bomb,” are so obvious that a cave man could detect them. Others, like the words cops, police, riot, emergency landing, powder (white), swine, pork and 'flu, do not seem so obviously dangerous. Your Aunt Evelyn in West Gondola, scribbling an affectionate note at the bottom of a birthday card, could invite federal scrutiny without intending to harm anyone.
Other words suspicious to the feds include airplane, subway, Port Authority, grid, power, electric, port, dock, bridge, delays, cocaine, marijuana, border, Mexico, kidnap bust, Iraq, Iran, nuclear, tornado, tsunami, storm, forest fire, ice, snow, sleet, Cain, Abel, China, worm, anthrax, cloud, North Korea, and "lightening," presumably meaning "lightning."
The suspicious words are included in something called the Analyst’s Desktop Binder, used by agents at the National Operations Center to identify "media reports that reflect adversely on [Department of Homeland Security] and response activities."
The existence of the verboten list emerged from the bowels of bureaucracy only after a hearing before a House subcommittee looking into how analysts monitor newspapers, magazines, Internet sites and social networks. They’re looking for “comments that ‘reflect adversely’ on the government. ...