The security week that was: 01/07/11 (See Something backlash)

A slight backfire to "See Something, Say Something"?

On paper, the Department of Homeland Security's "See Something, Say Something" anti-terrorism public awareness campaign is simple and fool-proof. It mobilizes the entire populace to be on the lookout for suspicious activity that could be terrorism. It's not a new concept, and it's hard to say exactly where the concept originated, but the language seems to have been borrowed from New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority, which used such signage for years.

In this country, we've been asked to report on our neighbors for years, from McCarthyism in the 1950s to the witch hunts of old in Salem. Today, the threat is a little more real. Terrorists don't put hexes on your firstborn or encourage you to read Marxist literature and join a new political party. Rather, they actually blow things up, kill people, shut down business and government operations.

Yesterday, the terror incidents at hand were two incendiary packages that were sent to Maryland government buildings, including the Department of Transportation and the other was sent to Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. Here's where things get interesting. According to credible news reports, a message with one of the packages (believed to have been sent by same person) said the following:

"Report suspicious activity. Total Bulls..t. You have created a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Apparently, Maryland uses electronic road signs to encourage motorists to "Report suspicious activity," and some believe that the sender of the packages is referencing those signs used by Maryland DOT -- one of the recipients of the incendiary packages. The suspicious activity that MDOT is asking for reports on could well be the drunk driver weaving across lanes at 2 a.m. or it could be encouraging the reporting of other potential crimes, even terrorism. Similar messages have appeared in recent years alongside this whole campaign for "see something, say something" that has been adopted by hoteliers, by the NFL, by transit administrations, Walmart and a host of other major organizations – all at the encouragement of the DHS.

So, with the sender's calling of the request for reporting suspicious activity a "self-fulfilling prophecy", it appears we have a slight backfire to the "see something, say something" program. It's not the only backlash against the campaign. We regularly see the public comment negatively on articles about the expansion of this public awareness anti-terror campaign. When we announced that the DHS campaign had been adopted by Walmart, one commenter wrote:

"Now Walmart is going to be telling on people to the feds. When will we wake up America? As you read this they're finding more ways to take back the freedoms that were promised to us by our forefathers when they wrote the Constitution. We might as well move to China cause that's where we're heading."

That kind of anger and frustration almost always finds an outlet. For some it could be harmless political ranting to friends or posting political comments on news articles. For others, it might mean building a homemade incendiary device and mailing it to state government offices. If Thursday's incidents at Maryland government buildings concern your organization, you may consider revisiting our 2010 article on Securing the Corporate Mailroom.

In other news..
ADS buys more alarm accounts; SIA defeats energy efficiency mandate; Sielox and Infinova make big business news



High school had barely started back again for the semester when a student in Nebraska shot the principal and vice principal at Millard South High School. The vice principal was fatally wounded by the shooting; the gunman shot himself after fleeing school property. ... ADS Security has acquired the collective accounts of Alarm One and Praetorian Systems Group located in Birmingham, Ala. ... The Security Industry Association successfully fought an environmental policy that would have required electronic security devices to be more energy efficient, noting that the policy wouldn't have worked with our "always on" devices. ... Sielox completed a management buyout allowing the company to separate from its parent firm. Karen Evans continues to lead (and now is part owner of the new firm). ... Infinova, which got its start in the video matrix switcher business but later moved to cameras and fiber optics, held an IPO and spoke with SIW about what the IPO means for the video surveillance firm's future growth.