Department of Homeland Security Getting a Little too 1984ish

A DHS video message, reminding people to look out for and report suspicious activity, will be displayed at WalMart stores around the country.

Posted on December 9, 2010 at 12:22 PM • 68 Comments

Comments

Mr. WellsDecember 9, 2010 12:35 PM

I think we've seen this movie (err, commercial before). I hope someone retrieves a sledge hammer from the hardware section and throws it at the LCD screen. (Apologies to those of you too young to remember Apple's classic 1984 Super Bowl commercial)

Phillip KDecember 9, 2010 12:40 PM

I find Napolitano's facial micro-expressions rather interesting here. On key phrases she uses this odd uneven double-eyebrow-drop followed by a bit of lip pursing that makes me wonder whether she even believes what she is saying.

And no wonder -- what business does a federal official have entrusting "homeland security" to a Wal-Mart manager?

mcbDecember 9, 2010 12:49 PM

@ Phillip K

"what business does a federal official have entrusting 'homeland security' to a Wal-Mart manager?"

Perhaps the DHS is required use the low bidder...

clvrmnkyDecember 9, 2010 12:53 PM

I agree. Napolitano looks a little hinky. We should have the authorities detain and question her.

kangarooDecember 9, 2010 12:57 PM

I'm starting to think that Homeland Security has been infiltrated by anarchists.

Either that, or the stupidity positive feedback loop lacks a regulator. What are these people thinking? The next step would be to make the official symbol of DHS a swastika -- wouldn't that be a cute symbol that no one could find offensive?

RandyDecember 9, 2010 12:59 PM

Not intending to be mean...

What would look strange or unusual in a Walmart parking lot?

Just askin,
Randy

Professional CynicDecember 9, 2010 1:00 PM

So, DHS is taking the "War on the Unexpected" to the primary source of material for www.peopleofwalmart.com. What could possibly go wrong?

Is it just me, or is it getting more and more difficult to distinguish articles from the Onion from articles from the AP without looking at the URL?

tylerDecember 9, 2010 1:01 PM

Who is going to be paying for these video screens? Wal-Mart or the taxpayer? I'd like to think most people would dial 911 if they see somebody trying to blow the place up. To imply that people can't dial 911 without the help from a Wal-Mart manager is a bit insulting.

echowitDecember 9, 2010 1:18 PM

Well timed plan.
It's Dec. 9, (fill in any year). No one behaves suspiciously while Christmas shopping.

No furtive smuggling and hiding of parcels.

No lies - "Honestly Hon, I just got here."

Turn in everyone you observe doing these things.

Thanx, I know I'll sleep better.

brianDecember 9, 2010 1:35 PM

Far as I'm concerned, anyone who would willingly set foot in a Wal-Mart is suspicious.

harmfulguyDecember 9, 2010 1:40 PM

"What would look strange or unusual in a Walmart parking lot?"

Careful parking...
Fuel-efficient vehicles...
Shoppers putting carts in corrals...
Drivers and pedestrians trying to stay out of each others' way...

ThomasDecember 9, 2010 1:47 PM

"homeland security begins with home-town security"

obviously "home-town security" begins with home-security.

Remember kids, if you see something suspicious at home, go tell a Wall-Mart manager immediately.

This would be hilarious if it wasn't so ominous.

kingsnakeDecember 9, 2010 1:54 PM

If someone is not acting suspicious, that is suspicious and should also be reported.

Denis MDecember 9, 2010 2:28 PM

In response to tyler's comment on December 9th, I work at a Wal-Mart, and as part of the remodel they installed several LCD screens throughout the store for advertising. There are at least 6 in the Grocery area. Also, there have been LCD screens by all the cash register for the past several years.

HJohnDecember 9, 2010 2:36 PM

@Randy: "What would look strange or unusual in a Walmart parking lot?"
____________

Beats me, but considering the following thing are commonplace in Walmart:

* spandex that makes revealed skin look like someone cracked open a cylinder some poppin fresh dough biscuits

* open toed shoes that sports nails you could spear a trout with

* talk tops on some of the hairiest human beings you've ever see, many of whom the greeter calls "ma'am"

...and the list is endless.

Hard to say what qualifies as "unusual" there.


JayJayArmsDecember 9, 2010 2:37 PM

Oh my gosh... this is so going to ruin all of the good jokes...

Police state here we come... (*shudder* I hate to finally say that)...

AppSecDecember 9, 2010 2:41 PM

It's like the interstate highway signs that have a number to call for suspicisous activity..

my wife wanted to call and say I'm seeing these signs that say report suspicious activity.

trapspam.honeypotDecember 9, 2010 2:57 PM

In a nutshell, Homeland Insecurity p()rn at Wallmartz.

A new reason to view Walmartz Plp online everydayz.

IanDecember 9, 2010 3:07 PM

There are some suspicious people at the airport who appear to be taking scans of people's naked bodies. They're also groping some of them.

Can we start asking for an investigation of these suspicious persons?

HJohnDecember 9, 2010 3:13 PM

Sometimes, there are days when I get up and think: "man, I need to get new tires, buy groceries, christmas shop, pick up grandma's prescription, get my hair cut, have my eye's checked, buy a personalized birthday cake for my daughter, stock up on booze for new years eve, have a family photo taken, and brush up on my homeland security awareness training. If only there were one place where I could do all of it." ... cut to a Wally World commercial.

Steve WildstromDecember 9, 2010 3:17 PM

And just to be a crust grammarian, it's suspect behavior we should be looking for. We are the ones who are suspicious. I know this battle is lost, but I can;t help myself.

RoyDecember 9, 2010 3:32 PM

If this worked, wouldn't the flood of false positives work as a DoS attack on all levels -- city, county, station, and national?

spaceman spiffDecember 9, 2010 3:58 PM

@ Professional Cynic

I think The Onion has taken over the AP, and the rest. This entire kerfuffle is just so Mad Magazine, Alfred E. Neuman-esque, that it boggles the mind that any sane person even pays it a second thought, let alone a first!

ScottDecember 9, 2010 4:08 PM

I'm one of the people that sent this in - my immediate thought was "What a great way to generate a flood of meaningless incidents to investigate so that the DHS budget can remain bloated and our rights farther eroded".

As far as anything looking strange in a WalMart, you need go no further:

http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/

penkappDecember 9, 2010 4:10 PM

The Walmart spokesman said, "Wal-Mart is a place where people gather, it's a place where you sometimes see your neighbor the most." Is the DHS and Walmart implying that we should be suspicious and fearful of our neighbors?

Professional CynicDecember 9, 2010 4:37 PM

@penkapp: "Is the DHS and Walmart implying that we should be suspicious and fearful of our neighbors?"

Given that real, actual terrorists are in such short supply, that's _exactly_ what DHS is implying. After all, every serial killer is _someone's_ neighbor. Why not yours?

Orwell was an optimist.

Trichinosis USADecember 9, 2010 4:58 PM

HJohn: and why else do you think DHS decided that WalMart was a good target market for their message? :)

kingsnakeDecember 9, 2010 5:26 PM

Not just Wal-Mart ... we need to get Amway involved! They actually visit people's homes. What better way to investigate terrorists? (And dirty dishes.)

Dirk PraetDecember 9, 2010 6:56 PM

It's the sort of thing that can only be devised by an agency that is utterly convinced that the general public in the US is too stupid to recognize and report suspect behaviour if it painted itself purple and danced naked on a harpsicord singing "Suspect behaviour is here again". First prize in the annual "tax dollars spent well"-contest, and a nice score on the Chinese Democracy-scale.

Mark J.December 9, 2010 8:30 PM

Is there *any* part of the US government that has a clue? Forest Service, maybe? The rest is just embarrassing.

SteveDecember 9, 2010 9:54 PM

They should play this video in the back of all New York City cabs. Then the passengers talking to Homeland Security can read the driver's name right off the licence.

Clive RobinsonDecember 9, 2010 10:24 PM

@ Roy,

"If this worked, wouldn't the flood of false positives work as a DoS attack on all levels -- city, county station, and national?"

Yes and a Self DoS at that.

I first mentioned this on this Blog ages and ages ago when one year the Met Police Service in London issued terrorist alerts asking for people to report suspicious activity and strange men with beards and bags.

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/04/...

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/11/...

As I noted at the time, you get a lot of strange men with bags and beards at this time of year and dressed in red as well

Happy Xmas Ho Ho Ho...

Clive RobinsonDecember 9, 2010 11:22 PM

@ HJohn,

"* spandex that makes revealed skin look like someone cracked open a cylinder some poppin fresh dough biscuits* open toed shoes that sports nails you could spear a trout with* talk tops on some of the hairiest human being you've ever see, many of whom the greeter calls"ma'am..."

You make it sound like a trip to the zoo.

Mind you what is it about WalMart?

In the UK we have Asda which appears to be fairly normal (as far as that can be said ;)

Is there something specific that marks it or it's customers out as "being on the wrong side of the tracks" or "beyond the pale"?

In the UK we also have Sainsburies on which one wit once remarked "it exists to keep the chaves out of Waitrose"...

The Laughing HyenaDecember 9, 2010 11:31 PM

It's all so obvious... They're targeting Wal Mart because those are the people who don't fly.

Nick WatersDecember 9, 2010 11:38 PM

This video is disgraceful. The Department of Homeland Security is a blight on the country.

Clive RobinsonDecember 9, 2010 11:45 PM

@ Tom,

"Does Wal-Mart sell brown shirts?"

Yes as well as long knives, but the sale ends Jun 30 as they are Ernst at making Röhm for new stock.

OnTheWaterfrontDecember 10, 2010 5:55 AM

“If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get amateur security.” -Bruce Schneier

BF SkinnerDecember 10, 2010 6:35 AM

Big Sister? Big Bozo more like. This is not the move of a tyrant but a clown. Who greenlighted this?

And why just Wal-Mart? Do they have a licensing agreement or marketing agreement? K-mart, Target don't have terrorists shopping there or didn't they win the bid. Shouldn't DHS be paying for the spots like any other advertiser?

Gordon RiosDecember 10, 2010 7:01 AM

While the next generation is delivering tuition protests, wikileaks, corporate takedowns, and political breakthroughs like Obama's election -- mainstream leaders (including Obama) are contributing DHS & Walmart teamups ...

Patrick G.December 10, 2010 9:10 AM

finishing with:
"...thank you for doing your part..."

reminds me of Starship Troopers (The Movie):
"I'm doing my part, are you?"
"Service Guarantees Citizenship"

sarcasm neededDecember 10, 2010 9:41 AM

How about a national "Go to wal-mart and behave suspiciously day" and also a "Go to wal-mart and report people day"? This could distract the entire police force at once.

ropeDecember 10, 2010 9:50 AM

Starship troopers, Denise Richards can take a bug spear to the chest through and through and survive to fight in the next scene, I was impressed, particulaily on the closeups of Denise, at her ripest hottness

However @ znesic, the swastika is over, It'll be the cross's turn again, this is a crusade

Dot KhanDecember 10, 2010 10:08 AM

If they want Border's security they should keep an eye out at the mall bookstore.
As for knowing who is suspicious how about getting Santa to tell them who's being naughty?
But he's kinda shady what with sneaking down chimneys.

kog999December 10, 2010 1:22 PM

hmm, in store advertisements requesting you report suspicious activity. Isn't that what they started with in the Airports? Soon your need to show ID and go through a metal detector, a few years later there have the nudie scanner. But hey you’re choosing to shop there right? and if you don’t like it you can just not shop.

JohnstonDecember 10, 2010 1:45 PM

This is disturbing.

Fortunately, the USA isn't the only country in the world. Johnston doesn't have to live here.

out westDecember 10, 2010 3:10 PM

So now we'll have a store and parking lot full of folks with shifty eyes, talking into their phones and sleeves, and running back inside after putting stuff in their cars... LET'S REPORT THEM!!!

And in the neighboring town north of here, a percentage of the WalMart customers are "ee-lee-gal" anyway, so they're not going to say anything to anybody....

jallenDecember 15, 2010 1:18 PM

The T (public transportation) in Boston has been running 'if you see something, say something' audio announcements every 15 minutes for a couple of years now. I found it so irritating I now drive to work.

The funny thing is, I used to see at least 2 unattended bags a week, sometimes 4 or 5. What do you think would happen to me if I reported them all?

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