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What would the FBI computer say?

April 18th, 2013 at 01:38pm

I’m in the middle of planning a trip (OK, closer to the start than the middle) to the US at the moment, and it occurs to me that my profile, plus my writings from earlier today, could just mean that a computer somewhere in the FBI or the CIA wants an agent to dig a little deeper.

From the perspective of a computer which has been programmed to look out for key words and phrases, this extract from my blog post about the postal system earlier today might seem a tad suspicious.

I would [..] embed some [..] devices in items I post

Yes, the statement was about tracking devices, and one would hope that an FBI agent would see that and dismiss the computer’s concerns, but I still think the computer would be worried about talk of posting devices and embedding things. The blog post also mentioned ricin, a poisonous substance which was mailed to the US President and a senator today, and so chatter about it would probably be high on the priority list for intelligence-gathering computers.

If I was putting together an automated system which looks out for suspicious activity of the terrorist kind, and was mainly basing it on key words and phrases, I would probably set it up so that after identifying something as potentially suspicious, it would then take another look over it for other, less immediately obvious, suspicious phrases which might indicate a plot or some sort of code. Looking back over that blog post, I listed my postal address in an unusual format:

a post office box at the Dickson post office (1272

And talked about the inside of government buildings:

They finally found it somewhere in the PO

and

parcels which are [..] stored in the post office’s back rooms

and

wandering back out to the back rooms

A drug inference could even be drawn from

Nattie did give the letter a good sniff

or possibly an explosives inference if the computer works out that Nattie is a dog.

Further examination of my blog brings up photos of phone towers, electricity substations, and a map of a powerline which feeds a government building.

Yes, an FBI computer would have good reason to think I’m suspicious. And a profiler might be concerned when they learn that my trip to the US is so that I can visit people, most of whom are conservatives (Terrorism center at West Point warns against danger of American limited-government activists and ‘far right’ – The Blaze, January 18), many are Christian, of which some are Catholic (Army training manual labeled Evangelicals and Catholics as religious extremists – Todd Starnes, Fox News Radio, April 5), and I intend on visiting many places in rapid succession, including some important building in Washington D.C. I have also made my disdain for President Obama clear on many occasions (although I think I’ve made it clear, and if I haven’t then I will now, that I do not want him to come to any harm…instead I wanted him to be voted out, and now want him to finish his term and be remembered for being a President with policies which ultimately failed and sparked a need for a serious return to conservative governing principles).

Obviously, this doesn’t add up to anything suspicious, but I can see how, at a time when security services are on edge, the combination of my profile and writings could be enough to make a computer suspicious, and perhaps make security services want to take a closer look at me. Dare I say it, I won’t be surprised if I get pulled aside at Customs in the US next year for a little chat…in fact, I’ll be a little disappointed if it doesn’t happen.

All of this reminds me of a story from the start of this year about the FBI scanning emails for certain words and phrases which apparently are common in messages about fraudulent activity. The words and phrases were “gray area”, “coverup”, “nobody will find out”, “do not volunteer information”, “write‑off”, “failed investment”, “off the books”, “they owe it to me”, “not ethical”, and “illegal”.

Glenn Beck had some fun with this on his radio show and jokingly suggested that they (Glenn or one of his co-hosts) should send an email containing all of those words just to confuse an FBI computer. Sure enough, co-host Pat Gray sent the message, and went to some lengths to make some of the phrases fit.

Dear Ahmed,
I’m sitting here gazing up at a cloudy grey area of the sky wondering how to cover up this blemish that I have on my nose. As a dermatologist, I thought you might have an idea of what I could use so nobody will find out that I’ve broken out again like a teenager. If you do not volunteer the information, I’ll probably have to see a specialist.

Up until yesterday, I’ve been using Clearasil on it but I realized that I can write off that failed investment of $4.99 because it didn’t work.

I wasn’t able to use the cream you prescribed for me last week because I put the jar on top of some books at my parents’ house and wouldn’t you know it, I bumped into the table that those books were sitting on and a jar fell off the books and onto the floor and broke.

My parents said that since I loaned them $20 last month, they would be happy to pay for a new prescription because they owe it to me. But I told them I wasn’t sure if it was not ethical to provide the medication again so soon.

Anyway, if you can call me on that, please call in the Walgreens at Fourth and Main as I have found that to get the one on 29th and Main, you have to make an illegal U‑turn at the light, and I don’t want to do that.

Thanks again. Whatever you can do, Dr. Ahmed.

I found it much more amusing when I heard it go to air. The video of it is embedded in the page of the above link, but it’s not working for me. Thankfully I have my own recording of it.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download MP3
(Audio credit: Glenn Beck, Mercury Radio Arts, Premiere Radio Network)

Samuel

Entry Filed under: Bizarreness,IT News,Samuel's Editorials,TV/Radio/Media

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