Bad news, New Yorkers: every time you buy one dollar coffee from that dude in the food cart outside your office, someone is secretly wondering if you’re a terrorist in disguise.
That’s because under new “Suspicious Activity Reporting” guidelines from the FBI, paying for small purchases in cash should be considered a suspicious activity, perhaps tantamount to reading aloud from the Anarchist’s Cookbook in a public space. The flyers, which offer guidelines to the public about how to determine if that strange man in the coat is plotting to blow you up or merely homeless and crazy, were recently distributed to businesses under the FBI’s “Communities Against Terrorism” program.
According to IT World:
“Using cash for small purchases like a cup of coffee, gum and other items is a good indication that a person is trying to pass for normal without leaving the kind of paper trail created using a debit or credit card for small purchases.”
The flyers, which were posted online by the political watchdog group Public Intelligence, either contain reporting guidelines which are so obvious as to be useless, or target behaviors that most normal people engage in on a daily basis.
For example, the general public is advised to look out for people asking “questions regarding sensitive information such as security procedures or systems,” which, just… duh. But alternately, you should also be on the lookout for people “demonstrating little interest in an activity,” “mumbling to themselves,” or talking on cell phones. So, everyone in New York, basically.
Whether this is a government-mandated ploy to get us all to migrate to a cashless society, or a genuine, boda-fide attempt to keep us safe from homemade bombs, just remember — it’s your patriotic duty to harass the poor man at your corner bodega when he tells you he can’t accept a debit card for that $4.02 purchase. Happy Tuesday!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 14, 2012