Only days after Barack Obama ordered all federal workers to watch their colleagues and report whatever suspicious behavior, the FBI has rolled out a video encouraging everyone in the nation's retail industry to call police when there are unanswered questions.
The video, which appeared Thursday on YouTube, carries the message that terrorists are just around the corner, and all Americans need to keep an eye on their friends, family and neighbors. Those who are in retail, it says, are specifically are positioned to derail terror plans.
The video, prepared by the FBI, features John Perren, chief of the agency's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, Chemical Countermeasures Unit.
He suggests a customer is suspicious if he's vague about the use of a purchase, there is an "unusual preoccupation" with a product's chemical composition, the customer is "new or unknown," a buyer is unwilling to provide ID, cash is used or the purchase is for unusual quantities or is out-of-season.
If there is any suspicion, the video says, call the nearest FBI field office.
The video appeared with little comment Thursday. The FBI noted, "The Chemical Countermeasures Unit of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate presents a video focused on retail security awareness."
It appeared only 48 hours after a report by McClatchy's Washington bureau that Obama had "ordered federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on behavioral profiling techniques that are not scientifically proven to work."
The warning said millions of federal bureaucrats and contractors must watch out for "high-risk persons or behaviors" among co-workers.
"Those who fail to report them could face penalties, including criminal charges," McClatchy reported.
The report said Obama mandated the program in an executive order in late 2011. It was shortly after Army Pfc. Bradley Manning downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents from a government computer network.
The information ended up at WikiLeaks, the group that opposes government secrecy.
The report said the requirement covered virtually every federal department and agency, including the Peace Corps, the Department of Education and others not directly involved in national security.
McClatchy said under the program, which is "being implemented with little public attention, security investigations can be launched when government employees showing 'indicators of insider threat behavior' are reported by co-workers."
"Federal employees and contractors are asked to pay particular attention to the lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors – like financial troubles, odd working hours or unexplained travel – of co-workers as a way to predict whether they might do 'harm to the United States.' Managers of special insider threat offices will have 'regular, timely, and, if possible, electronic, access' to employees' personnel, payroll, disciplinary and 'personal contact' files, as well as records of their use of classified and unclassified computer networks, polygraph results, travel reports and financial disclosure forms."
The new video apparently now enrolls the millions in the retail trade in a related program. It contains a skit of an FBI investigation into an alleged bomb-making operation. In the skit, a purported bomber is killed and agents interview various retail industry workers, who all apparently should have known what was going on.
Among the targeted items are hydrogen peroxide, bleach and ammonium nitrate.
The FBI advises in the video that retailers write down pertinent information, such as names, addresses, physical descriptions, license plates and telephone numbers of those who exhibit "suspicious activity."
WND reported in 2011 that the FBI and other agencies then were asking owners and managers of surplus goods stores to spy on their customers, watching whether they pay in cash, make "extreme" religious statements or purchase products such as waterproof matches.
The request from the government also went to gun shops, fertilizer suppliers, motels and hotels, authorities said.
The announcement came almost immediately after Obama said, "Communities – especially Muslim American communities whose children, families and neighbors are being targeted for recruitment by al-Qaida – are often best positioned to take the lead because they know their communities best."
The report warned that while the Constitution recognizes freedom of expression, "even for individuals who espouse unpopular or even hateful views," it also is the responsibility of government to deter "plots by neo-Nazis and other anti-Semitic hate groups, racial supremacists, and international and domestic terrorist groups."
"The best defenses against violent extremist ideologies are well-informed and equipped families, local communities, and local institutions. Their awareness of the threat and willingness to work with one another and government is part of our long history of community-based initiatives and partnerships dealing with a range of public safety challenges," the 2011 report said.
Among the efforts then was a series of brochures being handed out to farm supply stories, gun shops, military surplus stores and even hotels and motels. The brochures ask proprietors, clerks and others to watch out for "potential indicators" of terrorism, including "paying with cash," having a "missing hand/fingers," making "extreme religious statements coupled with comments that are violent or appear to condone violence" and making bulk purchases of "Meals Ready to Eat" or "night flashlights."
The following was handed out to surplus stores by agents of the FBI in Denver:
The flyer was reminiscent of the Department of Homeland Security's 2009 report "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment" that suggested "the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups."
The report from the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis defined right-wing extremism in the U.S. as "divided into those groups, movements and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups) and those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."
The DHS report had followed only by weeks a report from the Missouri Information Analysis Center that linked conservative groups to domestic terrorism.
The Missouri report warned law enforcement agencies to watch for suspicious individuals who may have bumper stickers for presidential candidates such as Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin. It further warned law enforcement to watch out for individuals with "radical" ideologies based on Christian views, such as opposing illegal immigration, abortion and federal taxes.
WND also reported later when the federal government adopted a new rule providing more secrecy for its shadowy "fusion" centers, where investigators look at all sorts of private information that could impact administrative or criminal and civil "enforcement" actions.
The announcement came from the Department of Homeland Security in a statement in the Federal Register.