Words the Government Uses to Spy on You - WhoWhatWhy

Words the Government Uses to Spy on You

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A short burst of hail and sleet falling from a cloud over San Diego has caused delays on the subway. Bad organization through social media means that my team exercise drill has been cancelled. It’s actually a relief as I’ve been feeling sick after eating some pork that had a worm in it.

These three sentences may sound odd for a number of reasons. First, there is no subway in San Diego. Second, even if there were one, the chances of its being affected by hail or sleet would be minuscule. (I’m not even going to go into why I might be eating pork with worms in it.) However, the main reason these few sentences are peculiar is that they contain 17 (seventeen!) keywords that will be picked up by government analysts monitoring social media and online news outlets. Believe it or not, what they’re trolling for are signs of terrorist attacks and other threats to the U.S.

A recent Freedom of Information request has forced the Department of Homeland Security to release the keywords and phrases it uses to patrol the web for domestic and external threats. The list contains obvious terms like “dirty bomb,” “assassination” and “Al Qaeda,” but also includes such broad and ambiguous terms as “Mexico,” “agriculture,” and “wave”.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center – the watchdog group that filed the Freedom of Information request—pointed out that the list of keywords includes “vast amounts of First Amendment protected speech that is entirely unrelated to the Department of Homeland Security mission to protect the public against terrorism and disasters.”

Read the Homeland Security manual here, or take a look at the full list of keywords below and let us know what you think.

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25 responses to “Words the Government Uses to Spy on You”

  1. Avatar H.P. Loathecraft says:

    D##### ##### ####, #### ##?*

    *This communication edited for security purposes.

  2. Avatar Guest says:

    If Romney gets in, kiss your personal freedoms goodbye. At least with Obama we know what we are getting.


  3. Avatar FratDawg23 says:

    Wonder if the dept of email snoopers will be as competent with the message scanning software as the dept of airport molesters are with their x-rated body scanners?

  4. Avatar Tham153 says:

    Enjoyed the insanity of the list.  “Wave”??  Like in my three year old likes to wave goodby to daddy every morning when he leaves for work?  Maybe he’s leaving for North Korea to eat pork?  I shall make an effort to use not less than three of these words in all future emails, hoping the TSA perverts enjoy breading

  5. Avatar Ricardo Debiase says:

    It’s clear by this list (very short I’m sure) that the U.S. Government fears an awakening (of sorts) of the population. They don’t want you to talk about History, conflict, anything of significance….at all. The U.S. Government doesn’t even want you to talk – about THE U.S. GOVERNMENT. A very important piece, as well as the FOIA request that made this possible.

  6. Avatar steve says:

    “A short burst of hail and sleet falling from a cloud over San Diego has caused delays on the subway. Bad organization through social media means that my team exercise drill has been cancelled. It’s actually a relief as I’ve been feeling sick after eating some pork that had a worm in it.” Yeah that story looked and sounded good all the way through until you go back and read subway,we don’t have any subways in San Diego except the ones that sell sandwiches.Yeah I know Anthony you are in Paris and probably wrote this while on one maybe.Also you forgot to add in your story the delay was also due to a subway transfomer being struck by “”lightening”” that came from that same cloud.

    • Avatar Dan Garden says:

       Well, since there is no subway in San Diego, the quotation must be in code, eh? And the code seems to be simple “Subway” must refer to “the underground” or perhaps something to do with the navy base, eh? As to the misspelling(s) – well, naturally, we expect that the lower classes, from which evildoers arise, don’t know how to spell. But further, can it be that a survey done at considerable expense by the Bland Corporation determined that “Al-Kinda” members spell lightning with an “e” to signal their fellow members that their emails are from a true associate?

    • Avatar ADCuthbertson says:

       “These three sentences may sound odd for a number of reasons. First, there is no subway in San Diego.”

      I may be in Paris, but 2 clicks on the internet taught me San Diego doesn’t have a subway (besides the sandwich kind).

  7. One would hope that the algorithms used to scan text also include some type of contextual analysis – for example, if the words hail, sleet, and cloud appear next to each other, then the word “cloud” presumably does NOT refer to electronic data.

    One would hope…but would probably hope in vain. 

    • Avatar ADCuthbertson says:

       One would hope such a broad and exhaustive  list of terms would not simply be in place to give licence to intercept and examine the private interactions and actions of a broad and exhaustive list of US citizens. One would hope.

  8. Avatar Dan Garden says:

     A candid view of the list suggests that it is not intended to discover the matters that their lordships claim it’s intended to discover. Most of the words are simply, it is obvious, mere words. Occam’s Razor would seem to provide an alternative goal or purpose – could it be that the list is intended to provide a statistically random survey of email content for analysis of the public humor? Is the goal, then, data input for political control? Of course, if there’s something dark it might be noted and acted on through “SCMODS”, but is that the primary goal? Why would anybody believe that the goal is what they say it is? Why would they say what it’s for except to deceive? The business is theater played hard ball style. Ruthlessly. That’s known as “the old army game”.

    • Avatar Russ Baker says:

       Is your message itself in code? I, for one, do not follow the particulars, eg SCMODS and “old army game” ;-)

    • Avatar Dan Garden says:

       “SCMODS” is a generic term meaning, literally and originally “state, county, municipal, offender data system” – generically it means the emerging electronic and simi automated methodologies of social control. The term was publicly introduced in film with “The Blues Brothers”. The term is in occasional use in northern California – one hears the term. It conveys the sense of an unfair and disproportionate relationship between power and people as well as ruthlessness. “Drone strikes” are a logical and evolutionary manifestation of SCMODS.

      “The “old army game” is simply a professionally done con. The term was in use in American English by 1865. Fields and Dempster popularized the term in “Sally of the Sawdust” – a film which ought to be viewed from the perspective of Marxist Criticism in order to be understood.  The Old Army Game is, in essence, theater – the game method is to establish and maintain in the mark a willingness to suspend disbelief; to create in the Nth mark a belief that he will “win”. The game depends on the mark’s own ethical weakness – often greed, as well as the skill of a team.

      In my college years I took off and traveled with a show…  Before that somebody said that I was a runner for a bookie. Then I went to law school and, turning away, into the heavy construction racket. One sees certain, ahem – similarities…

      Withal, the proffered purpose-goal of the survey of “key-words” is obviously a deception.

  9. Avatar Guest says:

    The words, idiots fools, and loons  should be on this list,
    cause that’s whose running the world now.  And  those words are a true representation of them as a whole.

  10. Avatar Royj says:

    misspelled “lightning” . . . hmmmm

  11. Avatar Geothink68 says:

    The letters in the list are too small and I can’t read them.  Is that deliberate?

  12. Avatar Robert F says:

    Thrift Store America
    You can see it in the real estate. You can feel the retreat from prosperity and purpose. You can sense the poverty and the loss of an entire generation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness… and you can see the,
    “beginning of the end”, for the America of our childhood conditioning. 

       Lost in the All-American, time-honored barrage of local moving sales, rummage & yard sales, and the sad but admirable explosion of Thrift and Second-Hand Stores, you can witness the decay of the legend and myth,…the stories told to us in our youth of what America was supposed to be,…and to be

     The signs are clear on a local level; uncounted closed down businesses, thousands, if not millions of houses that are boarded up to avoid uninhabited damage. Even in the homes that are abandoned, but not boarded up, you can feel the desperation of The American Dream? You know you are broke when you can’t afford to board up a foreclosed home…? I am certainly no college
    degreed economist, and most of what I’ve learned is through my international
    experiences, but it seems to me that when the number of Thrift Stores coming
    online outnumbers the number of new Starbucks and McDonald’s,…the country may
    have a bit of a problem?
     The truly frightening signals are those which smolder out of the burn-pit of our corrupt, unethical government leadership; unmanageable debt, increased police abuses, dead and assaulted members of the “public”, a citizenry grown weary of cow-towing to political, government and “law enforcement” systems that are fraying badly at their ethical edges… and have little or no respect for our Constitutional protections and political limits.

    If not for the deadly oil and chemical dispersant wafting over our southern coasts, the radioactive waste misting those of us along the West Coast and the purposeful flooding of the Midwest, perhaps the Citizens of the country may have the time to pay attention to our upcoming political circus, commonly referred to as elections. But really…how many Citizens really still believe in the American Elective process? How many still hold on to that myth of one-man-one-vote, especially when you can push the right button on the voting machine and stand there watching as the vote changes for an opponent? How many Americans still believe in the process? 

    Not many I’d bet.
    How long are we as a people going to sit and be told what do, told what is right, and spoken down to as though mere children? How long can an entire population of a country sit and be lectured to, “how we shouldn’t worry our feeble-little heads”… with the “complex workings of the government”?

    How many more years of kidnapping and torture are we going to allow our government to perform? 

    Will my grandchildren someday read a book, just as we now gaze at the stories and photos of the Holocaust? Will my great-grandchildren someday look down upon a similar book, and wonder why Great-Grand-Dad didn’t do a thing to stop the government from torturing and killing its Citizens… and others? How will we explain such behavior being accepted with no probable cause, no trial, no verdict…just turn them into dead people because “The Government” says they should be? Are we that far gone, that we will just continue to accept this? Are we waiting for someone on a white horse and lone-ranger music in the background before we stand up and say, “No more”?

    I can understand, given the ethical manner in which government has been managed in my lifetime, I can understand why some would still be willing to accept or believe the proclamations of our morally supreme Leaders? After all, look how up front they have been with us over the years…JFK, RFK, MLK, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Mena-Arkansas, The Clinton Criminal Class,
    Panama, Iraq I & II, Afghanistan, The Foreclosure Swindle, 911…and so on,
    and so on and so on? 

    I can understand why “we the people” would find no need to examine these illegal, immoral and unethical activities, or why such behavior keeps occurring in “The Shining City on the Hill”? In fact, the light from D.C. is so corporately Bright… one wonders how it could continue to be so infested. Who knows…perhaps the Bankers will loan us enough money to hire exterminators?

    Unfortunately, you can also see the growing desperation in the hard-scrabble part of America…the “Appalachia Sliver” of the American conscience, where the words poverty and poor take on a whole new meaning. The sad part is, we are not alone in our ever-growing Appalachia Experience, and after a recent ten-day trip across half the country, we were witness to the ever-expanding condition known officially as a “Recession”,…or in certain parts of the country,…you’ll even get to experience another “Great Depression”,…you know, something to help you bond with your indigent Grandmother, as you compare
    who had it “worse”.

    But as a retired, twenty-year veteran employee of The Federal Government, including over two-decades as a “federally protected whistle-blower” (as humorous as that is), I know of the nature of our
    government leadership, and in my opinion, Webster’s Dictionary is going to need
    a new definition of the word “corrupt” by the time our country falls apart.

    Or, until we realize that we still have the power and unified strength to wrestle the
    mechanics of government… back from these “Continuity of Government” traitors.

    As a first step, I would recommend the following:
    -A National Constitutional Convention – designed to re-invigorate the original founding concepts, rights and status of American Citizens, while amending The Constitution for a 21st century America and its social realities. Additionally, the
    NCC will be empowered to impeach every member of the standing US Government,
    and will remove them from office.  And by Impeach and Remove, I mean all of them. Every standing member of Congress, The Senate, The President and Vice President, and especially the Supreme Court which voted to allow and approve kidnapping and torture. All of them, gone.
    -National Grand Jury – impaneled for whatever period of time is necessary to
    investigate and prosecute all members of government known to have violated
    their oaths of office, as well as committing treason, larceny and murder on an international scale, with no statute of limitations.  NGJ-Citizen Investigators
    should be required to open up all of the American Government Archives across
    our entire history, and we as a people should be told the truth with regard to
    historic criminal activities.
    -Additionally, the NGJ will be empowered to dismantle (through force if necessary) the CIA, the FBI, all “Continuity of Government” plans, operations and operatives, including the US Department of Justice, the EPA, The DoD and every other liberty-sucking parasite that still exists within our compromised government. (These entities can all be reconstructed at a later date, under more limited and ethical standards, if necessary)
    -Freeze & Seize Financial Assets- Freeze and seize all financial assets of any member of government for the last forty years. All of
    them…seize all of their assets, and create a legal process or method for the “innocent” to get their assets returned to them (perhaps with interest).

    However, for the vast majority of traitorous souls who have been abusing their
    positions and the citizens for well over forty years…make them prove that the fortune is legally, ethically theirs; make them prove it didn’t come from decades of corrupt acts. Make them show that their ill-gotten millions in self-worth did not come from abusing their oaths or position.
    -If not, just like we ordinary citizens who have tolerated our cars being impounded, our property seized and the other elements of the current two-tiered justice system, let the thieves and killers of the last forty years fight to stay out of prison, the death-chamber, or the poor house… just like the rest of us.

    RJ O’Guillory

    Author-Webster Groves-The Life of an Insane Family

  13. Avatar Kusokurae says:

    Maybe they’re thinking of “lightening” as in lightening the skin. Some secret group of nefarious, somewhat brown people who would instantly be labeled terrorists by idiot security goons may be attempting to find ways to lighten their skin so as to pass off as ordinary harmless white Christians. Harmless like that guy in Norway who shot all those kids.

  14. Avatar Bevin Chu says:

    The list of keywords that raises red flags includes “lightening?”

    Apparently our self-appointed “protectors” can’t even spell the word “lightning.”

    That should raise red flags.

    • Avatar andrew123456789 says:

      “Lightening” is a word though…for example, “lightening the mood.”  Or, perhaps, “He decided not remove the extra bricks from his luggage, thus lightening his load.”

  15. Avatar Smarter than Your Average Bear says:

    I think someone should compose a short story – message or something containing all of those words and then get it to go viral. That’s what I think :)

  16. Avatar Orangutan. says:

     More to worry about: “The Facts Speak for Themselves”

  17. Avatar E.A. Blair says:

    Maybe we don’t have as much to worry about as we think – they don’t even know how to spell “lightning” correctly.