FBI tells net cafe owners that TOR users might be terrorists

Icecube sez, "Are you concerned about your online privacy? Do you shield your laptop from view of others? Do you use various means of hiding your IP address? Do you use any encryption at all like PGP? That means you are probably a terrorist according to the FBI. These are just some of the activities that are suggested indicators of terrorism according to a flyer being distributed entitled 'Communities Against Terrorism' You can find a PDF version here entitled 'Internet Cafes'"


  1. You’ve done an amazing spinning job of this. This is a list of possible reasons to suspect someone. It does not say ‘if someone is doing one of these they are probably a terrorist’. When combined with other suspicious behaviour, of course using Tor is going to be a sign of a possible terrorist.

    Quoted from the document:

    It is important to remember that just because someone’s speech, actions, beliefs, appearance, or way of life is different; it does not mean that he or she is suspicious.

    1. That’s more like the small print of the document though, while the word “terrorist” appears in big red letters.

      So yeah, it’s actually very likely that this era of McCarthyism is still being perpetuated.

      1. Getting people to read anything is hard. Using a title with a lot of impact is an easy way to draw a reader in. This is stuff they teach in primary school.

        1. And sticking little disclaimers in small print at the bottom is stuff they teach in writing credit agreements, right?

          They’ve written a big, impactful headline saying “terrorist”, a list of suspicious behaviour, a number to call to protect America, and then at the bottom they’ve said “you know, actually possibly not a terrorist after all”.

    2. To me that text comes across as a weasel worded disclaimer especially as it comes under the red-backgrounded title “What should I consider suspicious?”

      1. Absolutely agreed. It’s tucked in all the way down at the bottom where pretty much no one will bother getting to. “Getting people to read anything is hard”, remember?

    3.  You are terribly naive.

      Those are the same sorts of activities that preserve free speech and privacy. Unsurprisingly, they are also the types of activities that could be required to organize a revolt by the citizens to overthrow a repressive government.

    4. A certain percentage of the population will see “What should I consider suspicious?” and immediately stop thinking rationally, if they had even been thinking rationally to begin with.

      It seems like government agencies at all levels are trying to instill an ongoing, low-level panic and xenophobia in the general population, who is expected to be sheepishly, unquestioningly obedient.


  2. I think John Lennon said it best (even though he was quoting Maharishi at the time) :

    Everybody’s got something to hide, except for me and my monkey.

  3. Oh wonderful, so, quoting from the flyer: “using VOIP or communicating through a PC game”, “attempts to shield the screen from view of others”, “Always pay cash” etc. places me in the same category as those who would fly a plane into a skyscraper.

  4. “Everything looks like a nail to someone with a hammer.” And we’ve given the FBI a pretty big hammer.

    It makes me sad to see the proto-fascist platitude of “Well, if you’re innocent, then you don’t have anything to hide” not only being used as an excuse for legislation, Constitutional violations, disproportionate use of force and of the legal system, and more, but to increasingly hear it mouthed by the general public as well.

    1. “Well, if you’re innocent, then you don’t have anything to hide ” is like “looks like everybody is carrying a hammer, when you’re a nail..”-attitude

      think about it…

    2. The primary problem of “if you’re innocent, then you don’t have anything to hide” isn’t the truth or falsity of the statement or its proto-fascist nature or anything like that. It’s that only limited groups are affected. The FBI is not moving for greater transparency because they’re innocent, they’re saying that other people should let the FBI check into them.

      The only proper response to someone telling you that only the guilty want privacy is “sure, you first”.

  5. The tiny print at the bottom of each page is disgusting…
     “Each indictor listed above, is by itself, lawful conduct or behavior and may also constitute the exercise of rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. In addition, there may be a wholly innocent explanation for conduct or behavior that
    appears suspicious in nature. For this reason, no single indicator should be the sole basis for law enforcement action. The totality of behavioral indicators and other relevant circumstances should be evaluated when considering any law enforcement response or action.”

    After charging people with it being up to them to make the call if these see these things.

    Want an amazing way to spot a potential terrorist?  See if they are talking to an FBI informant.  The FBI has yet to stop a terrorism plot they weren’t behind putting into motion.

    Using more of the US vs THEM mentality is not beneficial to society or helpful.
    We have so many people out there who blame all of the ills on the world on certain people, an easy to target group and let the insanity run wild.

    Were we just keeping McCarthy on ice next to Disneys head?
    Are we so stupid we fall for it again?  How many times has this been repeated in history, spy on everyone, trust no one, turn your neighbors in for anything “odd”, and lets see how much lower society can go this time.

    1. Well it worked for the National Socialist Workers’ Party, and they seem to have inspired a lot of US govt methods and action in the last decade or so. Mind you, their techniques were effective…

          1. Directed at Andrew….

             Only really young people don’t see the similarities. People born in the WWII era are old enough to have heard of, or read about, the events in Germany as described by people who lived through it.

            School children today read only a very sanitized version of events as compared to what I was taught as a child. I had several neighbors who survived the camps, and many relatives who fought in Europe who would sometimes slip into morose recounts of what they saw in Germany.

            Justice Douglas O. Williams said,

            “As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.”

            There are so many things wrong that have been going wrong for so many years. When the hammer falls, see if you feel like making some snide Godwin remarks, then.

          2. @Phil:
            The problem that Godwin’s Law refers to is not that it’s wrong to look at recent history to identify future trends but that every future trend will eventually be compared to Nazi Germany. 

            The danger is that we’ll miss precursors of the hammer falling (Italy is fingerprinting gypsies again, for example) in the noise of vague “this is like Nazi” grumbles.

            I think Nazi Germany is too important a warning of how bad the darkness can be to use lightly. People like Glen Beck hurt our ability to see it coming.

        1. Why do people Godwin?

          Because the world is moving rapidly toward totalitarianism and those who aren’t willing to look at recent history for examples are idiots.

    2. Want an amazing way to spot a potential terrorist?  See if they are talking to an FBI informant.  The FBI has yet to stop a terrorism plot they weren’t behind putting into motion.

      Someone needs to make this into a poster. 

  6. I bet Comcast and AOL are not gonna like this. If you’re signing in to AOL you might be a terrorist? Gee whiz…

  7. According to this document, a large number of electronics / computer science students / makers could be considered as suspects (!)… creepy….like….”1984″ kind of creepy :-/

  8. So, there you have it. The US government considers people using TOR to be potential terrorists.

    Say, wasn’t that the stance held by Egypt and Libya before their respective regime changes???

    Does that mean that we can have our regime change???


    1. You just called for regime change while using what looks like your real name in a profile linked across the internet.  You can say pretty much whatever you want without having to be anonymous, so it’s not unreasonable to then find it suspicious when someone is super anonymous.  

      “I’m paranoid” is a perfectly acceptable answer, but I don’t have a problem with the question being asked.

      1.  I did, yes. But you see, I don’t care. I’m already as old as I need to be. Age give you a different perspective as you have much less to lose than someone in their 20’s.

        Every new morning is just gravy.

  9. According to the illuminating flyer concerning ‘martial arts and paintball’, we should be deeply concerned about anybody who is looking for hand-to-hand combat training in their martial arts… or group tactics in their paintball…

    1. Self defense training is terrorism.  Yup, sounds about right for the idiots at the FBI propaganda office.


  10. Supposedly the FBI does all of these things themselves. And they’re definitely doing more to terrorize people than I’ll ever do. Still, I’d not call them terrorists exactly… Errorists seems more appropriate.

  11. All those things are suspicious, what they aren’t is any evidence of wrong doing.

    If someone regularly goes to an internet cafe and does a couple of the things on that list I don’t think it is unreasonable to do a limited amount of investigating.  If you use an anonomiser to access bomb making sites, while communicating with a code word sheet and regularly changing phones then you are worth investigating.  None of those things are illegal, none of those things should be illegal, but we’re not talking about laws, we’re talking about causes of investigations.

    Also from the document, in italics, just above the contact info 

    “It is important to remember that just because someone’s speech, actions, beliefs, appearance, or way of life is different; it does not mean that he or she is suspicious” 

    And next to it in the “what to do section”

    “Some of the activities, taken individually, could be innocent and must be examined by law enforcement professionals in a larger context to determine whether there is a basis to investigate.”

    Or is the official boingboing position that there is no such thing as suspicious activity online?

    1.  Not wanting people to look over your shoulder while you use your comptuer should not be shown as a reason to push to look for more.

      In a country there Sikh’s were killed after 9/11 because the “looked” the part, creating this type of hysterical we all have to be on guard against what could be completely innocent things is going to lead to something bad.

      How do we expect them to know if someone is going to bomb making sites?  Should we be looking over shoulders or just running wide open logging software so those logs can be turned over by a good citizen?

      “It is important to remember that just because someone’s speech, actions, beliefs, appearance, or way of life is different; it does not mean that he or she is suspicious”

      You should see how well that works when someone is confronted with someone who “looks” Muslim in this country.

      1. Conspiracy is a crime.  Law enforcement are going to have to investigate innocent people, sort of the point of an investigation.

        Unless you think you should only investigate terrorism post facto.  If so, make a stand, run for congress on that, see how far it gets you.

      2. That’s too hardline. If you’re not doing anything illegal the police are wrong to investigate you. That still means that, subject to constitutional boundaries, they might have to ask you a few questions. Law enforcement is not expected to be psychic.

        I would wholeheartedly agree with “if you’re not doing anything illegal, law enforcement should not put up posters telling people to be suspicious of you”, though

  12. “TOR Users might be terrorists”

    Well, that is true.

    Also true: “Non TOR users might be terrorists”

    1. Good point. The full FBI list of behaviour which might or might not be done by terrorists and non-terrorists is still being worked on (it’s a long list, y’see).

    1.  They do. Ever hear of Ruby Ridge? I think that can answer your questions about who is the terrorist.

  13. Or it could be that I don’t care for all the people up and downstream who sell information to the kind of people who would freak out about Tor use.

    So, is anyone working on steganography for Tor streams?

  14. The FBI is like any other government agency when it comes to empire building. When a program director can find more that needs to be investigated he must increase his staff to do all this extra investigation. This all requires support staff, more motor pool, more cars, computers, office space…..ad naseu…. But the goal 1 is that the manager now has a lot more bodies to supervise and according to the wage levels he makes lots more $$$$$. Every government agency is exactly the same ~ the more you increase your budget and add more employees(redundant and unnecessary) the higher your salary goes. It pays to waste and expand even though it is foolish sh!t like “people who like computer security” are terrorists. 6 more employees and 3 more cars and 3 more support people and 15 computers with scanners and printers. BUT ~ a 25% raise for the program manager.

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