…and why they’re likely nothing even close to that.
In 2010, the DHS released a “For Official Use Only” document that includes a list of 19 “behavioral” traits that might indicate you’ve got a terrorist staying in your hotel. We thought we’d take a look at those, and put a little twist on the whole thing. We don’t much like the t-word around here, since the DHS and the US government has made it into so much of a cliche that nobody even cares anymore, but still. This one is worth the effort (and the read, we promise).
1: “Not providing professional or personal details on hotel registrations – such as place of employment, contact information, or place of residence.”
I’ve done all of those. I know Daylight and Mister Ward have too, and we’re not terrorists. Staying in hotels without providing information like that is most common to people who need secrecy in their jobs, such as corporate negotiators and corporate security. We generally agree here that we would avoid giving up any more information than necessary, in any hotel, no matter why we stayed there. This “Indicator” can certainly be ignored.
2: “Using payphones for outgoing calls or making front desk requests in person to avoid using the room telephone.”
Anyone who has ever stayed in a hotel and used the room phone will do this. Also, with the amount of cellphones (also disposable cellphones / “burnphones“), not using the room phone is an indicator of… absolutely nothing. But what about going down to the front desk for requests that can easily be called down? Well… have you seen some of the girls that they station behind those counters? Jeez. No wonder guys come down there in person.
3: “Interest in using Internet cafes, despite hotel Internet availability.”
Again… most US hotels bill their guests for internet use, as opposed to European hotels. In addition, most Internet cafes have better capacity, faster lines, and hardlines. Many people are (rightly) worried about using Wi-Fi for internet banking, for example. Or, as have been the case for me and Daylight on a number of occasions, the VPN we want to access will not accept connections from a shared or unknown Wi-Fi.
4: “Non-VIPs who request that their presence at a hotel not be divulged.”
Oops. Done that too. Once, I didn’t want parties from a negotiation we were finishing up to know where we were, and a couple of other times it has been an exec protection thing. That might be the case, or guess what… it might just be someone who value their time off, and doesn’t want calls from the ex wife about advances on the alimony, just for a few days. And now we’re going to assume that the poor guy is a terrorist? You have got to be f’ing kidding me.
5: “Extending departure dates one day at a time for prolonged periods.”
Hey, you know what? I’ve done that. Several times. All those times, I’ve been sent out on investigations, anticipating a time frame for it and missing the mark because new info, new results, new problems or other circumstances have dictated that I stay longer. Often, a day at a time would be all corporate would approve, and I would want to be able to pack up and leave the second I was done, anyway. Well done making me look like a terrorist, DHS. Thanks.
6: “Refusal of housekeeping services for extended periods.”
Look, I can take care of my own bed. Weird, huh? Also, I know how to take out a bag of trash and put it in the hall or on that housekeeper’s trolly. Why? Well, maybe just don’t want anyone in the room, what with the stack of investigation files in my bag, the computer I sometimes have to leave in the room (yes, it’s encrypted) and whatever else. Also… what’s an “extended period”? One day? Two? Fifteen? Sorry, DHS…
7: “Extended stays with little baggage or unpacked luggage.”
Uh… see number 6. Also, this little “indicator” is the written policy of all FBI agents on a case… But then again, maybe the DHS sees the FBI as a bunch of thugs and terrorists? I know a lot of people who do just that…
8: “Access or attempted access to areas of the hotel normally restricted to staff.”
Ever had to go through the kitchen to plan an escape route for your exec? I have. Ever felt the need to test emergency exits, just in case you had to get yourself or someone else out quickly? I have. Ever been advised by DHS and/or FEMA to plan such escape routes? We all have… so it seems we’re in for another;
9: “Use of cash for large transactions or a credit card in someone else’s name.”
In all fairness, this could be an “indicator” of some foul play. However… companies often use the name of a section head, the company itself or someone else in charge on their credit card. I’ve use one of those myself on many occasions. Cash? My favorite means of paying my way. Cash is king. It lets me keep both me and my client(s) free of a paper trail, and it just feels good to have as a backup, just in case something happens to that flimsy piece of plastic and magnetized whatever it is that strip on the back of it is made of. So…
10: “Requests for specific rooms, floors or other locations in the hotel.”
Yeah… and? I’ve done this a number of times. Sometimes for the view, sometimes for quick access to elevators, sometimes for emergency exit routs and opportunities, and so on. Others might do it for romantic reasons, or because they had that room the last time and they’re creatures of habit. DHS: congrats on the 3% for no.9, but this one is a…
11: “Use of a third party to register.”
Like, say a travel agency? Like the ones that every corporate Amex user does? Or frequent flyers… or tourists ffs. Right… all terrorists. Sure.
12: “Multiple visitors or deliveries to one individual or room.”
Okay, I admit it… I’m a ladies man and I like to have take-out delivered when we’re done… Now I’m a terrorist? That’s awesome. Good job on that one.
13: “Unusual interest in hotel access, including main and alternative entrances, emergency exits, and surrounding routes.”
See no.8 and no.10 – I don’t even know how to begin with this one. How about a safety conscious, smart and DHS advice-heeding tourist?
All right. That’s enough.
There’s 6 more of these inane things on the list, and if you’re especially interested in them, you can download the one-page pdf here. Let’s give you a hint of the rest, however; the last one reads “noncompliance with other hotel policies.” That’s very…accurate? No… specific? No…useless? That’s the one! useless.
Here’s a question, though: What do you call someone who spreads unwarranted fear in the general population, stealing money and using them to fund more spreading of unwarranted fear? Terrorist? No. DHS? Yes… oh wait…