North Portsmouth, RI - The department of Homeland Security today announced the start of an expanded terrorist identification program, the new measures to be put into service at grocery stores and shopping malls.
"We've overemphasized airport security," said Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, "but terrorists can be lurking anywhere, lurking everywhere, lurking, lurking. . ."
As the self-hypnotized Chertoff was led away from the podium, an assistant explained the new program.
"Shoppers will be graded by how they behave in store checkout lines. And our scanning system is sophisticated enough to profile shoppers not only by how they act but even by what they buy."
Buying Mexican food, for example, can earn you points as a potential illegal immigrant/terrorist.
But balancing that with some good old-fashioned American junk food, donuts, ice cream and Twinkies gets you 'good citizen' points. Overall, "too many items from the international foods section will cause eyebrows to rise" the spokesman said. "Smart, 'good citizen' shoppers will act accordingly. The last thing you want is to land on our 'No Shop' list, especially if your Christmas shopping is unfinished."
Shoppers using express check-out lines will come under special scrutiny under the Homeland Security program. "These people want to get in and out fast - always a red flag," Chertoff's aide explained. "We have to ask why the hurry, and terrorist or at least illegal activity may be part of the answer. Especially if you look like an immigrant, or the child or grandchild of immigrants."
And be careful how you pay in that express line. "Paying cash is another red flag," said the aide.
"We have to wonder why a cash payer doesn't want to leave a paper trail. On the other hand people who pay by check will also lose 'good citizen' points by holding up the line."
Using automated check-out lines can be another problem. "Such avoidance of human contact is a marker for anti-social tendencies and terrorist potential," the spokesman explained. "Of course there's also the possibility such shoppers deserve 'good citizen' points for supporting American corporate efforts to put people out of work and raise profits." Asked how the system would resolve these double-edged behaviors, he replied that all 54 grading factors would be taken into account by the Diebold grading computers, with 'close cases' decided by agent reviews of surveillance tapes, strip searches, interrogation during in-store detention, or inspection of the shopper's car, looking for pro- or anti-Bush bumper stickers.
"For example, helping to bag your own groceries is something else that can be graded either way. On the one hand it marks you as a 'good citizen', eager to keep things moving along and free from any un-American sense of entitlement. On the other hand, there's that "What's the hurry?" factor again, not to mention you may be trying to sneak unpaid-for items into your bags. So we have to look at your complete Shopper Profile.
The program is being implemented on a trial basis at the North Portsmouth branch of the Bottomfeeders grocery chain. First-day results were good, the Homeland Security official reported, with fifty-four people placed on the No-Shop list and fourteen outright arrests, mostly for shoplifting or indecent exposure during strip searches. Bottomfeeders' s management was less enthusiastic, however, with a store spokesperson complaining, "At this rate we won't have any customers left." She also questioned Homeland's policy of detaining suspects in the store's warehouse areas. "We have to feed and house these people," she said, "and pretty soon we won't have any room left for our deliveries."
When asked to comment on the store's concerns, the Homeland Security aid replied, "With all due respect, this sounds like self-centered nitpicking during wartime. Our polls show most Americans, when properly educated, enthusiastically support our anti-terrorist efforts."