Mall of America officials say their security unit stops and questions on average up to 1,200 people each year. The interviews at the mall are part of a counterterrorism initiative that acts as the private eyes and ears of law enforcement authorities but has often ensnared innocent people, according to an investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting and NPR.
In many cases, the written reports were filed without the knowledge of those interviewed by security. Several people named in the reports learned from journalists that their birth dates, race, names of employers and other personal information were compiled along with surveillance images.
On Nov. 9, 2008, the Bloomington resident videotaped a short road trip from his home to the Mall of America. Van Asten, now 66, planned to send it to his fiancée’s family in Vietnam so they could see life in the United States.
As he headed down an escalator, camera in hand, mall guards caught sight of him.
“Right away, I noticed he had a video camera and was recording the rotunda area,” a security guard wrote in a suspicious activity report. “When he got to second floor [sic] he turned to the overlook of the park while still videotaping.”
Bobbie Allen, now 47, headed to the Mall of America on June 25, 2007, for lunch with a woman. As he waited for her, Allen sat alone writing in a notebook, which caught the attention of security. Counterterrorism experts sometimes instruct police and security personnel to look for suspicious note-taking, as it may indicate attack planning.
So, taking videos or writing things in notebooks means you’re a terrorist. What about taking photos?
The last time we were in Minnesota, the Zvans took us to the Mall of America, that monument to American capitalism (owned by Canada-based Triple Five Group, by the by). I had someone snap a photo of opportunity in front of an oxygen bar so I could blog about it later. I hadn’t gotten around to it til now, but I was expecting this post would take a different vector.
How many of your freedoms have you given up in building your surveillance state, America? How much would you be willing to bet that after we did our touristy thing, some mall cop didn’t build a portfolio filled with every shred of info they could find on us? Given that we’re bloggers, atheists, and we lean populist and anti-woo, I’m a little surprised Stephanie and I made it out intact and without some sort of “enhanced interrogation”. Especially with my being a foreigner.