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Homeland Security Enlists the Help of...Wal-Mart

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The Department of Homeland Security has expanded its "If you see something, say something" anti-terrorism initiative to the aisles of Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart shoppers at 588 stores in 27 states will now see a videotaped message from DHS director Janet Napolitano at checkout, asking them to report suspicious activity they may encounter in the aisles.

A Wal-Mart spokesman says, "Wal-Mart is a place where people gather, it's a place where you sometimes see your neighbor the most. It is important to Wal-Mart that it help protect the safety of its community."

On the other hand, Sarah Kerkian, an "insights supervisor" at a Boston communications firm called Cone Inc., says, "It may make shoppers feel cared for. But others may say, 'Who are you to bring me this message?'"

Who are they to bring people this message?

Well, Sarah, it's been a few years, so you may have forgotten that Mohamed Atta & Friends were shopping at a Wal-Mart in Maine on the night of September 10th, 2001--which is allegedly where they bought the boxcutters used in the following day's aircraft hijackings.

Here's Atta in a security cam photo released by the FBI:

He was also seen at an area gas station earlier that evening:

As well as a nearby ATM:

In October, 2001, the New York Times reported:

"Driving a silver-blue rented Nissan Altima, Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari spent at least part of the evening in the most pedestrian of pursuits, mostly along a broad suburban stretch of asphalt called Maine Mall Road: 15 minutes at a Pizza Hut, a quick stop at a gas station and about 20 minutes at a Wal-Mart in Scarborough, the next town."

There is quite a bit of online chatter from outraged Americans decrying the existence of a "police state" and a shift toward an "Orwellian nightmare" with "neighbors turning in neighbors" now that DHS is running these reminders in stores.

However, it seems that the bigger nightmare would be to ignore the reality that terrorists go shopping too, thus potentially cutting off a viable and effective way of stopping a plot before it happens.

As for "neighbors turning in neighbors," if the next Mohamed Atta is living next door to someone that sees something, I sincerely hope they say something.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.