Terrorists May Pose As Vagrants

If you needed another reaspn to be leery of panhandlers, the State Department now says terrorists may disguise themselves as homeless people.

U.S. Says Terrorists May Pose As Vagrants (AP)

Asking for increased vigilance in the wake of the London bombings, the government is warning that terrorists may pose as vagrants to conduct surveillance of buildings and mass transit stations to plot future attacks. “In light of the recent bombings in London, it is crucial that police, fire and emergency medical personnel take notice of their surroundings, and be aware of ‘vagrants’ who seem out of place or unfamiliar,” said the message, distributed via e-mail to some federal employees in Washington by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

It is based on a State Department report that was issued last week. The State Department had no immediate comment Monday.
The warning is similar to one issued by the FBI before July 4, 2004 that said terrorists may attempt surveillance disguised as homeless people, shoe shiners, street vendors or street sweepers. The e-mail stresses that there is no threat of an attack and that it is intended to be “informative, not alarming.”

Homeless people easily blend into urban landscapes, the message said. “This is particularly true of our mass transit systems, where homeless people tend to loiter unnoticed,” the e-mail said.

So, that dollar you give to a beggar may go to al Qaeda. Or more likely, cheap wine.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    So, that dollar you give to a beggar may go to al Qaeda.

    Which IIRC would justify charging me as a terrorist, according to our executive branch. I believe I heard the gov’t arguing that donations to terrorist groups are criminal even if I have no idea that’s where the money’s going.

    Obviously the only safe thing to do is not to donate money to beggars at all.

  2. Kent says:

    Obviously the only safe thing to do is not to donate money to beggars at all.

    True long before 9/11. If you want to do some good with your dollar, take the time to find a reputable charity. Giving the begger a dollar isn’t going to help his situation.

    But it seems pointless for the government to suggest hypothetical terrorist tactics as often as they do. The warnings ought to be based on specific threats, not hypotheticals, even if this means that distribution of the warnings has to be restricted.

  3. Frank says:

    Hey Kent, I rather give a dollar to a beggar wearing rags than one wearing a tie