In this age of terrorism, security can be swift and strong in the United States — and a Westword operative found out just how swift and strong on Monday when Janet Napolitano, the director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was here for the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference and to tour the CELL (The Center for Empowered Living and Learning), Denver's own little terrorism museum.
Normally closed on Mondays, the CELL opened up for Napolitano, Governor Bill Ritter, CELL-backer Larry Mizel and a couple dozen other VIPs who toured the place before heading next door for the introduction of a new video, "Recognizing the 8 Signs of Terrorism" — narrated by 9News anchor Kim Christiansen and, for some reason, John Elway, designed to help both citizens and cops alike recognize the eight signs of terrorism (more on that later).
The tour wasn't open to the public or representatives of the media, who were gamely waiting (read: bored) next door at Mad Greens for Napolitano and Ritter to appear. But our operative didn't know that, so he walked right in to the CELL — past the cops, the highway patrol and numerous Secret Service agents (in case the sobering exhibits inside the CELL weren't enough, the closed-off streets near the museum and the quantity of security personnel on hand were enough to remind everyone of how focused on terrorism the world is today).
But the Westword "terrorist" wasn't identified for at least twenty minutes — not until he pulled out his cell phone to take a picture of Napolitano. That's when one of the Secret Service agents appeared at his side and told him to put the phone away. (Did you know you can make a bomb out of a cell phone? Our operative didn't, either.) The agent informed our man that the tour was a private event, grabbed him by the arm and swept him out of the museum. The agent was certainly polite enough, explaining that the rest of the media was sequestered at Mad Greens, but he was extremely strong and swift.
When the VIPs finally joined the media, they made some remarks and showed the video, which was produced with a $30,400 grant from Napolitano's office.
So, how do you recognize a terrorist? The eight ways include spotting someone who is acquiring supplies (a garage stocked with fertilizer, for example, or eighteen bottles of peroxide-based hair lighteners -- which is what investigators have claimed Aurora's own accused terrorist, Najibullah Zazi, had in his possession earlier this summer), testing security or impersonating a government employee. There is also deployment, funding and rehearsal (depicted in the video as someone leaving a bag on an RTD bus).
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Lastly, there's "elicitation," whatever that means, and surveillance, which could be something as simple as a person taking pictures of Red Rocks (as shown in the video, and we certainly can't imagine any reason other than terrorism that anyone would ever want to take a photo of the world's most famous outdoor concert venue) — or possibly someone using a cell phone camera to photograph the secretary of Homeland Security.
And how can you tell the difference between a tourist and a terrorist, or a terrorist and a journalist?
Only John Elway knows for sure.
Scene and herd: Talk about a Target-rich environment! A famous local criminal defense attorney at a local Target last week, buying hairspray (!) and "just running into" Wendy Aiello, spokeswoman for attorney Art Folsom, lawyer for Najibullah Zazi. Innocent shopping spree — or the ninth sign of terrorism? Expect more. Pray less.