Join 3,368 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Stop by to look for a new shirt, enjoy an orange julius, and maybe experience a detention or two.
September 9, 2011 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Under Suspicion at the Mall of America The Mall of America calls its counterterrorism unit RAM, or Risk Assessment and Mitigation. The unit is staffed with private security personnel.

Since Sept. 11, [America's] leaders have warned that government agencies like the CIA and the FBI can't protect the country on their own — private businesses and ordinary citizens have to look out for terrorists, too. So the Obama administration has been promoting programs like "See Something, Say Something" and the "Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative."

Under programs like these, public attractions such as sports stadiums, amusement parks and shopping malls report suspicious activities to law enforcement agencies. But an investigation by NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting suggests that at one of [America's] largest shopping malls, these kinds of programs are disrupting innocent people's lives.
posted by modernnomad (97 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read this yesterday. Unless I'm reading this wrong, they cite one or two cases where people were questioned as a result of their behavior.

This is also part of that series, and, again, cites a couple of cases where people were questioned.

This doesn't feel like an "OMG look at what they're doing!" situation to me.
posted by tomswift at 8:58 AM on September 9, 2011


I AM OUTRAGE
posted by nathancaswell at 8:59 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


IF WE COWER HARDER WE WILL BE SAFE.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:00 AM on September 9, 2011 [18 favorites]


Live Action Role Play
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:01 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's almost cute when flyover country thinks terrorists want to come after whatever sad attractions they think are so important.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 9:01 AM on September 9, 2011 [23 favorites]


You mean mall ninjas are real?
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 9:02 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, we've discussed mall ninjas previously.
posted by quin at 9:04 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does this story really surprise ANYONE? If so, please speak up, I have an exciting business proposition regarding a bridge near Brooklyn.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:05 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I doubt even terrorists would be caught dead in Minnesota.

Er...
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:05 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's almost cute when flyover country thinks terrorists want to come after whatever sad attractions they think are so important.

Maybe they hate us for our Orange Julius, not our freedoms?
posted by JaredSeth at 9:06 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


tomswift: “I read this yesterday. Unless I'm reading this wrong, they cite one or two cases where people were questioned as a result of their behavior. This is also part of that series, and, again, cites a couple of cases where people were questioned. This doesn't feel like an "OMG look at what they're doing!" situation to me.”

I can understand feeling that way, but have you thought about what it's like to spend five hours detained forcibly by the police after having done nothing wrong?
posted by koeselitz at 9:07 AM on September 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


One time I went to the Mall of America, to the former Camp Snoopy amusement park, in mid-October, on a weekday morning and got an all day pass. We literally only had to get up out of our ride seats and swipe our wrist band and sit back down. Best mid-October morning in Minnesota ever.
posted by Corduroy at 9:07 AM on September 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


PostIronyIsNotaMyth: “It's almost cute when flyover country thinks terrorists want to come after whatever sad attractions they think are so important.”

Huh? This happened in Michigan, not New York.
posted by koeselitz at 9:08 AM on September 9, 2011


This sort of thing would make sense if terrorists weren't so crazily obsessed with air travel.
posted by Legomancer at 9:09 AM on September 9, 2011


I think it happened in Myanmar, not Nova Scotia.
posted by perhapses at 9:09 AM on September 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


"I think our name first of all, Mall of America, is attractive to people that want to hurt America," says Maureen Bausch, vice president of the Mall of America.

oh FFS you self-important windbag
posted by radiosilents at 9:11 AM on September 9, 2011 [26 favorites]


All those stores that lease space in the Mall of America just want to hurt us?
posted by perhapses at 9:13 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


NPR and CIR asked 29 law enforcement agencies across the country to give us suspicious activity reports from attractions in their areas – everything from amusement parks to baseball stadiums. … The only officials who responded were in Minnesota: They sent us 125 reports that involved suspicious activities at the Mall of America.

One of these attractions is not like the others.

Huh? This happened in Michigan, not New York.

Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi… The M is for Middle.
posted by zamboni at 9:13 AM on September 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


"It's almost cute when flyover country thinks terrorists want to come after whatever sad attractions they think are so important."

Everybody knows the terrorists are targeting the epicenter of American culture. Anaheim.
posted by MikeMc at 9:14 AM on September 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


The rent-a-cops at the Mall of America post-9/11 were some of the worst offenders of common sense and decency that I have ever encountered anywhere in the US or the world.

I personally witnessed their terrible behavior about a year after 9/11, so whether RAM is better or worse I cannot say as I have avoided that building whenever possible. In my instance, I went to the Mall with my very elderly grandmother, grandfather, mother, and sisters. We are all about as mid-west looking as you can get, and both my grandmother and mother were disabled. Both my mother and grandmother required either scooters or wheelchairs for mobility, which the Mall rents (no, not as a courtesy, they charge you a fair amount for the rentals). We went to the Mall as it was new to them and one of the few large indoor attractions that they could handle given their health.

Shortly before our visit the Mall had put barricades in place to block off cars from getting more than probably 30+ yards from the ground level doors. The Mall was poorly designed for the handicapped with parking for the handicapped the equivalent of a half a block away from any entrance door. All rentals for all wheelchairs and scooters were inside the Mall and often you had to wait for a rental (which you could not reserve). Upon dropping off my mother and grandmother, I pulled up to the barricades and stopped momentarily to drop them off. It was still an ordeal for anyone handicapped and they were winded for a half an hour just trying to get in the building. I rented the necessary equipment for the day, and we went about our business. It was clear from the rental desk that the scooters and wheelchairs needed to stay in the building.

Upon leaving I pulled up to the barricades again. Imagine this small family, loading into a car with two clearly disabled people, one on oxygen, the other with her equally elderly husband.

After everyone but my grandmother was already in the car, a rent-a-cop approached me on his bicycle, rudely telling me he needed me to "stop right there," telling me to stop loading individuals and to immediately move the car. Yes, we were apparently a clear threat to this 20 something idiot. I, having my hands on my grandmother as we loaded, shot back at the moron that if he would allow us 30 more seconds, I would be done loading my disabled family members and we would be on our way. He proceeded to yell at me unending, threaten me with a huge fake fine, call the cops, have me arrested, and ban me from the Mall. All of this terrible behavior on their part kept the car 5 times as long in front of the building, caused my family members to cry in embarrassment and fear, and ruined the day, and the Mall, for us forever.

I admit to pulling up to a recently placed barricade for lack of a better space (and frankly ADA compliant space) made to drop off disabled individuals. That was my error. The behavior of the rent-a-cop was obscene, and were that to occur today, I would have taken his name, reported the incident, and if they didn't take corrective action, these days I would start an ADA lawsuit.

These are your protectors, people.
posted by Muddler at 9:16 AM on September 9, 2011 [45 favorites]


Are they still having problems with neo-Nazi skinheads and Australian militants?
posted by acb at 9:19 AM on September 9, 2011


We clearly need more powerful mall cops to catch any the terrorists the FBI trains to entrap, but then forgets to arrest.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:19 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love Minnesota but the Mall of America is an act of terrorism itself.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:19 AM on September 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


PostIronyIsNotaMyth: “It's almost cute when flyover country thinks terrorists want to come after whatever sad attractions they think are so important.”

me: “Huh? This happened in Michigan, not New York.”

zamboni: “Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi… The M is for Middle.”

Yeah, but I don't understand what you're getting it. "Flyover country" usually means "a place so boring and lame you just fly over it without wanting to stop." Like New York. Michigan is actually a rather interesting place.
posted by koeselitz at 9:23 AM on September 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


This doesn't feel like an "OMG look at what they're doing!" situation to me.

I think the point is less "outrage that security is trying to make the mall secure" and more that they're doing bad, knee-jerk job of it. The specific ways in which the Mall is approaching anti-terrorism aren't actually helpful in fighting terrorism. Although they are helpful in making Americans feel unwanted.

Take, for instance, this bit:

"I mean, if somebody's in buying ammonia nitrate out in Pennsylvania in a rural place, in a rental truck, you know, and the owner's never seen them before, putting in plastic barrels, I'd say yeah, that's a suspicious activity, they should be reported," [Dale Watson, who used to run the counterterrorism program at the FBI] says. "The value of what I've seen here is absolutely not worth the effort.

It's one thing to have mall security actually watch for suspicious stuff going on. But 99% of the time, that's not really what they're doing; they're looking for some movie-plot image of terrorism, conflating perfectly normal behavior with problematic acts, and (allegedly) targeting minorities in the process.
posted by cjelli at 9:23 AM on September 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Unfortunately the world has changed," says Bausch.

No it hasn't really. Domestic terrorism in the US has been around for decades. The Atlanta Olympic bomber and the McVeigh bombing in Oklahoma---a "flyover" state---are recent examples that both happened before September 2001.

"...the world has changed" is just an excuse for bad behaviour. Maybe the police did need to step up (76 people in Oklahoma might agree, for example), but to excuse bad policing, expecially out-sourced bad policing, because "the world has changed" is lazy and sloppy.
posted by bonehead at 9:25 AM on September 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is a perfect example of irrational, idiotic reaction to threats that only a few people on the planet even understand. I also see it getting a lot worse over time, and moving into a lot more areas of previously-public space.
posted by odinsdream at 9:30 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think by "Flyover country" everyone means "America".
posted by blue_beetle at 9:33 AM on September 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but I don't understand what you're getting it. … Michigan is actually a rather interesting place.

"The Mall of America, also called MOA and the Megamall, is a shopping mall located in Bloomington, Minnesota, a suburb of the Twin Cities, in the United States."
posted by zamboni at 9:37 AM on September 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


A smart terrorist organization would target innocuous, ingenuous, mundane places, like some strip center in Peoria. Easy pickings, and eventually the resultant security freakout would have grave, resounding consequences for Americans for decades.

However, most terrorists aren't really all that effective at implementing even their own goals. They just want to blow shit up in spectacular fashion. The politics is just an excuse.
posted by Xoebe at 9:37 AM on September 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I suppose flyover country might originally have meant "no airports except for crop dusting", but most coastal people would consider Michigan flyover country. Yes, all the lakes elevate it above the obviously fake tourist destinations like Tennessee, but costal people would never choose a Michigan destination over say New Orleans, San Francisco, Philadelphia, etc. On preview, what blue_beetle said plus Canada.

As an aside, I'm curious whether comic books and movies are ultimately responsible for modern terrorism.

posted by jeffburdges at 9:39 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd be much more prone to think that the modern American reaction to terrorism is based on comic books and movies.

Think terrorists are in your neighborhood? Slap on some BDUs, a tac-vest, and a balaclava to hide your secret identiy, and go fight EVIL!
posted by quin at 9:46 AM on September 9, 2011


It's almost cute when flyover country thinks terrorists want to come after whatever sad attractions they think are so important.

And you wonder why the red states call us liberal elites and fake America and shit. Flyover country is such an obnoxious, dismissive term. Don't be a dick.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:47 AM on September 9, 2011 [55 favorites]


It's almost cute when flyover country thinks terrorists want to come after whatever sad attractions they think are so important.

Given the disproportionate number of Muslims in the Twin Cities (that's Minnesota, where the Mall of America is), and how lamebrained the government is about profiling, it's really kind of a miracle that there isn't more Homeland Security awfulness to endure here.
posted by padraigin at 9:48 AM on September 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


From a pretty in-depth Ian Frazier Atlantic piece. The length of my citation is for emphasis...:

In fact, most of what the entire Mall [of America] sells was made someplace far away. Reading labels in the USA America Pride store put me in an international mood, so I went to store after store on a label-reading binge, collecting countries like a grade-school student doing a geography project. I had not known that the Tommy Hilfiger "Classic Fit" line of blue jeans is made in Turkmenistan. Indeed, a year ago I couldn't have told you where Turkmenistan is, or that it shares a border with Afghanistan. I now know where the United Arab Emirates is too, and that many of its citizens don't like us; somebody there is making a lot of spaghetti-strap tops for Abercrombie & Fitch. The (I assume) hip clothing for sale at the New York & Company store is made not in New York but in China, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, and India. The clothes at Banana Republic come from Turkey, China, Hong Kong, and Macao, none of them banana republics. The Chinese workers who carefully paint the little details on the faces of chess pieces in the shapes of characters from The Simpsons (Marge as queen, Homer as king, Lisa as rook, Bart as pawn, and so on) probably have a general idea who those characters are. But what do the Chinese think of the loon snow globes, Christmas ornaments in the shape of sledding moose, Swedish farmer figurines, and other Minnesota-themed souvenirs they make for the Love From Minnesota store? Label after label, the countries piled up: Mexico, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Cambodia, Jamaica, the Philippines, Peru, Mauritius ... A few countries were prominent by their absence; I found nothing that was made in North Korea, Iraq, or Iran.

And again, the oft-quoted MOA CEO's jibber-jabber:

"I think our name first of all, Mall of America, is attractive to people that want to hurt America," says Maureen Bausch, vice president of the Mall of America.

I am naively stating that globalization is only a problem as manifest through Mall of America, but it's a huge monument to what's hurting America. Shitty foreign products sold in a too-big fortress with self-aggrandizing, Fort Knox-grade security.
posted by obscurator at 9:51 AM on September 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wouldn
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:55 AM on September 9, 2011


oops, I am NOT naively stating....d'oh
posted by obscurator at 9:56 AM on September 9, 2011


Another thing about the MOA is that a lot of people fly from all over the world just to shop there. There are package tours organized purely around the shopping experience, where dozens of people fly in as a group, are shuttled to mall-adjacent hotels, and then shuttled to and from the mall without ever really visiting Minnesota otherwise before they're shuttled back to the airport and home. I can actually see where it would be a fairly interesting target if you wanted to upset a lot of countries at once--the place fairly crawls with massive groups of international tourists.
posted by padraigin at 10:00 AM on September 9, 2011


The FPP mentioned "See something, say something," which is bad enough, but the other day I saw a sign at (I think) the Pentagon City mall that said "See something? Do something" which seemed like a dangerous call to vigilante violence.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:08 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


"You're talking about a handful of people that are complaining, out of the 750 million plus that have been through these doors since 1992," Bausch says. "And we apologize if it, you know, if it caused them any inconvenience, I mean we really do."
So only the people, who apparently are all false positives or Baush would have touted the success story, being detained are complaining. Good to know. Sure makes me want to visit the MoA. Also shouldn't he only be counting the people who have visited since elevated security following 9/11.
posted by Mitheral at 10:09 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Coincidence: My wife and I went to MoA frequently last week because of the light rail terminal (Honest! We only did one day of shopping!) and I commented on the potential for mass casualties if something were to go wrong with all the planes that fly over the place.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:10 AM on September 9, 2011


Interesting facts: the Mall of America is the largest shopping mall in the United States by retail space. But the largest mall in North America is the West Edmonton Mall, in Edmonton, which was the world's largest mall untill 2004. Both are owned by a Iranian-Canadian family, the Ghermezian family. The family happens to be Jewish, but that doesn't matter; if any of the Iran-born men in the family ever become students in the USA, they will be subject to special registration as potential terrorists.
posted by jb at 10:16 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can understand feeling that way, but have you thought about what it's like to spend five hours detained forcibly by the police after having done nothing wrong?

Heh. To hear a pair of dear friends who've been through this sort of thing, it sucks syphillitic donkey balls. They were detained at the border coming home from Canada for having admitted to the crime of...making friends on the internet. No shit. This was in 2004.

S. is from MN, but she had just moved to Detroit to go to school. A. is from AL. They were both visiting with me in OH, celebrating the purchase of my house. A. stayed up in Detroit with S., as I was out of sleeping space. On the way up to A. noticed the Ambassador Bridge and the signs hollering about Canada, and asked "Seriously? Canada is that close to you?" S. declared that if A. wanted, they could go to Windsor for breakfast in the morning, before coming back down to my house, just so A. could say she'd gone to another country on vacation.

And so they did. And the Canucks, gods love 'em, were just as welcoming and as sweet as pie as always, hey, welcome to Windsor, have a wonderful time! And they did! Then A. did the stereotypical tourist thing and bought maple syrup and a Canadian flag pin, and then they tried to come home.

The border agents noticed S.'s Minnesota license plates and noted that she was really far from home. She handed over her driver's license, and replied that she had JUST moved to Detroit for school two weeks prior, and hadn't yet had her plates switched over. She also handed over her student ID, which had her Detroit address on it. Then they asked for A.'s ID, and gave her the same spiel - aren't you far from home? Why are you in this neck of the woods, anyway?

A., she's so cute and so serious and so honest. "Oh, our friend in Toledo just bought a house, so we're visiting with her. I'm staying up here in Detroit at S.'s house, and I just thought it would be so neat to go to Canada since it's right there!" And that's when it got ugly. How come you two have a friend in Ohio? How do you know each other. And being honest women, they said "We met in a book discussion group." Because we did. And when pressed as to where this discussion group met for discussion, they replied "On the internet."

They were hustled to a room and detained for questioning for FOUR HOURS. Over and over, they were asked WHY they were together and how they knew each other and how they knew me and WHY were they visiting with me, and how long have we known each other, and don't they know that the internet is dangerous? It wasn't until S. got over the absolute shock of being detained for Being Friends With Internet People that she collected her wits enough to say that if she was going to be held any longer, she wanted an attorney, and she wanted one NOW. They were finally released. NONE of us have gone to Windsor, since. We just wave at it from across the river now.

(I'm going to note here that if you're of a certain age and live in certain parts of NW OH or SE MI, you've likely done the "Let's go to Canada for lunch!" thing, and remember when it was No Big Deal. Can I tell you how PISSED I am that it isn't like that any more?)
posted by MissySedai at 10:17 AM on September 9, 2011 [34 favorites]


Man, I'm originally a New Englander (born in another one of those pesky M states), and even I am put-off by your dripping condescension. That's OK ... keep flying. I'll have Chicago to myself.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:27 AM on September 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Correct me if I'm wrong. Can't you just politely thank them and walk away? Do you have to go anywhere with them? They're not cops. Do you even have to answer any questions? And then if they ask you to leave, you politely go, it being private property and all...?
posted by CarlRossi at 10:34 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


So "Under Suspicion at the Mall of America" is part of a larger series called "Under Suspicion." The whole thing is definitely worth a read, and puts some important context around the mall detention stuff in particular. The series as a whole examines the growth and effectiveness of "suspicious activity reports."

The Mall of America stuff discussed here is a pretty extreme example inasmuch as they have their own private "counterterrorism" devision and a local police substation in the mall's basement. It sounds like suspicious activity reports can come from lots of places, though, and can lead to federal law enforcement agencies keeping files on innocent individuals indefinitely.

The series presents some arguments that the whole "suspicious activity report" system is large, costly, and probably ineffective. Some officials within the system counter (in the series) that it's difficult to tell if something bad has been prevented since, by definition, it didn't happen.

Anyhow, I wanted to point out there there is some more context to this bit of reporting. Party on.
posted by CHABOXERS at 10:44 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's almost cute when flyover country thinks terrorists want to come after whatever sad attractions they think are so important.

Not to justify the Mall, which has a long history of overly aggressive security, but Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the 9/11 terrorists, trained at Pan-Am International Flight Academy in Eagan, Minnesota, which is eight miles from the Mall of America.

Our local East African community (which I should mention is about as law abiding as anybody, lest people think I am somebody impugning the community as a whole), produced 20 young men who moved away to fight in Somali, including one Shirwa Ahmed, who drove a car loaded with explosive into a government compound in Puntland and detonated it, killing himself and at least 30 other people, making him America's first official suicide bomber.

After 9/11, intelligence agencies identified malls as high-probability targets. The Mall of America is the largest mall in America, and the second largest in the world. In fact, when former Assistant National Security Adviser Richard Clarke walked The Atlantic Magazine through a mall attack scenario, it was the Mall of America he used as a model.

Again, I say this not to justify the Mall's behavior. But it is almost cute when people in big cities are so parochial that they can't be educated enough to know anything about other parts of America.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:46 AM on September 9, 2011 [20 favorites]


"I can understand feeling that way, but have you thought about what it's like to spend five hours detained forcibly by the police after having done nothing wrong?"

Actually, that happened to me once. Once it was over I understood the reason and held no ill feelings, they were doing the job they were hired to do.
posted by tomswift at 10:48 AM on September 9, 2011


Somalia, rather.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:49 AM on September 9, 2011


PostIronyIsNotaMyth: "It's almost cute when flyover country thinks terrorists want to come after whatever sad attractions they think are so important."

It's not nearly as cute as when someone from L.A. of all places (seriously?) makes fun of my home state. Don't discuss.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:52 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


they were doing the job they were hired to do.

This is not comforting.
posted by odinsdream at 10:55 AM on September 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


Another thing about the MOA is that a lot of people fly from all over the world just to shop there.

Seriously? I've been to the Mall of America. It's just like any other mall except larger. Incredibly bland and pedestrian. The idea that anyone would actually travel great distances to visit is just mind boggling.
Our local East African community (which I should mention is about as law abiding as anybody, lest people think I am somebody impugning the community as a whole), produced 20 young men who moved away to fight in Somali, including one Shirwa Ahmed, who drove a car loaded with explosive into a government compound in Puntland and detonated it, killing himself and at least 30 other people, making him America's first official suicide bomber.
Who apparently was so uninterested in attacking Americans that he flew all the way around the world to do it.
posted by delmoi at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2011


Who apparently was so uninterested in attacking Americans that he flew all the way around the world to do it.

Let me clarify my point: Minnesota has a history with terrorism. It isn't something that only happens in New York and Los Angeles. I'm sorry I was not clear.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi… The M is for Middle.
posted by zamboni at 9:13 AM on September 9


So what is the M for in Maine, Maryland ,Massachusetts and Montana?
posted by Cranberry at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those states are on the "M"argins.
posted by hattifattener at 11:40 AM on September 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


It does seem that at the time there was a genuine, if very local, fear that the Mall of America would be attacked. It makes some kind of vague logical sense, given that there are around 100k in the building at any time, it's next to a large airport, and it has "of America" in the name. The fear was apparently so palpable that there are now multiple 9/11 memorials inside the mall, and they hired two full time terrorism investigators.

Of course the fact that 99.99% of the world hasn't even heard of the state of Minnesota sort of rules out its status as a prime terrorist target.

None of this is justifies racial profiling by Mall of America security. Apparently the Bloomington police gave the data behind this report to NPR; I wonder if they did that because they disagreed with the strong-arm tactics used by the mall's private security force.
posted by miyabo at 11:41 AM on September 9, 2011


I forgot to mention that I live two miles from the Mall of America and haven't been there in 5 years. There's a lot more to this region than that....
posted by miyabo at 11:49 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was at the Mall yesterday. The Twin Cities Grill pours a good cocktail, and I always like getting free cheese at Rybicki's.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:51 AM on September 9, 2011


miyabo : i don't doubt at all that the things you've described are exactly what the people involved are feeling. however they're basically entirely absurd, groundless, and lead to the kinds of rampant stupidity described elsewhere in this thread. understanding the origin isn't justification.

they're afraid; we all were. they're still afraid, and for nothing, and to an absurd degree. and that's pointless at the least and actively dangerous at the worst. they have gone from worrying about a far-fetched problem to actively being a real and palpable problem themselves, and all in the name of attaining an impossible security.
posted by radiosilents at 11:54 AM on September 9, 2011


"I think our name first of all, Mall of America, is attractive to people that want to hurt America," says Maureen Bausch, vice president of the Mall of America.

"Minions!" roared General America-Hater of the World Terrorist Brigade, his speech bubble all spiky to denote shouting, as he posed dynamically in front of the entrance to Nordstrom. "Today is the day we begin our systematic campaign to crush America and all that it stands for -- and what better place to start than at the mall which bears its name!"
posted by Spatch at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


"they were doing the job they were hired to do.

This is not comforting."


In this case, they were searching for a pretty infamous serial killer, whom, in all honesty, I looked like, lived in the right area, rode the right motorcycle, WAY too many similarities to be ignored. I didn't blame them, they had to make sure that I wasn't that person.

There may be lots of cases of police overstepping authority and/or causing problems where there is no need, it's happened to me, but that wasn't one of those times.
posted by tomswift at 12:14 PM on September 9, 2011


they were searching for a pretty infamous serial killer, whom, in all honesty, I looked like, lived in the right area, rode the right motorcycle, WAY too many similarities to be ignored.

Did it turn out to be you?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:17 PM on September 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


Another possible angle: I don't live in MN anymore but I visit family every summer -- including a trip or three to the LEGO store at Malzilla. What I have been told is that herds of obnoxious teens choke the mall at night, and there have been a lot of complaints. The security staff have been tremendously beefed in response to this, and...well, "the devil will find work for idle hands to do" and all.

Speaking of "Back to the Future" shoes, is this "wilding" all over again? Damn kids, invent a new outrage!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:28 PM on September 9, 2011


Seriously? I've been to the Mall of America. It's just like any other mall except larger. Incredibly bland and pedestrian. The idea that anyone would actually travel great distances to visit is just mind boggling.

Yes, it does blow the mind of even locals, but I think Minnesota's lack of sales tax on clothing is part of the allure, and in any case it's true whether or not you find it appealing.
posted by padraigin at 12:30 PM on September 9, 2011


Like an immune system with too little to do, the "anti-terrorism" agencies are now attacking the body which they are supposedly protecting.
posted by telstar at 12:36 PM on September 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


I thought the racial profiling on the part of Mall of America security was well-known. Oh, here we go--the state has caught them at it. The state department of human rights closed the case because the bloke decided to sue (no idea what happened after that).

'Minnesota in racism shock' in now way surprises me, to be honest. To be honest, I'm most surprised that they don't seem to be harassing immigrants exclusively--it very much feels like visible difference (in skin colour, clothing or language, which is admittedly not visible) doesn't go over well here.
posted by hoyland at 1:04 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a security force that is bored out of its freaking heads.
posted by Ardiril at 1:21 PM on September 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


And you wonder why the red states call us liberal elites and fake America and shit. Flyover country is such an obnoxious, dismissive term. Don't be a dick.
posted by nathancaswell


Thank you for saying that nathancaswell, and much more nicely than I would have. My state is purple though.
posted by futz at 2:24 PM on September 9, 2011


In my mind, this story is linked to a recent Brookings Institute study.
Americans employ a double standard when evaluating violence committed by self-identified Christians and Muslims. More than 8-in-10 (83 percent) Americans say that self-proclaimed Christians who commit acts of violence in the name of Christianity are not really Christians. In contrast, less than half (48 percent) of Americans say that self-proclaimed Muslims who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam are not really Muslims.
posted by muddgirl at 2:27 PM on September 9, 2011


Shortly after 9/11 I was "asked" to leave The Trafford Centre (one of the most well known "malls" in the UK) for wearing a baseball cap. Now that's effective profiling right there.

And for all the coast dwellers happily ridiculing the notion that the MoA might be a target - If I, as a foreigner, had to make a list of 20 potential targets in the USA then MoA would probably be on it. High density of people, potential to cause massive fear and impact the lives of everyone in the country, catch news-friendly name, USA icon. Yep, it'd be on the list.
posted by samworm at 2:27 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the database of "suspicious" activity reports, which is worth a gander:
Mall security attempted to question a man reported as "wandering around with no purpose." He refused to talk to mall security but told Bloomington police he comes to the mall to exercise.
Imagine that! Why possibly should mall security be aware that people come to the mall to walk? It's not like the Mall of America has a fancy walking program and marked walking paths or anything.

I'm also fond of this one, in which even the local police get tired of this nonsense:
Two "East Indian" men permitted mall security to view their video and photos, which were deemed not suspicious. Mall security called Bloomington police to search their backpacks and request ID, but police said there was no reasonable suspicion for checks, pointing out "numerous guests that were in the Mall of America with backpacks.
Said database also reveals that 65% of those deemed suspicious by mall security were non-white.

A good number of other reports in the list appear to concern retail employees who presented suspicious identification when registering for a mall ID card. In other words: illegal immigrants or legal immigrants without work authorization. Ensuring that everyone at Foot Locker has their papers is obviously a great use of anti-terrorism resources.
posted by zachlipton at 2:35 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's almost cute when flyover country thinks terrorists want to come after whatever sad attractions they think are so important.

This is a really stupid statement for half a dozen reasons at least.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:37 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Say what you will about post-9/11 security, but my underwear has been bombfree for years. Shine on, TSA, Mall Cops, and guy at the NSA intercepting my emails.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:20 PM on September 9, 2011


This is a really stupid statement for half a dozen reasons at least.

Is one of those reasons "Oklahoma City"?
posted by padraigin at 3:23 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed by a Caucasian terrorist (a registered Republican, agnostic, and member of the NRA), not a Arabic one, which casts the racial profiling of Midwestern Mall Cops in a more dangerous light.
posted by muddgirl at 3:26 PM on September 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was specifically referring to the idea that there's nothing worth bombing in the Midwest and we're so funny for thinking there might be. The Alfred P. Murrah building also held a fraction of the number of people who are in the MOA at any given time.

I think the profiling is gross, but no more gross than any story about profiling I've heard about anywhere else.
posted by padraigin at 3:30 PM on September 9, 2011


I agree that it's silly to state that no one wants to bomb midwest targets (abortion clinic bombings and provider shootings have occurred in the midwest, for example), and I think it's a function of the general concept of terrorism as solely an external threat. Terrorism isn't like war - it's not about killing the most people, it's about attacking symbols. Al Quaeda wanted to attack a symbol of US Capitalism/hegemony (and they repeatedly attacked the same symbol). The Mall of America doesn't provide the same symbolism. Given that the coasts dominate media coverage of the US, it also seems likely to me that foreign terrorists would have more knowledge of coastal targets.

McVeigh targetted the Murrow building for two reasons: (1) It was close, (2) it was a symbol of the government that he had come to despise and distrust. For these same reasons, I think it's more likely for a domestic terrorist to attack the Mall of America - likely someone who was raised in the region and is familiar with the cultural cache of the institution. Of course, someone local to the Mall of America may be of Arabic (or Persian, or Indian, or North African, etc) descent, but it's much more likely that they fit a different profile.

This also ties up with the idea of the US as a Christian nation and the idea that Christians won't commit terrible acts of violence. Also with the fact that some mass shootings aren't considered to be terrorist acts, even when the perpetrators explicitely lay out ideological reasons for the attack. Frankly, I have become increasingly worried about the mass media silence on "home grown terrorism" perpetrated by non-Muslims. I thought that the Norwegian mass shooting by a self-proclaimed Christian would start a dialogue, but I guess I'm an eternally-disappointed optimist.
posted by muddgirl at 3:54 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was specifically referring to the idea that there's nothing worth bombing in the Midwest and we're so funny for thinking there might be.

Please elaborate? Are you being serious?
posted by futz at 3:54 PM on September 9, 2011


Correct me if I'm wrong. Can't you just politely thank them and walk away? Do you have to go anywhere with them? They're not cops. Do you even have to answer any questions? And then if they ask you to leave, you politely go, it being private property and all...?

Okay, I'll correct you, because you're wrong.

We're not talking exclusively about Mall Cops interrogating people.

We're talking about Mall Cops getting actual police involved in their harebrained paranoid delusions.

Like the guy whose father accidentally left his cell phone on a food court table, which was then found, and since he has a non-Anglo name (although he's a US citizen), he soon finds finds the FBI is at his door questioning him about why he's in the country.

Or another guy who was on his way out of the parking lot and had a scene which he describes as something he only thought happened in the movies occur -- several police cars swarm around his vehicle screeching to a halt and blocking his every route. His crime? Talking on his cell phone, using the restroom, and wandering around. While in the back of a police car, he looked at the computer in the front and it had his name and "possible terrorist threat" on the screen.

I think you'd find yourself well-served if you actually stopped and read the full article and maybe listened to the VERY lengthy pieces which NPR broadcast about this investigative journalism before you make assumptions about it being a situation that people can just walk away from.
posted by hippybear at 3:55 PM on September 9, 2011


Please elaborate? Are you being serious?

See above.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:57 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, can we stop with the flyover country bullshit? We've already hashed this out in MetaTalk once, and agreed that it's bullshit, but I'll be happy to start another MetaTalk thread if people really feel its necessary to continue.
posted by hippybear at 3:58 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I misunderstood what padraigin was saying. User error on my part!
posted by futz at 4:03 PM on September 9, 2011


Slightly off-topic, but am I the only one that remembers that TLC did a reality show on the MOA Mall Cops? Like every other reality show made about a group, it featured groan-worthy scripted dialogue and it obviously was made to make them look favorable. After reading this article, I'm starting to think that the show was an attempt to gain some favorable PR.

Anyways, on one of their episodes, there was an incident where RAM had to deal with a suspicious suitcase during Sarah Palin's visit. The episode, also named RAM, is available on Netflix with the rest of the series.
posted by HermanoBluth at 4:35 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


"At 200 million square feet, the Mall of America is the largest mall in the United States. In addition to 520 shops, two thirds of which are devoted to the sale of FDNY and NYPD baseball caps, it has a chapel and a school and a post office and an amusement park called Camp Snoopy inside of it.
It is not, I should point out, the largest mall in North America. That distinction belongs to the West Edmonton Mall, which contains 7,000 baseball-cap shops, a sausage factory, a complete medieval castle, twelve monorails, and the entire township of East Edmonton, preserved like Pompeii at the exact moment it was devoured by the West Edmonton Mall.
Still, the Mall of America is large enough that I can see it from my hotel room, literally thousands of feet away. Its phosphor lights obliterate the Minnesota evening. It is so bright, I don't know how they get the giant bats to keep circling it."
[...]
"Day 6
My last interview is with a Minnnesota woman who just opened a pastry shop using her grandmother's original cheesecake recipe. Her store is called Granny's Squeezecakes.
I ask her if she's tried the deep-fried cheesecake on a stick the Egyptians serve at Minnesota Picnic. She just smiles in an ominous way that makes me think she knows their days are numbered, and soon she will be cheesecake queen.
'Working in the mall is a little nerve-wracking,' she confides, 'because as the largest mall in the United States, we are a prime target for terrorism.'
'You know what?' I say. 'Fuck you.'"
- John Hodgman, The Areas of My Expertise
posted by JHarris at 5:06 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Correction to my earlier comment; Palin's episode is called "Palin Power" while "R.A.M." deals with an entirely different terror issue.

And the working link
posted by HermanoBluth at 5:28 PM on September 9, 2011


This Week, On Oh, MetaFilter: MeFites List The Top Ten Places They Wouldn't Be Caught Dead In, If They Were Suicide Bombers.

Oh, MetaFilter.

A Matt. H Joint
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:32 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah. That was a pretty douchey thread shit on my part. And I'm wrong so I totally apologize and take it back, cause it was mean. I'm sorry.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 8:57 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


For some reason I always get the Mall of America and the School of the Americas mixed up. So, apparently, do the Mall's security operations staff.
posted by hades at 9:14 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Slightly off-topic, but am I the only one that remembers that TLC did a reality show on the MOA Mall Cops? Like every other reality show made about a group, it featured groan-worthy scripted dialogue and it obviously was made to make them look favorable. After reading this article, I'm starting to think that the show was an attempt to gain some favorable PR.

I think one of the scariest things about the police these days is that they have all of these shows that they script and cooperate with --Justice Files, Forensic Files, the various and sundry 48s, and now mall cops, I guess - all clearly made with their help and (I assume) edited and designed to show them in the best possible light -- and they still seem like bullies and thugs who amp up half the situations they enter into out of misplaced authority and machismo...in their own propaganda.

My group was once detained because we had a traveling comedy show and there was a cardboard cutout of a suitcase that said 'Atom Bomb' mixed in with forty other cardboard cutouts of various lunatic objects. The local airport Barney Fife was puffed with patriotism and angst and called the FBI. On a Sunday. Who had to drive across town and deliver a scathing lecture on how cardboard is not illegal to a dullard who couldn't believe he wasn't getting the Medal of Honor. It was a middle state but I think the important factor was the smallness of the town, not the middleness of the state. I would think real cops despise this kind of fumble-thumbed, half-cocked 'assistance' cluttering up their calls to real problems.
posted by umberto at 9:34 PM on September 9, 2011


Yes, the MOA has some serious problems. Heck, so do the Twin Cities in general. But this prompts me to note a few good things about the Twin Cities:posted by jiawen at 9:35 PM on September 9, 2011


My partial list of what I think is awesome about the Twin Cities.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:49 PM on September 9, 2011


PostIronyIsNotaMyth: "Yeah. That was a pretty douchey thread shit on my part. And I'm wrong so I totally apologize and take it back, cause it was mean. I'm sorry."

Dammit, I was lining up for my turn to tell you that, and then you had to go and make an honest apology. (Well done.)
posted by desuetude at 10:08 PM on September 9, 2011


The article cite:
"...and then he started asking me questions. Why am I making a video, what am I making a video of, what I did for a living, and he asked me, what's my hobbies?"

People's hobbies!!?? LOL

NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS!!!!
posted by raymorphic at 4:54 AM on September 10, 2011


Minneapolis' congressperson, Keith Ellison, is a very good guy and the only Muslim in congress.

Sorry to be a pedant, but there are two Muslims in Congress now, including Andre Carson (D-IL). Anyhow, Keith Ellison is my Congressman, and he's great. What's even more bizarre is that the neighboring Congressional district is Michele Bachmann's.
posted by jonp72 at 6:41 AM on September 10, 2011


Private security means private security guards, most of which are extremely poorly trained, compensated and managed. They're trying to do their best with the tools God gave them which are not many and of poor quality.
I recently went through the certification process to become an armed guard. We met for six hours a day over three days, of which two days were spent watching ancient videos of politicians talking about nothing. The instructor lectured for at most three hours. The third day was spent qualifying at the gun range. Then the instructor handed out the exams and left the room, but not before dropping off the list of answers with one of the students and winking.
Somehow we managed to meet the "40 hours of instruction" requirement and all of us scored 100 on the exam.
The people in the class with me were of all shapes and sizes. Most seemed to possess the equivalent of a bad 9th grade education. Most were very nice, courteous people and all were excited that they would be able to make $2 an hour more than the normal $10 an hour an unarmed guard makes. All were disappointed by the crap training.
It made me angry that a golden opportunity to enrich these people was squandered. Most had arrived ready to learn and I could see and hear their disappointment.
I don't know how it private security guard training is up in Minnesota but I wouldn't be surprised if it were not any better.
posted by entropos at 8:23 AM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


We clearly need more powerful mall cops to catch any the terrorists the FBI trains to entrap, but then forgets to arrest.

Newsnight just did a piece on this: Have US anti-terror tactics strayed into entrapment?
posted by homunculus at 11:00 AM on September 11, 2011


"Well, let's go ramify 'em, honey"
posted by telstar at 6:21 PM on September 11, 2011


« Older Waking up, full of Awesome...  |  Mel Gibson and Joe Eszterhas h... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments