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Did FBI tail terror suspect using Wi-Fi called 'FBI Van 1'?

The answer, thankfully, is almost certainly no.

By Paul McNamara on Thu, 10/13/11 - 2:39pm.

FBI-surveliiance Van

According to a San Antonio media report, the man accused of planning to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in Washington, D.C., was not the sharpest tool in the box. However, if neighbor accounts are to be taken at face value, the same could be said of the FBI agents tasked with foiling his alleged plot.

It's unlikely, however, that those accounts are worth face value.     

From a story on MySanAntonio.com:

Neighbors, however, said it had been years since (suspect Manssor) Arbabsiar lived in the stucco house he once shared with his wife on a suburban cul-de-sac. They said it appeared as many as 10 people were living in the house, and lately there had been some signs of suspicious activity: When residents looked for available Wi-Fi networks, names like "FBI Van 1" would pop up.

Earlier today, the idea that the FBI would be so foolish as to choose "FBI Van 1" for a Wi-Fi SSID landed the story on the front page of Fark, a social-bookmarking site that specializes and delights in skewering the stupid.

But could the FBI really have been that stupid?

Presuming it would be futile to ask the FBI directly, I did a bit of online searching and quickly turned up ample reason to believe that the answer is, "No, not that stupid."

In fact, the question had also come up as recently as this summer after news reports about an alleged plot to blow up a Tampa, Fla., high school included assertions that the FBI had been busted using "FBI_SURVEILLANCE VAN" as an SSID.

No proof materialized, but the stories did elicit many accounts of people doing this sort of thing with their home Wi-Fi ... just for yucks. It's such a common gag, in fact - with so many variations -- that "Police Surveillance Van 2" topped Mashable's list of favorite Wi-Fi names.

Case closed, right? Do not besmirch the FBI with this accusation any longer.

Well, hold on there a minute, J. Edgar: Let's play devil's advocate (tongue-in-cheek style): If every wise guy on every block in America thinks it's funny to display "Surveillance Van" on their Wi-Fi - and if word of the joke has gotten around - wouldn't doing so offer the perfect cover for a real FBI surveillance van?

Think about that one as you're pulling back the curtain to take a peek out the window.

 

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