Now you can add complaining about drinking water to the continuing saga of innocent behaviors and actions listed under ridiculous "you might be a terrorist if" lists. The FBI and DHS have issued thousands of warnings about attacks to contaminate drinking water and threats to water-related infrastructure. However, the latest potential domestic terrorist warning was not issued on paper to Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee, residents, but recorded on audio from a town meeting. Muttering about the poor quality of your tap water might be OK in the privacy of your home, but if you dare to make an unfounded complaint about your water quality in public, then the Department of Homeland Security could consider that an "act of terrorism."
With the arrival of summer, millions of Americans are enjoying the great outdoors by playing in the water. However, if you have an issue with the quality of water that pours out of your home faucets, then you can file a complaint. Such was the case in Mt. Pleasant as more than 100 residents used the state's official complaint process to seek help with the poor quality of their water. In fact, residents claim there are often boil water notices and even when there's no boil warning, children have become sick from drinking the water. Yet at a town meeting, Sherwin Smith, deputy director of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Division of Water Resources warned residents:
"We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously. But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there's no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism."
A civic action group, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), recorded audio of the meeting, including a stunned man in the audience asking, "Can you say that again, please?"
Smith repeated that "under federal regulation, if you make allegations against the public water supply that are unfounded, then that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism." As the Huffington Post pointed out, terrorism is "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets," according to the Code of Laws of the United States. If children become ill from drinking tap water in their home, then how in the heck can that be considered unfounded complaints about water quality? The Mt. Pleasant community believes the state official's threat about potential terrorism is a scare tactic meant to silence the ongoing water complaints.
"We have been meeting with officials about the outrageously expensive and dirty water in Mt. Pleasant since last year," explained an exasperated Dwight Green, a Mt. Pleasant resident and SOCM member who attended the meeting. "They basically told us that the proper way to approach this issue was to fill out their water quality complaint forms. So we did that and now they're telling us that it's an act of terrorism? That doesn't make any sense. We filled out their form. I don't like being intimidated or accused of being a terrorist because I demand clean drinking water."
Local residents say their water has been cloudy, dirty and odd-tasting for years. Mt. Pleasant resident Joycelene Johns said, "We've met with our state representative who is supposed to be looking out for us, attended public meetings like they asked, and they intimidate us by accusing us of committing acts of terrorism. We just want clean and affordable water. How is that terrorism?" She added "I'll drink it, but I pray before the first sip."
TDEC spokeswoman Meg Lockhart told The Tennessean:
"In terms of the comments made by a member of the Water Resources Division at the meeting, we are just receiving the information and looking into this on our end. The department would like to fully assess what was said in the meeting. I am told that the meeting was far longer than the audio clip provided by SOCM and that Mr. Smith actually clarified his remarks. But again, we are looking into it."
If you ever watched the documentary film Gasland, then you know that fracking can cause the water in the area to be mind-blowingly bad, so much so that water coming out of the faucet catches on fire when a flame is nearby. Those people were told their water was "fine" and tested "okay." Now complaints about water, if considered "unfounded" are potentially acts of terrorism?
Like this? Here's more posts:
- America: Less land of the free, more home of the mass-surveilled
- Journalist threatened, warned not to write about face-recognition at Statue of Liberty
- Project Chess helped NSA snoop on your Skype communications
- NSA whistleblower Snowden: Even innocent Americans are 'being watched and recorded'
- It's hitting the fan: Anger mounts over PRISM, NSA spying scandals
- Reporters threatened with CFAA, labeled hackers for finding security hole
- Former FBI agent: All phone calls recorded, no digital communication secure
- Schools scan students' irises, then notify parents of opt out choice afterward
- Rule of 7 applied to domestic surveillance
Follow me on Twitter @PrivacyFanatic
Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. Smith has a diverse background in information technology, programming, web development, IT consulting, and information security. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.
Smith is an independent contractor and is not affiliated with any vendor that makes or sells information technology.
Policy on comments: Respectful discussion is welcomed! However comments that use inappropriate language, consist of name calling or personal attacks, or include accusations of wrongdoing are not appropriate. Those comments will be deleted or edited