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News Link • Surveillance

Uncle Sam's Databases of Suspicion

• By Hina Shamsi and Matthew Harwood

When Wiley Gill opened up, no one was there. Suddenly, two police officers appeared, their guns drawn, yelling, "Chico Police Department."

"I had tunnel vision," Gill said, "The only thing I could see was their guns."

After telling him to step outside with his hands in the air, the officers lowered their guns and explained. They had received a report — later determined to be unfounded — that a suspect in a domestic disturbance had fled into Gill's house. The police officers asked the then-26-year-old if one of them could do a sweep of the premises. Afraid and feeling he had no alternative, Gill agreed. One officer remained with him, while the other conducted the search. After that they took down Gill's identification information. Then they were gone — but not out of his life.

Instead, Gill became the subject of a "suspicious activity report," or SAR, which police officers fill out when they believe they're encountering a person or situation that "reasonably" might be connected in some way to terrorism.

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