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The Lies Issue

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his was shortly after 9/11. I had read that two of the hijackers had worked at gas stations and used prepaid cell phones. My brain became alive with farts. I decided to conduct some cursory surveillance.
February 1, 2006, 12:00am

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My interest in national security began when I was working at a gas station in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, and observed on several occasions five young males of Middle Eastern descent in the parking lot yapping away in Arabic on cell phones, using prepaid cards purchased at my kiosk. This was shortly after 9/11. I had read that two of the hijackers had worked at gas stations and used prepaid cell phones. My brain became alive with farts. I decided to conduct some cursory surveillance. The subjects were highly suspicious. They appeared to live together in a single basement apartment with no visible means of support. They went everywhere together, taking public transit even though they owned a car. The seeds of reasonable doubt were sweeping away and they were growing into a pot plant of me not believing that these guys were just another group of illegal immigrants willing to work for $3 an hour. I called the FBI, burped twice, and told them what I’d found. Special Agent W. came to my house that afternoon and interviewed me for half an hour. I handed over my files, including photographs and the serial numbers of the prepaid phone cards the subjects had purchased. The biggest step for me in getting started on this path was believing that my observations here in my little hometown could impact the whole country and the war we are fighting now. So that was the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration between me and the national-security apparatus. The feds have used me in a variety of capacities, everything from going on Critical Mass rides in Manhattan to attending GOP rallies to writing letters to the editor on subjects of their choosing. I’m not happy, but I’m certainly not ashamed to say that I have used personal relationships—such as my friendship with Hider, who works the graveyard shift—to collect intelligence that would be otherwise unavailable to outsiders. Hider is a nice guy to me on a personal level, but his faith blinds him to the failings of his fellow Muslims and the poisonous extremism that flows from his mosque. I hear people complain about privacy violations and propaganda and wonder whether they feel lucky not to be doused with napalm or stacked naked into a human pyramid. That’s what happens when you’re on the wrong side of power in other countries—if having an FBI suspicious-persons file is the worst thing that happens to you here, you should think of your Chinese counterpart having his painted toenails ripped off daily in some gulag and thank your lucky stars that you live here in the United States. Peace! PATRICK HENRY, JR.