Urban explorers are hobbyists who – you guessed it – explore urban areas to find little-seen or ignored areas of the man-made landscape, some abandoned and some not, often documenting their travels and discoveries and posting images or other information online.
While it might seem somewhat absurd that the NCTC would put out a report (embedded below or available here) telling law enforcement that, “Any suspicious UE activity should be reported to the nearest State and Major Area Fusion Center and to the local FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force,” it really shouldn’t be surprising.
Similar reports from various entities have also said that potential terrorism indicators include most bodily movements, having certain bumper stickers on one’s car, photographing iconic buildings, forgetting items at a hotel, believing in government conspiracies and so much more that it has almost become a joke at this point.
Now the government thinks urban explorers are actually aiding terrorists by posting photos, videos and diagrams online.
This is noteworthy because urban exploration has become a surprisingly popular activity. So popular, in fact, that a 2007 San Francisco Chronicle article noted, “Urban exploration is a worldwide phenomenon with its own fanzines, conventions, culture, ethics, periodicals, books, movies, MTV specials and clubs from Russia to Australia, Canada to Chile. And it’s growing.”
That means all of those people, especially those in the United States, could arguably be seen as “aiding the enemy” by helping terrorists “remotely identify and surveil potential targets.”
“Advanced navigation and mapping technologies, including three dimensional modeling and geo-tagging, could aid terrorists in pinpointing locations in dense urban environments,” according to the report, originally released on November 19, 2012 according to Public Intelligence and marked “For Official Use Only.”
Interestingly, the Chronicle article paints a completely different picture of how urban explorers work.
“Discoveries are no longer openly shared online, but handled like carefully guarded secrets among a small network of trusted cronies,” James Nestor wrote for the Chronicle.
“Company websites often provide information about buildings; social media postings of explorers’ activity often identify access points and security flaws,” the report claims.
Perhaps most interesting of all is that the report tells readers to report suspicious activity to “the nearest State and Major Area Fusion Center and to the local FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
Those are the same fusion centers that produce “predominantly useless information” and “a bunch of crap,” according to a Senate panel. If this is some kind of real threat, reporting it to the money pits known as fusion centers is just about the worst idea I could think of.