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Chapter 18. CAN YOU REALLY BE ANONYMOUS? > Does the Pattern Add Up Correctly?

Does the Pattern Add Up Correctly?

In the wake the events of September 11, 2001, some of our illusions of our anonymity in the world were abruptly shattered. Since that time, the problems with the collation and analysis of widely collected data have been graphically illustrated. In the weeks following the attacks, hundreds of people were arrested or detained for questioning. Many were Arab-Americans, like Dr. Al-Badr Al-Hazmi of San Antonio, Texas. Al-Hazmi, a radiologist, was held for 12 days before being cleared of suspicion and released, because the collection of information about him, even though it was purely coincidental, added up to a pattern that made the FBI suspicious. On October 4, 2001, NPR[1] reported that the records showed these facts about Dr. Al-Hazmi, who is a medical student studying before going back to Saudi Arabia to practice medicine.

  • His last name, Al-Hazmi, is the same as two of the suspected terrorists, Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi.

  • He received several phone calls in Oct. 1999 from a man named Abdullah bin Laden.

  • He and three other people with Arab surnames had plane tickets to fly to San Diego on September 22, and they made the reservations online via Travelocity.com.

  • He made several trips to Boston, Washington DC, and New York in 2000 and 2001, as evidenced by credit card records and receipts found in his home.

  • He transferred $10,000 to a friend, also Arab-American, in Houston several months before he arrived in the United States in 1997.



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