FBI used grocery store receipts to track down suspected terrorists

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, January 9, 2014

Who would have thought that grocery store records could help the FBI track down suspected domestic terrorists?

The Federal Bureau of Investigations reportedly looked into the records of several Bay Area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, looking for the names of people who purchased tahini – a paste made from ground-up sesame seeds often found in Middle Eastern and North African foods – to see if it would lead them to domestic terrorists. The “Total Falafel Awareness Program” was ultimately shut down by the head of the FBI’s criminal investigations unit, Michael Mason, over questions about its legality.

The theory behind the “Total Falafel Awareness Program” was that a spike in foods made with tahini – such as hummus and falafel – could, when combined with other data, lead to Iranian terrorists in the area.

Wired Magazine reported that the project was the brainchild of FBI counterterrorism officials Phil Mudd and Willie T. Hulon.

There were no prosecutions related to the program according to a check of federal court records in California, however. It’s also unclear if the FBI obtained the records voluntarily from the grocery stores voluntarily or if they were subpeonaed through Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

h/t Wired Magazine

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