Get the 'Nac


Readers Joe Sharkey and Adam Scavone have pointed me to a bizarre FBI warning reported by the Associated Press:

In a bulletin sent Christmas Eve to about 18,000 police organizations, the FBI said terrorists may use almanacs "to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning."

It urged officers to watch during searches, traffic stops and other investigations for anyone carrying almanacs, especially if the books are annotated in suspicious ways.

The FBI noted that use of almanacs or maps may be innocent, "the product of legitimate recreational or commercial activities." But it warned that when combined with suspicious behavior—such as apparent surveillance—a person with an almanac "may point to possible terrorist planning."

For the record, the publisher of The Old Farmers Almanac doubted that his book would be of much use to terrorists (one awaits his admission that it's equally useless to non-terrorists, save those desperate to know the coming year's moon phases).

Though it's true that if Al Qaeda operatives are confronted with the daunting Almanac riddle "Why are two pints of strawberries after they are eaten like persons singing?" they will be able to pass as regular Americans. It's also true the the FBI should consider imprisoning the author of that riddle, whose answer is here.

NEXT: TV Shows Against Mandatory Minimums

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. According to my Old Farmer’s Almanac list for today, “He only truly lives who lives in peace.” It is also Holy Innocents Day.

    I don’t know what either of those things mean, but I wouldn’t have known them otherwise.

    Also, according to my Old Farmer’s Almanac, it is currently dark outside.

    Yesterday, btw, was Woodrow Wilson’s birthday.

  2. Look out all you private investigators out there! You might be taking a long vacation in the tropical paradise of Cuba!

  3. I hear them gall dang terrorists have been usin’ automobiles to efficiently scout targets rather than riding their traditional camels. Beware of people in automobiles!

  4. I think that they are talking about The World Almanac not The Farmers…

  5. Reposting old stories? This place is starting to look like slashdot.

  6. The nuclear weapon design article from the Journal of Irreproducible Results is another thing to be on the lookout for.

  7. I just stopped into a cafe to check my email. I noticed a guy with a Frommer’s “USA” travel book, and I thought that was a bit odd. Shouldn’t a tourist have something like a Los Angeles-specific map or tourist info? What’s he doing, planning the rest of his trip across the U.S.? He looked foreign too.

    Only a minute after this observation, I read about the almanacs at Drudge. Scary. Truly scary. Not only that, he was talking with someone else about “Glitter Gulch” and Fremont Blvd. Unfortunately, he got away before I could make a citizen’s arrest.

    Earlier today, I had seen a flyer from the Department of Homeland Security at the Post Office. It includes a little postage stamp pic of Ridge plus a not-so-memorable quote from him, together with a recap of the material from

    As much as I hate “liberals” and their carping about DHS and Ashcroft, this crap has gone a bit too far.

  8. What a stupid tactic – telling police to look out for something that terrorists would do as a precursor to an operation.

    Everybody knows it’s much more effective to just tell cops to look for clearer signs of terrorism – you know, like buildings with planes sticking out of them.

    Just out of curiousity, Nick, Julian, do you two wankers have any constructive advice for what law enforcement should be looking for? Or are we only getting a heaping helping of snark?

  9. Look, putting your hand in your pocket is legal and common as well. But in certain circumstances it could be a flag that a cop should look out for, like if you do it very quickly when you notice he’s looking in your direction.

    No one’s saying to arrest everyone with an almanac. It’s just one more thing that could be a tipoff.

  10. Should they also be on the lookout for anyone with home canned sauerkraut (which is sure to turn black if canned while the sign is in the feet or legs, for those of you who always wondered what those body signs in the almanac were for).

    Replace Tom Ridge with someone competent? Shouldn?t we start by replacing the incompetent at the top?

    Having an almanac is a tip off? I can see it now- “Carry a book, go to jail!”

  11. Gee Fetchet, you’re allegedly an attorney. Tell me, do you think seeing a random person carrying an almanac even begins to get a cop to “reasonable suspicion” of criminal intent/activity, the minimum standard necessary to justify a brief stop for questioning?

  12. This Tom Ridge Alert is useless for three major reasons:

    1. ‘The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2004’ is #61 on the Amazon hit parade. What are the cops going to do, stop everyone with an almanac? Ask to see your almanac? Demand to know whether you’ve got an almanac? Use the fact that you have an almanac as a pretext to search you?

    2. If the cops run across an almanac decorated with ‘this building blow up real good’ next to ‘allahu akhbar,’ even the lowest IQ cop will know what to do.

    3. The information available in almanacs is widely available on the Internet.

    Let’s replace Tom Ridge with someone competent.

  13. If Dean is elected President, perhaps he will start a federal fund to ensure Internet access for all Al Qaeda members.

    I mean seriously — reading our almanacs is probably what is poisoning them against Western society in the first place!

  14. EMAIL:
    DATE: 02/28/2004 10:12:16
    We are the master of

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.