This story is a week old, but I missed it last week and I'm glad I caught up with it now, because it's utterly preposterous:
The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.
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 practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning," the FBI wrote....
I'm looking at the five almanacs on my shelf and just shaking my head.
The stupidity of this is in the following paragraph:
The FBI said information typically found in almanacs that could be useful for terrorists includes profiles of cities and states and information about waterways, bridges, dams, reservoirs, tunnels, buildings and landmarks. It said this information is often accompanied by photographs and maps.
Have any of these guys ever opened an almanac?
Let's start with that last sentence: Almanacs contain lots of words and numbers -- but almanacs generally contain only a few photos, usually of the previous year's news events, and I don't have a single almanac with a detailed locality map that would be useful to a terrorist. The Feebs obviously don't know the difference between an almanac and a Frommer's/Fodor's-style travel guide -- which, in a way, is good, because if they ever decide to arrest everyone on the streets of, say, Manhattan who's carrying a Let's Go! or a Rough Guide, they're going to need Yankee Stadium as a holding pen. And as for "information about waterways, bridges, dams, reservoirs, tunnels, buildings and landmarks," here's a response from someone who actually knows what he's talking about:
"I don't think anyone would consider us a harmful entity," said Kevin Seabrooke, senior editor of The World Almanac. He said the reference book includes about a dozen pages out of its 1,000 pages total listing the world's tallest buildings and bridges but includes no diagrams or architectural schematics. "It's stuff that's widely available on the Internet," he said.
(Thanks to Publishers Lunch and BuzzFlash for this.)