We all know the phrase, “If you see something, say something.” We also know the often unspoken second question, “Do I want to become a Chicken Little, getting a reputation for saying ‘The sky is falling?’ ” The second question is what keeps many people from saying something.

We all agree that in this era of terrorism, it makes sense to say something. But what exactly are you looking for? What is it, that if you see it, you say something about it? Not such an easy question, really, unless you have some basis for comparison. Terrorism warnings are often the same as espionage warnings.

Consider some of these situations, and determine what you would do. All of these are examples from daily business life. There are no trick questions, just fundamental questions that need your consideration. See what you would do.

1. (Not so Random) Bag Check

You work in a classified facility. There are many guards at all the gates, and interior guards at each building entrance. One day, a young man who you know works in the building comes in with a gym bag. He leaves with a gym bag later that evening. Would you stop this young man to check him? There is a gym in the building. He is authorized to use it. He has used it for years, and you’ve seen this bag.

2. Classified Clutter

You find a pile of classified information in a wall cabinet. It is in a cleared part of the building, such as a SCIF, so it is authorized to be outside a safe. But you don’t know who it belongs to. What would you do?

3. Spies and Spouses

A distraught wife comes to you, and tells you her husband is a spy. What would be your next step?

4. The Drunk Spy

A distraught foreigner comes to you, and says he is a spy, but he is obviously drunk. Any ideas?

5. Silly Suitcases

A young man comes to the front gate of your facility, and places an unopened suitcase next to the guard post. He then walks away at a rapid pace, laughing. If you were a guard, what would you do?

6. Hot Mail

Your mail room calls, and says that they have found three envelopes which respond to the metal detector. Upon looking, the three envelopes show black outlines that could be dynamite charges. You would do what next?

7. Busy Boss

Your boss comes in late. Says he is working on a project, and needs to get it done. Do you do anything?

Each of these questions actually happened. Let’s see what should, or should not, have happened.

(1.) In the first case, there was never a ‘random check’ of the bags people carried in. This was especially true if they were routinely seen with the cases. In the case mentioned here, the young man finally took out reams of classified papers every day, since he knew he would never be checked. Wait, you say, nowadays people can bring in thumb drives and get away with it. Yes, all the more reason to at least introduce ‘random checks’ of those going in and out. Especially those we ‘know’.

(2.) Find out why the person has to keep his classified out of a safe. Then check with his supervisor. Is this convenience, or lack of discipline? Either way, find out. Do you have a clean desk policy? Just be sure why things are not in a place designated for their retention.

(3.) When told someone is a spy, refer it to the professionals. They can make the determination. Don’t take it upon yourself to ‘know better’.

(4.) Likewise, if a drunk confesses, this might be known as ‘Dutch Courage’. This old expression meant someone had to get drunk in order to find the courage to admit the truth. This case is absolutely true.

(5. & 6.) If it could be a bomb, treat it like a bomb. Leave it alone, and call the bomb technicians.

(7.) Don’t be afraid to check up on the boss. In one case, the boss pretended to be having an affair, and said he’d meet his love interest after hours at the office. The guard, so advised, gave a knowing ‘the ways of the world’ nod and looked away. Instead, the boss let a safe cracker in to steal national defense secrets!

Make a record of everything. Report what you believe to be out of the ordinary. No professional will think the less of you for it. That is what they are there for, to research into a reported incident, and determine if there is something to worry about. Your national security investigators are there because of incidents just like these. Let them do their jobs. Give them the information they need to either stop the problem or put the issue at rest.

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John William Davis was commissioned an artillery officer and served as a counterintelligence officer and linguist. Thereafter he was counterintelligence officer for Space and Missile Defense Command, instructing the threat portion of the Department of the Army's Operations Security Course. Upon retirement, he wrote of his experiences in Rainy Street Stories.