Planned volunteer-informant corps
elicits '1984' fears
As part of the country's war against terrorism, the Bush
administration by next month wants to recruit a million letter carriers, utility workers
and others whose jobs allow them access to private homes into a contingent of organized
The Terrorism Information and Prevention System (Operation TIPS), a national reporting
pilot program, is scheduled to start next month in 10 cities, with 1 million informants ?
or nearly 4 percent of Americans ? initially participating in the program.
The program will allow volunteers, whose routines make them well-positioned to recognize
suspect activities, to report the same to the Justice Department, which is running the
project. The Justice Department will enter the information into a database, which will
then be broadly available within the department, and to state and local agencies and local
police forces. At local and state levels, the program will be coordinated by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency.
Operation TIPS is one part of President Bush's new volunteer Citizen Corps program that
urges Americans to keep their neighborhoods safe. The program is described on the
government Web site www.citizencorps.gov.
"This broad network of volunteer efforts will harness the power of the American
people by relying on their individual skills and interests to prepare local communities to
effectively prevent and respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, or any kind of
disaster," the program's description on the Web site states.
The program has already alarmed several civil liberties groups, including the American
Civil Liberties Union and the Rutherford Institute, which say the administration should
not allow TIPS to become "an end run around the Constitution."
Critics say that having Americans act as "domestic informants" is reminiscent of
the infamous Stasi, the new-disbanded communist East German secret police service that
snooped on dissidents and ordinary East German citizens for more than 40 years, compiling
a huge catalogue of notes.
Rachel King, an ACLU legislative counsel, said yesterday the organization is concerned
that law enforcement will use the volunteers, especially those whose occupations allow
them to enter homes and monitor residents ? to search people's residences, without a
warrant. She said that the organization is also worried that the program will adversely
affect the fight against terrorism by wasting resources on useless tips and that the
program will encourage vigilantism and racial profiling.
"The administration apparently wants to implement a program that will turn local
cable or gas or electrical technicians into government-sanctioned peeping Toms," Miss
John Whitehead, executive director of the Rutherford Institute, agreed.
"This is George Orwell's '1984.' It's an absolutely horrible and very dangerous
idea," he said. "It's making Americans into government snoops. President Bush
wants the average American to do what the FBI should be doing. In the end, though, nothing
is going to prevent terrorists from crashing planes into buildings."
A Justice Department official in charge of answering questions about Operation TIPS was
out of the office yesterday and not available for comment. http://www.prisonplanet.com/news_alert_071602_tips.html
Washington Times 07/16/02: Ellen
Original Link: http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20020716-75882632.htm