House Majority Leader Dick Armey last week marked up legislation to reject the proposed Terrorism Information and Prevention System (Operation TIPS), a security program that would recruit U.S. civilians as informants of "suspicious activity" in an effort to thwart terrorism, reports Ellen Sorokin in the Washington Times. The program, which was to begin in 10 cities next month and include more than a million participants--including postal carriers and other workers with access to homes--had received criticism as a violation of civil liberties.
The TIPS program was created in part by the Justice Department and loosely based on the Neighborhood Watch program, which organizes residents to monitor neighborhoods and report crime. According to a July 15th report in the Sydney Morning Herald, "Current Justice Department procedures mean that informant reports will enter databases for future reference and/or action. The information will then be broadly available within the department, related agencies and local police forces. The targeted individual will remain unaware of the existence of the report and of its contents."
While Attorney General John Ashcroft's spokeswoman, Barbara Comstock, said the program was not intended to turn Americans into spies or to permit entrance into homes, civil rights groups argued that TIPS would make "government-sanctioned peeping Toms" out of citizens. Some had compared the program to the Stasi secret police of East Germany.
Armey's press secretary, Richard Diamond, said that "Mr. Armey believes there are other and better ways to involve citizens in the protection of the homeland." --Julie Madsen Go there>>
US planning to recruit one in 24 Americans as citizen spies
by Ritt Goldstein, The Sydney Morning Herald
Citizen-spy plan facing opposition in public, House
by Andy Newman, Seattle Times (NYT wire)
Operation TIPS(Official Web site)
by Bill Berkowitz, Guerrilla News Network