by John Hawkins | July 16, 2002 6:31 pm
Operation Tips?: People are going absolutely nuts over this program…
“THE JUSTICE Department is not saying much about the Terrorism Information and Prevention System — otherwise known as Operation TIPS — which is due to begin as a pilot program later this summer. Apparently the only public information about the program, in fact, is on a government Web site, which describes it as “a nationwide program giving millions of American truckers, letter carriers, train conductors, ship captains, utility employees, and others a formal way to report suspicious terrorist activity.” Operation TIPS will, in the pilot stage, involve a million workers, who, “in the daily course of their work, are in a unique position to serve as extra eyes and ears for law enforcement.” It will offer them “training . . . in how to look out for suspicious and potentially terrorist-related activity.” It will also provide “a formal way to report” that activity “through a single and coordinated toll-free number.”
Allusions to the KGB, Secret Police, 1984, etc. are being about this made about this program especially since some jumpy Aussie papers are claiming that soon 1 out of every 24 members of the US population will be made into “spies.” But this is a huge overreaction when you consider that even the Washington Post admits that there isn’t enough information out there to really make a judgement about this program.
My guess (and all you can really do at this point is guess) is that the Justice Department is simply going to have one centralized number for people to call into if they see something highly suspicious. So if you work at UPS and you someone sends a drum of anthrax through or if you are with a trucking company and you see a bunch of guys taking rocket launchers out of their truck and walking towards a nuclear power plant, you have one place to call where they can handle the situation and catalog the info. Yes, I would be concerned if this program was encouraging people to report things they see inside of people’s homes or to make calls every time someone in the program sees someone walking around with a Koran. But so far, there is no indication that is what the program is going to do. Furthermore, when you consider how much press this program has already received, I sincerely doubt that the Bush administration would risk large amounts of negative attention for doing anything too much beyond what I’ve already described. I’m sure most the fringe left has already thrown on their “I went to a police state and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” outfits to go with their tin hats but I’m reserving judgement until we know a little more what this program will actually do.
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