US Planning to Recruit One in 24 Americans as Citizen Spies

Danielle Ni Dhighe nidhighe at
Sun Jul 14 17:54:47 MDT 2002

Sydney Morning Herald
15 July 2002

US Planning to Recruit One in 24 Americans as Citizen Spies
By Ritt Goldstein

The Bush Administration aims to recruit millions of United States
citizens as domestic informants in a program likely to alarm civil
liberties groups.

The Terrorism Information and Prevention System, or TIPS, means the
US will have a higher percentage of citizen informants than the
former East Germany through the infamous Stasi secret police. The
program would use a minimum of 4 per cent of Americans to
report "suspicious activity".

Civil liberties groups have already warned that, with the passage
earlier this year of the Patriot Act, there is potential for abusive,
large-scale investigations of US citizens.

As with the Patriot Act, TIPS is being pursued as part of the so-
called war against terrorism. It is a Department of Justice project.

Highlighting the scope of the surveillance network, TIPS volunteers
are being recruited primarily from among those whose work provides
access to homes, businesses or transport systems. Letter carriers,
utility employees, truck drivers and train conductors are among those
named as targeted recruits.

A pilot program, described on the government Web site, is scheduled to start next month in 10 cities,
with 1 million informants participating in the first stage. Assuming
the program is initiated in the 10 largest US cities, that will be 1
million informants for a total population of almost 24 million, or
one in 24 people.

Historically, informant systems have been the tools of non-democratic
states. According to a 1992 report by Harvard University's Project on
Justice, the accuracy of informant reports is problematic, with some
informants having embellished the truth, and others suspected of
having fabricated their reports.

Present 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

The Patriot Act already provides for a person's home to be searched
without that person being informed that a search was ever performed,
or of any surveillance devices that were implanted.

At state and local levels the TIPS program will be co-ordinated by
the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was given sweeping new
powers, including internment, as part of the Reagan Administration's
national security initiatives. Many key figures of the Reagan era are
part of the Bush Administration.

The creation of a US "shadow government", operating in secret, was
another Reagan national security initiative.

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