Republican Majority Leader Armey Rejects White House Plans for Operation TIPS, National ID

July 18, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Richard Armey today insisted that the controversial Operation TIPS program and a national ID card not be included in the legislation establishing a new cabinet-level Homeland Security Department.

“Majority Leader Armey has taken a courageous step in insisting that we protect our privacy in the fight against terror,” said Rachel King, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “There is no place in America for either an internal passport or for utility workers and cable technicians to become government-sanctioned peeping toms.”

As Chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, Majority Leader Armey (R-TX) today included language in his markup of the legislation currently pending to create the Homeland Security Department that would prohibit the implementation of the now notorious Operation TIPS program and would forbid the creation of any national ID card, including de facto national IDs such as a nationally standardized driver’s license.

According to the White House, Operation TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System) is scheduled to be introduced as a pilot project in August 2002 and would recruit one million volunteers in 10 cities across the country who would be encouraged to report suspicious, ostensibly terrorism-related activity. The program will target volunteers who because of their work as, for example, utility technicians or cable installers are “well-positioned to recognize unusual events,” the White House says.

Since Monday, TIPS has attracted fiery critiques from all points on the political spectrum. In addition to the ACLU, the Cato Institute and the conservative Rutherford Institute have both come out against the proposal. Without explanation yesterday, the U.S. Postal Service said it would not allow letter carriers to be involved with the program.

Rep. Armey’s prohibition on a national ID cuts directly to one of the key proposals in the White House’s Homeland Security plan, released earlier this week. The plan identifies the standardization of driver’s licenses nation-wide, a step which the apolitical National Research Council said amounts to a “nation-wide identity system” and which opponents say would be the creation of an internal passport, as an essential component of homeland security. National IDs are strongly opposed by groups as politically diverse as the ACLU and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum.

In addition to measures against Operation TIPS and national IDs, the ACLU also applauded the Majority Leader’s inclusion of language in the bill that would establish the first-ever “Privacy Officer” in a cabinet-level department. This position would work as a close advisor to the Secretary and would be responsible for ensuring that any “technology research and new regulations from the Department respect the civil liberties our citizens enjoy.”

A Summary of the Chairman’s Mark can be found on-line at the Select Committee’s website:

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