Despite what Attorney General Ashcroft and the Justice Department have said, the threat of this dangerous program, Operation TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System), has unfortunately not yet abated. As it stands now, TIPS would still recruit volunteers who work in the transportation, trucking, shipping, maritime, and mass transit industries. The only way to disable TIPS once and for all is through congressional action.
Taking the first step toward securing our cherished privacy rights, Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-TX) included language in the House version of the bill authorizing the creation of the new Homeland Security Department that prohibits implementation of the TIPS program.
But unless the Senate amends its version of the bill, the program could still be fully implemented. We must demand that our Senators pass a bill that forbids any and all efforts by the federal government to implement Operation TIPS or any other program that creates a citizen spy network.
The Administration has made no guarantee that it will forbid postal and utility workers from participating in the TIPS program.
While the Justice Department has made assurances that it will no longer actively recruit postal and utility workers to participate in Operation TIPS, it has not pledged to disqualify people who volunteer on their own accord and have access to private homes. Without such protections in place, an overzealous utility worker or cable installer could still participate and thereby effectively hobble protections against illegal searches.
The TIPS program will encourage non-law enforcement personnel to keep tabs on their neighbors.
The President's program would recruit millions of volunteers drawn from the transportation, trucking, shipping, maritime, and mass transit industries to report what they believe to be suspicious activities. This program would make a mockery of individual privacy as well as encourage racial and ethnic profiling.
The TIPS program could cause a wave of erroneous charges that would waste federal resources and ruin the reputations of innocent people.
With a million untrained informants, it is all but guaranteed that thousands of mistaken charges will be reported to authorities. Following up on these tips would clearly waste resources sorely needed for real work to protect our freedom and security. At the same time, these bogus reports could cause irreparable harm to falsely accused citizens who have no mechanism to ensure false reports are removed from their record.
Last updated or verified on October 7, 2002
Copyright 2002, The American Civil Liberties Union