An ACLU press
release and salon.com
story are reporting on a move which will surely make political
satire irrelevant: the Department of Justice has begun forwarding
calls destined for its TIPS
program to the producers of the Fox television show America's Most
TIPS is the
US Government's new program,
reminiscent of the East German and Soviet secret police informant
programs, to "combat terrorism" by having citizens spy on each
other. Under TIPS, Americans such as truck drivers or delivery people
who "are in a unique position to see potentially unusual or suspicious
activity in public places" will be able to call a toll-free phone number or visit a
web site in order to report this allegedly suspicious
activity. These reports will then be stored in a national database,
the uses for which have not yet been explained. Stripped of jargon,
this program is simply asking Americans to spy on their neighbors.
However, the TIPS hotline is not yet ready. And so, when salon.com
reporter Dave Lindorff called the Department of Justice looking to get
an early start on his suspicious-incident reporting, he was given a
phone number staffed by employees of the Fox television show
America's Most Wanted. When, puzzled, Lindorff questioned the
operator who answered, he was told, "We've been asked to take the
FBI's TIPS calls for them."
As ACLU Legislative Counsel Rachel King said, "This is like retaining
Arthur Andersen to do all of the SEC's accounting. It's a completely
inappropriate and frightening intermingling of government power and
the private sector. What's next - the government hires Candid Camera
to do its video surveillance? If it continues to cooperate with the
government on Operation TIPS, America's Most Wanted should move
networks and rename itself 'Big Brother.'"
As truth rapidly becomes more frightening than fiction, there's nothing that we can add to that.