Operation TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System) is a new Bush Administration proposal that will be bundled into its volunteer Citizen Corps. The White House has announced plans to begin a pilot project in some cities in August.
Specifically, the initiative will recruit one million volunteers in 10 cities across the country and encourage them to report suspicious activity that might be terrorism-related. According to the White House, it will try to make volunteers of letter carriers, cable tv installers and gas, electric and utility workers who because their work allows them inside people's homes, are well suited to recognize the unusual.
In a press release issued yesterday, the ACLU minced no words about the intrusive nature of the program, calling it a plan to turn the workers into "a contingent of organized government informants" and "government-sanctioned peeping toms,” and attacking it as an "end run around the Constitution."
We agree with the ACLU--this is a proposal that essentially will encourage searches of our residences without a warrant or even probable cause. It will cost the Government (and us, the taxpayers) a lot of money to follow what likely will be mostly useless tips. And it may fuel vigilantism and racial profiling.
The Washington Post expressed great concern about the plan in an editorial on Sunday. It's view:
"Americans should not be subjecting themselves to law enforcement scrutiny merely by having cable lines installed, mail delivered or meters read. Police cannot routinely enter people's houses without either permission or a warrant. They should not be using utility workers to conduct surveillance they could not lawfully conduct themselves.”