Next time you’re around a group of people, take a look around. Doesn’t matter if you’re at work, in class, at the grocery store, standing in line for a movie, at a party at someone’s house, or at a concert. Now imagine that one of people there is a snitch, recording your every move.
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.
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 www.citizencorps.gov, 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.