Operation TIPS
by Glenn Weiser
Metroland, August 2002

Operation TIPS was later abandoned.

The Justice Department denied a report last week by the online journal Salon.com suggesting that it is forwarding leads from its controversial new Terrorist Information Prevention System (TIPS) program to the Fox
Network's," America's Most Wanted." It was also announced that the system would be overhauled to be less
invasive to people's privacy.

Writing for Salon, David Lindorff reported that he visited the Citizen Corps Web site in July to enroll as an informant in the TIPS program, which had sought to enlist letter carriers, utility technicians, bus drivers, meter readers, and other workers who deal with the public by asking them to report suspicious persons or activities to the FBI. Receiving no response for a month, he called back and was given anumber which he was told the FBI had established for TIPS. It turned out to be the "Americas Most Wanted" show, in which unsolved crimes are dramatized, and a phone number given for people with leads in the cases to call. A shocked

Lindorff was told that the show had been asked to field the FBI's TIPS calls for them. The Justice Department claims the call was forwarded to the series in error. The show's host, John Walsh, has been a strong supporter of the TIPS program, and a recent visit to the AMW Web site revealed that suspected terrorists now have top billing over wanted murderers and missing children. Reached for comment, an annoyed sounding spokeswoman for the show's publicity department denied that "America's Most Wanted" was handling the FBI's TIPS calls. "Those are two separate programs," she said. "We have our own leads."

TIPS has come under intense criticism not only from civil libertarians and Congressional Democrats, but also such conservative stalwarts as House majority leader Dick Armey and Representative Bob Barr of Georgia. Armey sponsored a bill banning the program which was passed in the House last month, and Barr has called it a "snitch system" reminiscent of a fascist or Communist government. In response to such attacks, the Justice Department recently announced that the program would be scaled back to public places such as the country's
ports of entry, and that the department would "absolutely discourage" leads concerning activities taking place inside people's homes.

List of Metroland Stories by Glenn Weiser                          2002 by Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved

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