TIPS tiff continues: Ashcroft defends program

| Monday, July 29, 2002

Attorney General John Ashcroft told legislators July 25 the Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS) will be ``a clearinghouse for people who think they see something'' suspicious, and not a government database to be used against Americans.

Millions of American truckers, train conductors, ship captains, utility employees, letter carriers and others would use the TIPS as a "national system for reporting suspicious, and potentially terrorist-related activity," according to the TIPS web site (www.citizencorps.gov).

Those people are crucial because ``they are regularly in the public,'' Ashcroft said. ``They can spot anomalies - things that are different - (such as) truckdrivers seeing things happen that don't usually happen.''

However, the program has caused controversy from Republican and Democratic legislators, civil liberties groups and others who think the effort goes too far.

For example, the Homeland Security Department legislation includes language that would prohibit programs such as operation TIPS within the new department. And the U.S. Postal Service said it would not participate in the current version under development by the Justice Department.

TIPS is set to begin in August with 1 million volunteers recruited in 10 cities. It is a part of the Citizen Corps, an initiative announced by President Bush in his State of the Union address, and is designed to enable the public to participate directly in homeland security.

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