In an effort
to communicate with citizens, including truckers who may have observed
possible terrorist activity, the Bush administration has redesigned
its Terrorism Information Prevention System (TIPS) so that it will
survive congressional scrutiny.
But the TIPS
program is far from a "done deal" due to criticism that
surfaced this week in the Senate.
original concerns regarding privacy have been satisfied and we
think TIPS will not only help federal officials prevent possible
terrorist activity, we also believe the program can help prevent
crimes against truckers who are most often in the area where these
activities are likely to occur," said Todd Spencer, executive
vice- president of OOIDA. "Should it gain approval, we encourage
all OOIDA members to choose to participate in the program."
trucks have been used as weapons in places around the world for
years. "At fuel facilities and ports, for example,"
he says. "That's where our guys are. So, they care from a
standpoint of addressing the issue of terrorism, but they also
care because they are likely to be victims."
In the original
concept for the TIPS program, the federal government would invite
persons whose jobs bring them through our communities to call
a specific hotline when they see suspicious activity that might
indicate possible terrorist activity. The types of workers the
government originally included in its TIPS concept were letter
carriers and utility workers, as well as truckers and other transportation
Bush administration could further define the specific scope of
the project, the American Civil Liberties Union raised their red
flags and accused the program of being one that would encourage
neighbors to spy and report on their neighbors. Focusing on the
use of letter carriers and utility workers whose jobs bring them
into contact with people's homes and private property, the American
Civil Liberties Union likened the program to the policies of dictatorial
governments from world history. Even conservatives in Congress,
such as House Majority Leader Dick Armey, chairman of the committee
working to create a Department of Homeland Defense, railed against
the program as being too much government intrusion into personal
privacy. The House overwhelmingly denounced the program and threatened
to kill it.
concerns forced the administration to redefine the program and do
a better job of explaining its goals to the public. Now the TIPS
program is more narrowly focused on those industries, such as trucking
and transportation, whose workers are in a position to notice unusual
behavior in public places such as roads, truckstop parking lots,
ports, and loading and unloading facilities.
does not need to convince Congress to approve the TIPS programs.
It believes that it already has the authority to initiate this
program as part of current White House and Department of Justice
programs. Rather its efforts are now focused on preventing Congress
from killing it.
the administration announced the TIPS, OOIDA was telling Congress
that truckers are one of the most underutilized sources of information
in the war against terrorism. OOIDA also explained that the main
obstacle to getting truckers to come forward with useful information
is that state and local law enforcement officials have not developed
a great deal of good will with truckers. Without an improvement
of good will and trust, truckers are not likely to believe that
efforts to report unusual or suspicious behavior will be taken
seriously and acted upon.
got involved with the TIPS program because it has the potential
to solve both problems," says Spencer. "TIPS will recognize
the important contribution that truckers could make to the war
will be invited and encouraged to call a telephone number to submit
information of possible terrorist activity. The TIPS program would
then direct that information to the appropriate federal, state,
or local law enforcement agency for their action.
associations believe that truckers need to be trained to notice
suspicious or unusual behavior on the highways or in the trucking
industry, and have asked Congress for hundreds of thousands of
dollars to do such training and set up their own hotline. OOIDA
believes that experienced truckers with their knowledge of the
road and the industry are already well prepared to identify unusual
or suspicious behavior. OOIDA also believes that truckers will
have much more confidence in calling a government sponsored telephone
number with direct connection to law enforcement than the hotline
of a private association that does not represent their interests.
of the TIPS program, however, rests on the Bush administration's
and public's ability to convince Congress that workers like truck
drivers are an important resource in the war against terrorism
and that they should not cut off the administration's effort to
tap that resource.
all truckers to immediately contact their elected representatives
in Washington and express their support for TIPS," says Spencer.
"If there is an effort to contain terrorism on the nation's
highways, who better to get involved than professional truckers."