Operation TIPS

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Operation TIPS, where the last part is an acronym for the Terrorism Information and Prevention System, was a domestic intelligence-gathering program designed by President George W. Bush to have United States citizens report suspicious activity. The program's website implied that US workers who had access to private citizens' homes, such as cable installers and telephone repair workers, would be reporting on what was in people's homes if it were deemed "suspicious."

It came under intense scrutiny in July 2002 when the Washington Post alleged in an editorial that the program was vaguely defined, and investigative political journalist Ritt Goldstein observed in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald [1] that TIPS would provide America with a higher percentage of 'citizen spies' than the former East Germany had under the notorious Stasi secret police. Goldstein later observed that he broke news of Operation TIPS on March 10 in Spain's second largest daily, El Mundo,[2] but that he struggled until July before finding a major English language paper which would print the story.

In the days immediately following Goldstein's revelation, publications such as the libertarian magazine Reason,[3] and then the liberal Boston Globe,[4] emphasized the Stasi analogy, widely highlighting Operation TIPS' shortcomings. TIPS was subsequently cancelled after concerns over civil liberties violations.

Contents

Overview

The program's website implied that US workers who had access to private citizens' homes, such as cable installers and telephone repair workers, would be reporting on what was in people's homes if it were deemed "suspicious."[5] The initial start of the program was to be August 2002 and would have included one million workers in ten US cities and then to be expanded.[6]

Operation TIPS was accused of doing an "end run" around the United States Constitution, and the original wording of the website was subsequently changed. President Bush's then-Attorney General, John Ashcroft denied that private residences would be surveilled by private citizens operating as government spies. Mr. Ashcroft nonetheless defended the program, equivocating on whether the reports by citizens on fellow citizens would be maintained in government databases. While saying that the information would not be in a central database as part of Operation TIPS, he maintained that the information would still be kept in databases by various law enforcement agencies.[7]

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