"Citizens Corps" website describes the Terrorism Information
and Prevention System (TIPS), a new federal program, as follows:
TIPS the Terrorism Information and Prevention System will be a nationwide
program giving millions of American truckers, letter carriers, train conductors,
ship captains, utility employees, and others a formal way to report suspicious
terrorist activity. Operation TIPS, a project of the U.S. Department of Justice,
will begin as a pilot program in 10 cities that will be selected. Operation TIPS,
involving 1 million workers in the pilot stage, will be a national reporting system
that allows these workers, whose routines make them well-positioned to recognize
unusual events, to report suspicious activity."
million spies reporting on their fellow Americans – and that's just the beginning!
The nation's busybodies are going to have a field day; every crackpot in the country
is going to flock to this program, like flies to fecal matter, eager to get in
on the fun. Why, just think of the opportunities it affords the nation's nutballs:
everyone they ever hated (ex-girlfriends, ex-husbands, ex-friends, and just random
victims) will feel their wrath, and their power. It's a blank check issued to
America's obsessives, who are going to do their best to make life miserable for
the rest of us.
inauguration of this nationwide network of snitches means we are under attack,
not only from turban-wearing foreigners who hate us because of Baywatch,
but also from the mailman, the window-washer, the carpet-installer, and the Roto-Rooter
man, who, instead of doing their jobs, will be too busy nosing around to be bothered
with such mundane activities. This means they not only get to snoop around the
premises, looking in the medicine cabinet and sneaking a peek at the contents
of your hard drive, but they also get to charge double-time – since it'll take
twice as long to do the simplest tasks.
in short, is turning into a nightmare.
Ritt Goldstein reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, the US will have
more citizen informants as a percentage of the population than the former East
German Stasi secret police. I think the example of the Cuban "Committees
for the Defense of the Revolution" (CDRs) is more apt. To hear Cuba's apologists
tell it, these are an exercise in "mass democracy," but our
own US State Department characterizes them as efficient instruments of state
repression and enforcers of political orthodoxy. However, all agree that the CDRs,
because of their all-pervasiveness, wield vast power. As an
excellent Reuters piece on the CDRs, published on the fortieth anniversary
of their founding, informs us:
CDRs keep a detailed register of each neighborhood's inhabitants, not only listing
each occupant by house but also recording such information as academic or work
history, spending habits, any potentially suspicious behavior, contact with foreigners
and attendance at pro-government meetings.
CDRs know exactly who lives in each block, who they are, what they do, if they
work or not ... and keep a registry in coordination with the Interior Ministry,'
Humberto Carrillo, who is in charge of ideology for the CDRs' national committee,
comparing the TIPS program to Cuba's CDRs, have I committed the sin of "moral
equivalence"? After all, America is hardly a Communist dictatorship. But the point
is that, while the regimes are not equivalent, the people are: every loser
who needs to get a life will flock to TIPS, just as their Cuban counterparts join
the CDR – and for the same reasons.
this will hinder and not help in the effort to protect America from genuine terrorists
seems a foregone conclusion. The system will be clogged with so many false alarms
– the result of grudges, political agendas, and outright pranks – that no really
useful information will be able to get through. The system seems designed to fail
– unless, of course, the purpose of TIPS has little or nothing to do with its
announced mission. There are two possibilities….
it could be that this is an American version of the CDRs in embryo, an attempt
to mobilize support for the government and head off any opposition before it has
a chance to coalesce. TIPS might be seen, then, as a government-funded version
of Bill Bennett's group of self-appointed watchdogs, "Americans for Victory Over
Terrorism" (AVOT), which can be activated when the authorities
begin to invoke the more draconian provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act to crack
down on the opposition. But this, frankly, seems far-fetched, if only because
it is a bit too bold for the Bushies, too Seven Days
in May-ish to be quite real. A more likely – if no less novelistic – scenario
is that they're preparing for some immense disaster, such as a massive bio-terrorist
researching the anthrax story, I came upon this
January 20 article in the Hartford Courant by Jack Dolan and Dave Altimari
– and it has haunted me ever since. Tell me if the opening paragraph doesn't send
a chill down your spine:
specimens of anthrax spores, Ebola virus and other pathogens disappeared from
the Army's biological warfare research facility in the early 1990s, during a turbulent
period of labor complaints and recriminations among rival scientists there, documents
from an internal Army inquiry show."
gets scarier. Only one of 27 pathogenic specimens gone missing since a 1992 inventory
at Fort Detrick's US Army Medical Research
Institute of Infectious Diseases, in Maryland, has been found:
fate of the rest, some containing samples no larger than a pencil point, remains
unclear. In addition to anthrax and Ebola, the specimens included hanta virus,
simian AIDS virus and two that were labeled 'unknown' an Army euphemism
for classified research whose subject was secret."
telling us we face a threat from Muslim fanatics, foreigners whose demonic hatred
for this country is deeply ingrained and utterly implacable – but then why is
the FBI focusing on Americans as the probable culprits in the anthrax attacks?
Our own scientists are the prime suspects: several have been interrogated,
and at least one had
his home searched. But what's puzzling is that the investigation has been
carried out in slow
motion. Even when it became clear that only a few locations, and a handful
of scientists, had the means to whip up such a high-grade
batch of finely-milled anthrax dust, the
FBI insisted on mailing out questionnaires to thousands of American scientists
and casting as wide a net as possible. It's almost as if they were afraid to
move in on the probable culprit,
for fear he would retaliate in some way….
whoever sent the anthrax letters is invariably portrayed as a lone nut, a singularly
mad scientist in pursuit of some obscure agenda, it seems far more likely that
we are dealing with a group of people, small enough to remain undercover but big
enough to utilize the division of labor required to accomplish their task. If
the Anthrax Killer has confederates, then any attempt to get the ringleader could
lead to the unleashing of biological horrors we haven't conceived of in our worst
who are these guys? From the modus operandi of the anthrax letters, the
political agenda of the bio-terrorists begins to take shape: although later evidence
pointed to a domestic origin, their intent was clearly to implicate Muslims. The
text of the deadly letters – hailing Allah and denouncing Israel – was meant to
pin the blame on Arabs. But what motive would an American scientist have to commit
such a heinous act? We are told that perhaps the perpetrator intended to increase
his own power and prestige within the bio-war community, and that his goal was
probably to raise awareness of the potential threat from biological agents and
therefore increase federal funding. But this method seems a bit … disproportionate
to its ostensible purpose. Surely there are other, less risky ways of raising
awareness, in Congress and in the public.
any nightmare, the longer the anthrax mystery continues to baffle us, the more
irrational and frightening it becomes. Or, maybe, not so irrational. The possibility
that our government is being held hostage by a mysterious cabal of top-level American
bio-terrorists, as fantastic as it seems, cannot be ruled out. The question then
arises: what kind of ransom are they demanding?
blame me if the above sounds like the plot synopsis of an "X-Files"
reject, but there must be some reason why they're
planning to inoculate 500,000 health care workers with the smallpox vaccine.
Life in America is becoming one long nightmarish fever dream, where the worst
made-for-television scenarios have overtaken and subsumed the mundane realities
of our pre-9/11 existence. We now live in a world where our plumbers could report
us for "suspicious activities," and the milkman could be a government agent in
disguise: where you open the mail wearing rubber gloves, and have to face the
possibility of a full body-cavity search every time you get on a plane.
short: life nowadays sucks. And there's no end in sight….
okay, now don't get too upset: there's plenty to divert us from the ugly
reality of a world gone mad. As I said the other day, look
on the bright side; hey, isn't that Pat Buchanan on MSNBC,
with his old friend Bill Press, doing a two-hour reinvention of "Crossfire"?
it sure is: two whole hours of anti-war, no-holds-barred
Old Right isolationism,
delivered with style and gusto – what more could you want? Check it out, and be
sure to write MSNBC
telling them how much you like it.
I realize a lot of my more, uh, liberal readers can't understand why I
consider Buchanan one of the peace movement's most valuable assets. But just tune
in, some day, when they're talking about foreign policy, and see if you don't
come to agree.
any rate, you can bet the Other Side
won't be shy in expressing their opinion, and we can do no less. Buchanan,
the author of a masterful manifesto of foreign policy wisdom, A
Republic, Not an Empire, is a powerful spokesman for the view that the
planned war on Iraq isn't our fight and would be a disaster for the US: his high
visibility and combative nature are arrows in our quiver. Let the War Party tremble
our Achilles has arrived!
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