The current administration has a talent for picking inappropriate acronyms for frightening legislation. The bill which removed more rights from Americans than any other was dubbed PATRIOT. A bill that will force promoters of dances and concerts to also double as cops (and provide severe penalties if they don't) is called RAVE. And a plan to have millions of Americans spy on their neighbors and customers has the friendly name TIPS.
TIPS stands for Terrorism Information and Prevention System. Anyone who deals with the public on a regular basis, like truckers, letter carriers, train conductors, ship captains, utility employees, etc. are being encouraged to join up to be the eyes and ears of Big Brother. They will be given little sticker to put on their vehicles, as if this were something to be proud of. The pilot program is looking for a million people Eventually they want fourteen million participants - 4% of the country - to be watching everyone and reporting their findings to the authorities. Combine that with the clause in the PATRIOT act allows the government to seize any private property and refuse to show any evidence to justify the seizure by simply by chanting "national security," and we're looking at a chilling proposal.
The possibilities are even more frightening when you factor in the Bush administration's ridiculous stance that anyone smoking a joint is supporting terrorists. Better make sure you're eyes are not bloodshot when you catch the red eye, or you may find some unfriendly feds waiting for you when you get home.
Law enforcement agencies hate the fourth amendment. The Supreme Court helps them out by chipping away at it whenever they can, but cops still can't come in without a warrant. They will be delighted to have millions of civilian informers who can check you out, unfettered by fourth amendment protections. Once this program is in place, any repairman, salesman, plumber, electrician, meter reader, evangalist or Avon lady who comes to your home may be watching closely for anything they can report, eager for their reward.
If this goes forward as planned, freedom loving Americans will have to take extra steps to protect themselves. Expect to see signs that say "No TIPS Informants Allowed on This Property (and you should be ashamed of yourself)." Citizens should contact companies whose employees visit them to deliver packages, read our meters, repair things, etc., and demand they run a TIPS free shop. It would be appropriate to have any new visitor sign a form swearing they are not involved with the TIPS program. Of course, doing any of these things will invite scrutiny from the very weasels we're opposing.
There isn't a single slang word for an informant that has a positive connotation. They are known as finks, stool pigeons, squealers, tattletales, narcs, snitches, snakes and rats. They are despised not only by criminals, but by honest people who rightly fear that they may become a target.
This fact may save us from TIPS. The Post Office has already announced that they will not be joining, although it's too early to tell if they'll absolutely forbid their employees from participating. Outside of Bush's immediate circle, support for the program has been almost nonexistent. Every organization concerned with human rights is opposing it. And once it's in place, with so many people involved, it's unlikely that the identity of these tattletales will remain secret for long. If we're fortunate, the entire database of these stoolies will be leaked and made available on the Internet.
Once we find someone is a TIPS narc, we can target them for progressive harassment. We can start by following them around, chanting, Narc Narc Narc, while pointing to their genitals and giggling. If they persist, spray paint can be used to label their homes and vehicles. As a last resort, we can hold them down and tattoo Narc on their foreheads.
I made that last suggestion on usenet, and someone came back with an even better solution. In Texas, we brand.
Update: Sometimes intense criticism works. The response to the TIPS program was so universally negative that the government not only dropped it, they prohibited it in the Homeland Security bill.
The first mention of TIPS in this article was a link to the TIPS page, but that page has been removed without comment. You can find a saved copy of it here.
Other articles on TIPS, from Brad Templeton, The New York Times (requires free registration) and even the other side of the world. (Note, this list was much longer, but dead links have been removed.)
The DOJs lame response to the criticism.
© 2002 Dave Hitt