US planning to recruit one in 24
Americans as citizen spies
By Ritt Goldstein
July 15 2002
The Bush Administration aims to recruit millions of United
States citizens as domestic informants in a program likely to
alarm civil liberties groups.
The Terrorism Information and Prevention System, or TIPS,
means the US will have a higher percentage of citizen
informants than the former East Germany through the
infamous Stasi secret police. The program would use a
minimum of 4 per cent of Americans to report "suspicious
Civil liberties groups have already warned that, with the
passage earlier this year of the Patriot Act, there is potential
for abusive, large-scale investigations of US citizens.
As with the Patriot Act, TIPS is being pursued as part of the
so-called war against terrorism. It is a Department of Justice
Highlighting the scope of the surveillance network, TIPS
volunteers are being recruited primarily from among those
whose work provides access to homes, businesses or
transport systems. Letter carriers, utility employees, truck
drivers and train conductors are among those named as
A pilot program, described on the government Web site
www.citizencorps.gov, is scheduled to start next month in 10
cities, with 1 million informants participating in the first stage.
Assuming the program is initiated in the 10 largest US cities,
that will be 1 million informants for a total population of almost
24 million, or one in 24 people.
Historically, informant systems have been the tools of
non-democratic states. According to a 1992 report by Harvard
University's Project on Justice, the accuracy of informant
reports is problematic, with some informants having
embellished the truth, and others suspected of having
fabricated their reports.
Present Justice Department procedures mean that informant
reports will enter databases for future reference and/or action.
The information will then be broadly available within the
department, related agencies and local police forces. The
targeted individual will remain unaware of the existence of the
report and of its contents.
The Patriot Act already provides for a person's home to be
searched without that person being informed that a search
was ever performed, or of any surveillance devices that were
At state and local levels the TIPS program will be co-ordinated
by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which
was given sweeping new powers, including internment, as
part of the Reagan Administration's national security
initiatives. Many key figures of the Reagan era are part of the
The creation of a US "shadow government", operating in
secret, was another Reagan national security initiative.
Ritt Goldstein is an investigative journalist and a former
leader in the movement for US law enforcement
accountability. He has lived in Sweden since 1997, seeking
political asylum there, saying he was the victim of
life-threatening assaults in retaliation for his accountability
efforts. His application has been supported by the European
Parliament, five of Sweden's seven big political parties,
clergy, and Amnesty and other rights groups.