The latest attempt to thwart terrorist plots may involve a local cable repairman or a door-to-door salesman. The federal government is planning to institute a new intelligence program, Operation TIPS, which would require everyday citizens who have access to Americans homes to be aware and attentive of suspicious behavior. This new watchdog program has serious privacy implications that will negatively affect the way Americans view each other and the trust the country has in the government.
While government trust may be an oxymoron due to recent corporate scandals, a covert government operation to enlist everyday citizens to spy on others may be the final straw. President Bush may find it incredibly hard to keep his high approval rating if he continues to push a program that violates almost every freedom and civil liberty Americans have.
According to an Associated Press article, Tom Ridge, the head of Homeland Security, explained that the program would not infringe upon citizens’ rights. “We just want people to be alert and aware,” Ridge was reported as saying.
The level of alertness in America has raised dramatically since Sept. 11. To imply now that more attention needs to be paid to neighbors, local businessmen and visitors from out of town seems to be the latest story in the so-called Paranoid Times.
The question becomes, where does it end? If the federal government sanctions intrusion by everyday Americans into other people’s lives, where will the line of violating privacy be drawn? Will the exterminator get a bonus if he or she uncovers and reports a possible terrorist scheme? Giving this kind of power to regular Americans is dangerous, and coupled with the fact that this power will be granted by the federal government means a surrender of privacy that Americans will never regain.
A divided house cannot stand, and if Americans begin to spy on other Americans in order to root out terrorism, then the United States and the federal government have done the terrorists’ job for them.