Archive for Sunday, July 28, 2002

TIPS program appears dead

House vote prohibits controversial spying proposal

July 28, 2002

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— The homeland security bill passed Friday by the House of Representatives appears to kill Operation TIPS, the administration's controversial effort to encourage millions of Americans to report suspected terrorists to authorities.

The 200-page bill, which passed by a 295-132 vote, prohibits programs such as the proposed Terrorism Information and Prevention System. TIPS was part of President Bush's recently-released homeland security plan, but it drew fire from Republican conservatives and from the American Civil Liberties Union, which charged that it would encourage "government-sanctioned peeping toms."

The House bill, masterminded by Rep. Dick Armey, R-Tex., the House majority leader, is intended to prevent "citizens spying on one another," said Armey aide Richard Diamond.

The Senate version of the homeland security legislation, to be debated next week, is not likely to include any reference to TIPS, Diamond said, meaning that the proposal is dead.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has compared TIPS to a ghetto informant program run by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover in the 1960s. Agents hired neighbors of suspected political protesters to spy on them.

"It was a very, very sorry time in our history," Leahy told Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft at a Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday.

Ashcroft defended the controversial TIPS proposal. Under questioning from Leahy, he said that the program would merely "be a referral agency that sends information that is phoned in to appropriate federal, state and local law enforcement agencies."

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