Jewish World Review August 29, 2002 / 21 Elul, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The government's Homeland Security is going along nicely, thank you.
One program with which Attorney General Ashcroft is enamored is the swearing in of private citizens as "tipsters" to spy on anyone who may look suspicious.
For starters, he would ask truck drivers, taxi drivers, deliverymen and cell phone owners to report anyone they see who could be acting strangely on the highway or in the city.
Like most Americans, I thought this was a dandy idea until a psychiatrist told me, "What a wonderful opportunity for paranoids to come out of the closet. The Justice Department is going to have to figure out who is a vigilante and who is just plain sick."
"I'm sure Ashcroft's people will figure it out," I said.
The psychiatrist wasn't that sure. "Suppose the tipster is keeping his eye on the laundry hanging on his neighbor's clothesline. The shirts, undershorts and socks could be hung out in such a way that someone could read it as a code to bin Laden."
That gave me something to think about.
He then said, "Now suppose there is a tipster driving along the highway. The car that just cut him off could be someone looking very suspicious. The driver gives the tipster his finger. This could either be a terrorist act or a typical example of road rage. To make sure, the highway patrol sends a helicopter to the scene and other patrol cars block off all the exits."
"Why would someone want to be a tipster?" I asked.
He replied, "For power. If the word gets out, everyone will be scared of him. I'm not saying a tipster will catch anybody. But having these vigilantes will change everyone's way of life."
"Will tipsters be armed?"
"They are asking to be and I'm sure they will get permission. The argument is you never know where a terrorist is going to strike next."
"So the tipsters will be part of the Homeland Security system?"
"They could be the heart of it. A UPS truck driver could do more for his country than a hundred lie detectors at the FBI."
"The tipster system worked well under the Nazis and the Fascists," I pointed out. "If they hadn't had tipsters, Mussolini could never have gotten the trains to run on time."
"There may be some resistance from those who can't make the cut. After all, the tipsters are the elite home-front soldiers. Americans hate to be spied on, especially by people who owe their loyalty to a higher being - in this case Attorney General Ashcroft."
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08/27/02: No smoking --- I love you