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Jewish World Review August 29, 2002 / 21 Elul, 5762

Art Buchwald

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Consumer Reports

I spy-you-spy | 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
08/23/02: Ashes to ashes
08/14/02: Wall Street good news
08/09/02: Things in my attic
08/01/02: Damage control
08/01/02: Another icon
07/30/02: Draft all the lawyers
07/25/02: House for rent
07/23/02: Doin' time
07/19/02: The loophole game
07/16/02: Money as a game
07/11/02: Just desserts
07/02/02: So you want to win?
06/19/02: Homeland security parking
06/13/02: The Accused
06/11/02: Don't let them know
06/06/02: The FBI changes its ways
06/04/02: RED ALERT
05/28/02: Malice On Purpose: I'm scared!
05/23/02: Barbie Doll
05/21/02: Why Bermuda?
05/19/02: White collar prisons
05/15/02: Those in depression
05/09/02: Mother's Day in the market
05/07/02: Salary negotiations
04/26/02: Homeland security
04/24/02: The greatest breakthrough
04/18/02: Conflict of Interest
04/15/02: The Sign That Couldn't
04/11/02: It's Cherry Blossom Time
04/08/02: The Young Audience
03/31/02: Safe Deposit for Sale
03/26/02: Au Revoir to Soft Money
03/21/02: Andersen Defense Fund?
03/19/02: Celebrity kickers
03/15/02: A Mickey Mouse solution
03/13/02: Shadow government in the sandbox
03/07/02: The Way It Is
03/05/02: Not telling the truth
03/01/02: Book flogging
02/27/02: The players are mad

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