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Operation TIPS

Operation TIPS, the Terrorism Information and Prevention System, was designed by President George W. Bush to have United States citizens report suspicious activity.

It came under intense scrutiny in July of 2002 when the Washington Post alleged in an editorial that the program was vaguely defined.

The program's website implied that US workers who had access to private citizens' homes, such as cable installers and telephone repair workers, would be reporting on what was in people's homes if it was deemed "suspicious."

Operation TIPS was accused of doing an "end run" around the constitution. The original wording of the website was subsequently changed. President Bush's Attorney General[?], John Ashcroft, denied that private residences would be surveilled by private citizens operating as government spies.

Mr. Ashcroft nonetheless defended the program, equivocating on whether the reports by citizens on fellow citizens would be maintained in government databases. While saying that the information would not be in a central database as part of Operation TIPS, he maintained that the information would still be kept in databases by various law enforcement agencies.

The databases were an explicit concern of various civil liberties groups (on both the left and the right) who felt that such databases could include false information about citizens with no way for those citizens to know that such information was compiled about them, nor any way for them to correct the information, nor any way for them to confront their accusers.

The United States Postal Service has wavered on whether it would be a part of the Operation, initially considering it, then saying they would not participate, and then again saying that they were considering it.

Both Congressional Representative Dick Armey[?] (Republican, Texas) and Senator Patrick Leahy[?] (Democrat, Vermont) raised concerns.

Rep. Armey included legislation in the House's Homeland Security Bill that explicitly prohibited the creation of Operation TIPS.

Senator Leahy raised the concern that it was similar to J. Edgar Hoover's misuse of the FBI during the 1960s when Hoover hired citizens to spy on neighbors who were political protesters.

President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft still want the program to be implemented. The initial start of the program was August of 2002. It was to include 1 million workers in 10 US cities and then to be expanded.

Some have calculated that if the 10 largest cities in America were involved, estimated at 24 million total citizens, the program would affect one in 24 Americans.

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