FORT WORTH, Tex. — Truckers, bus drivers, railroad conductors and mail carriers are the most recent draftees into the war on terror.
U.S. President George W. Bush is asking everyday working folks to call in about suspicious activities and individuals they see in their travels. The new program, dubbed Operation TIPS, is part of an updated 90-page strategy for homeland security.
As the program gears up to begin as early as next month with up to one million volunteers recruited in 10 cities, Muslims and civil liberties groups say they fear that the war on terrorism is about to take an ominous turn.
“This is bringing a bad name to this great nation,” Syed Ahsani, chairman of the Southwest region of the American Muslim Alliance tells local media.
Ahsani envisions amateur sleuths spying on innocent Americans — particularly those of Middle Eastern descent — in truck stops, along isolated rail lines and in their own neighborhoods.
Federal officials accused critics of overreacting before they know the details of Operation TIPS — Terrorism Information and Prevention System — which is part of the Citizen Corps plan that Bush mentioned in his State of the Union address in January.
“Several of these industries have requested a uniform method of reporting such matters to public authorities,” says Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock. “The industries that will be involved in Operation TIPS represent workers who have regular routines that take them down roads, rivers, coastlines, and public transit routes, and through neighborhoods and communities.”
The U.S. government will be setting up a toll-free telephone number and will encourage anyone in the U.S. to call in tips about potential terrorist activity.
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