T.I.P.S. - RETURN OF 'SNITCH PATROL'
- T.I.P.S. - RETURN OF 'SNITCH PATROL'
[Col. Writ. 7/31/02] Copyright 2002 Mumia Abu-Jamal
With the news that the Ashcroft Justice Department has initiated a new,
civilian espionage system, truckers, cabbies, mailmen and plumbers have
become unofficial agents in the latest war without end -- the war
They have been recruited to spy on their fellow citizens, customers and
clients, and to promptly report "suspicious" happenings to T.I.P.S.
hotlines, and contacts in the U.S. Justice Department.
Under T.I.P.S. (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) every U.S.
street corner, and potentially, every American home and hearth, is to be
placed under the ever-open eye of public surveillance. And as the "War"
against terrorism is to last for generations, will not this surveillance
last for generations also?
If such an announcement were made in, say, Cuba, would not the U.S.
media be in full-bray-mode about the "police state," where "neighbors
spy on neighbors?"
And yet, history, that mistress of long memory, teaches us that there
are few new things under the sun.
In the summer of 1917 over a million Americans entered World War I
against Germany. As ever, in times of war, (and WWI was not popular in
America) the government sought to stifle dissent, and enlist its
citizens in a massive "private" spy campaign against other, "disloyal"
citizens. In fact, to the Woodrow Wilson administration, "disloyalty"
meant anyone who was critical of the War. The U.S. Justice Dept.
sponsored what it called the American Protective League, which by June
claimed almost 100,000 "patriotic" members. The U.S. government urged
APL members to spy on their neighbors and fellow workers. They rifled
through the mails, infiltrated private meetings, and spied on public
ones. Criticism of the "European War" was considered a crime. The APL
claimed to have found some three million instances of "disloyalty" to
the Wilson government, which seemed to please Attorney General A.
Mitchell Palmer to no end. "It is safe to say that never in its history
has this country been so thoroughly policed," he boasted.
The great socialist union organizer, Eugene V. Debs, would be sent to
prison for speaking against the War, saying, "War throughout history
have been waged for conquest and plunder... And that is war in a
nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject
class has always fought the battles." For these words, 62-year-old Debs
was thrown in prison, sentenced to 10 years. Hundreds of others
followed, with the blessing of a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court.
In 80 years, the nation has gone from the A.P.L. to T.I.P.S. Is the
nation doomed to repeat the hellish errors of the past?
From snitch-progam to snitch-program, how much has changed?
Do you trust your neighbor?
Perhaps more importantly, do you trust your government?
Copyright '02 Mumia Abu-Jamal