Tattletale Society Explodes: Spy on Your Neighbor for the Homeland
August 16. 2004
Just like in 1984, citizens are encouraged to spy on their neighbors to seek out terrorist activities and protect the homeland. We see multiple articles every day that report citizen tattletale squads being recruited by the government. If you read deeper into the articles, in many cases they say that the citizens are there to fight terror and crime. Homeland Security says their putting up cameras to fight terror and crime. All this creates is an atmosphere where people are arrested for little or no reason. Your neighbor (hopped up on Prozac) who is spying on you looking for terrorism instead smells marijuana and calls the police.
In war on terror, an expanding citizens' brigade
By Sara B. Miller | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
August 13, 2004/CSM
Off the nation's coasts, recreational boaters scan the waters for "suspicious" acts, from scuba diving in unlikely places to yachtmen sketching bridges or ports.
Manhattan's doormen learn how to spot packages that may contain biological weapons.
In Pennsylvania, amusement park operators train to recognize unusual phone calls or inappropriate requests for information.
Call them the new "first responders" in the war on terror. As average Americans, from truck drivers to handymen, are increasingly standing sentry, they're swelling the ranks of a citizens' army, always poised and on guard.
Last week, terror warnings sent law-enforcement officers fanning out across five financial buildings in Manhattan, Washington, and Newark. But grass-roots groups form another wall of defense, mobilizing in a nationwide watch for suspicious activity - from the supermarket to the state fair.
To some, it's the most effective, pervasive counterterrorism strategy there is. But even as officials warn that limousines or helicopters may be the next big targets, some worry that a sharp-eyed citizens' force could turn into an army of hypervigilant spies, one that may ultimately trample on civil rights.
"I have said for a long time that probably the last person who will have an opportunity to prevent an attack ... could be a 22-year-old deputy sheriff on a cold rainy night, someone who just sees something that's not right," says Randall Larsen, CEO and founder of Homeland Security Associates, a private consulting firm. "We need an alert, educated public ... but can't go too far. Where do you find that line? We don't seem to know."
It takes a village ...
For the most part, these citizen groups have voluntarily assumed their roles in the war on terror. In Pennsylvania, the state's Commission on Crime and Delinquency has been running antiterrorism training for everyone from Rotary Club members to small business owners.
Don Numer, the training supervisor there, says at least 60,000 residents have received training since 2002.
The program is a basic hourlong lesson to define terrorism, the best ways to report it, and suspicious signs - perhaps a phone call asking if a CEO is in or where he parks, Mr. Numer says.
The model will be taken national in September, says Eric Schultz, project director for USAonwatch, which provides terrorism-awareness training for Neighborhood Watch groups across the country.
Mr Schultz says 10,000 groups are registered with the National Sheriff's Association, and his organization hopes to reach out to even more communities.
Eyes on the road
Then there are Highway Watch, America's Waterway Watch, and Airport Watch. More than 10,000 truck drivers have joined Highway Watch, an American Trucking Association (ATA) initiative that trains drivers to notice and report emergency or suspicious situations on the road.
The ATA launched the program in 1998 and added an anti-terrorism component after 9/11. With a $19.3 million grant from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the ATA hopes to train 300,00 to 400,000 more drivers by December.
For driver Philip Gould, who works for Jevic Transportation of Delanco, N.J., the program was a chance for civic involvement. He joined Highway Watch in 2003. "I figured, I'm an American. I live in America. If we can't all pull together and do something for our own country what good are we?" Mr. Gould asks.
The role of public awareness
Experts say programs that train professionals to look out for specific risks can be effective tools. "These kinds of programs, particularly those that relate to critical infrastructure protection, are particularly useful," says Jack Riley, associate director of infrastructure, safety, and environment at the RAND Corporation. Truckers, for instance, are likely to notice if hazardous materials they transport have been tampered with.
And Mr. Larsen points to Israel, where he says an estimated two-thirds of suicide bombers are apprehended prior to detonating their bombs - which he attributes to an alert and educated public.
Mr. Riley is more skeptical of the average neighbor taking an active antiterror role. Though communities can provide response capability, they are unlikely to prevent attacks, he says. Before the terrorist attacks on 9/11, for example, some of the hijackers lived in American communities.
"I'm not aware of behavior they may have demonstrated in the neighborhood which would have led them to be caught," he says. "The neighborhoods themselves are not at risk of being attacked. Attacks will occur in public spaces."
Still, as threats of attacks on high-rises in several cities came to light, at least some doormen have begun training. In Manhattan, while the city braces for the upcoming Republican National Convention, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ is training members to recognize and respond to criminal and terrorist activities.
'Not what someone looks like'
Since May 2004, 1,122 of New York's building employees - including doormen, janitors, and handymen - are undergoing training. In a four-hour session, they learn to identify threats and communicate effectively in emergencies, says Matthew Nerzig, a spokesman for 32BJ.
Those involved in training say their intent is not to make spies out of the citizenry. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Numer focuses on behavior, not appearance, to steer citizens away from racial profiling.
The Pennsylvania program features a slide show of individuals identified as terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden and Sarah Jane Olson, the "soccer mom" who pleaded guilty to possessing bombs with the intent to murder Los Angeles police officers.
The lesson: "It's not what someone looks like," Numer says.
Meanwhile, new programs continue to evolve. America's Waterway Watch, run by the US Coast Guard, is planning a national launch soon, says spokeswoman Jolie Shifflet. It will include brochures, stickers to put on boats, and video training to help "enlist the eyes and ears of the public." While many local units have implemented such training, the national program will help target the 70 million recreation boaters in the US.
A subtle new approach
The attention to average citizens is not necessarily a change in strategy, nor a signal that smaller attacks are likely. "As security gets tightened up at airports and other [places] terrorists might exploit, we naturally start moving down the list of things they might exploit next," Riley says. "So it makes sense that we're looking to sew up as many other risks as we can."
In Las Vegas, Gary Thompson, a spokesman for Harrah's Entertainment, says security and surveillance workers are getting new instructions to be on the lookout for potential terrorists.
"Employees' training has changed," he says. "The changes have been primarily with the security people on the [casino] floors. We've responded to increases or decreases in the homeland security levels." The changes aren't anything customers would notice, he says - but they're definitely there.
From bomb threats to flooding
Even in areas where terrorism risks aren't the highest priority, neighborhood groups are flourishing. "There's been a groundswell of very interested citizens who want to make the homeland safe," says Mike Pacheco, the New Hampshire state coordinator for Citizen Corps, which is run by the Department of Homeland Security and gives citizens the opportunity to help protect their communities.
There are 20 Citizen Corps councils in the state, many of which were formed in the first quarter of this year, Mr. Pacheco says. There are 2,000 nationwide.
It was terrorism that prompted Rich Hanegan, a firefighter in Pelham, N.H., to form a local Citizen Corps Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in 2003. But the group's focus has evolved to meet other community priorities, too, including flooding issues.
"A lot of people ask: 'What's going to happen in Pelham, New Hampshire?'" says Mr. Hanegan. But the need to be prepared - for natural disasters and terrorist attacks alike - is an opportunity that he says the community can't pass up.
It's that spirit, say many, that is fueling the expanding citizens' army. "I felt powerless after 9/11," says Numer. "These programs empower people. They give you a feeling, 'Hey, I can be a part of this.' "
• Alexandra MacCrae in New York and Cathy Scott in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
'Citizens on Patrol' introduced
By JENNIFER BROOKENS
Sentinel Staff Writer
FAIRMONT -- The National Night Out saw a good turnout Tuesday evening, despite cool weather and last week's postponement.
Along with a free meal of hot dogs and root beer floats, the Night Out was an opportunity to meet with Fairmont police officers, firefighters and Gold Cross paramedics.
The Fairmont K-9 units gave demonstrations and there was a simulated drunk driving accident with a driver arrested and a passenger extracted from the vehicle by emergency personnel and airlifted by Mayo One.
There was also a new group introduced to the public Tuesday. The Fairmont VFW has organized a group called Citizens on Patrol, or COP.
"They've served their country in wars, and now they are serving their community," said Fairmont Police Chief Greg Brolsma.
"One thing we wanted to do for the post is to become more involved in the community," said Joe McAleavy, one of the COP members. "The vets, they serve their country in a time of war and coming home, they want to keep serving the community. While (community organizations) come to us for money, we want to be more proactive; we need to get outside the walls of the VFW. Without the community, we wouldn't be here."
McAleavy and about a dozen VFW members are involved in the COP project. They were able to work with the Fairmont Police Department to organize the citizens' patrol.
The group is beginning with simple tasks such as house watches. However, they will have a vehicle with a police radio to contact the proper authorities in case of any emergencies.
"We're just getting started ... but we'll do patrols as long as we're comfortable doing so," McAleavy said. "We hope that when people see us in our blue shirts, they'll know that we're looking out for them so they won't have to worry about their parks or their homes. It's all about making this a safer community, and we're doing it just by watching."
Citizens On Patrol: Amid concerns, McRae residents make sure their town stays safe
By Tim Bousquet and Philip Holsinger
The Daily Citizen/
July 31, 2004
Chester Waters climbs into his white diesel-powered pickup, checks his Citizen band radio, lights a cigarette and drives across town to the shared parking lot of The Southern Grill and McRae Grocery on Highway 367 where he parks and waits for something to happen.
About the same time, David Castera powers up his white Blazer and also scoots across town, radioing Waters as he goes, letting Waters know he, too, is out and about.
Also at the same time, Bob Sullivan, the mayor of McRae, drives his dark colored pickup through town, criss crossing the path of Castera, and whoever else may be out with them at the time, keeping track of the others as he goes.
They are McRae's Citizens On Patrol (COP), a newly formed volunteer citizen patrol group, and this is their nightly routine.
They formed as a result of recent minor troubles in their town, Sullivan said, with the goal of making McRae a safer place.
But their patrol has begun to do more than just curb late night trouble, Waters said. Since the volunteer group's formation, there is a building sense of positive community image among residents.
BACK IN THE DAY
Back in the day, the main drag from Little Rock to the northeast was Highway 67, a two-laner running alongside the Union Pacific railroad line. Every five or ten miles a town sprung up around a train depot - places like Cabot, Ward, Garner and Higginson, named after a long-forgotten local luminary, or an enterprising real estate developer.
For decades, these towns were the main business districts for surrounding farms, bustling with commerce and shoppers. But as the farm economy changed, and as Route 67 was shifted a few miles west onto a new four-lane divided highway, the old towns lost their economic importance. The old road was renamed 367, an asphalt ribbon running through abandoned roadside motels and decaying signs announcing long-shuttered diners.
The towns, though, hung on. The two- or three-block downtown districts became ghostly remnants of past glory, their brick buildings crumbling into oblivion. But people kept living in the old family homesteads, and the next generation found jobs in the cities, commuting to Little Rock or Searcy. A different kind of town - the bedroom community - emerged.
One of these towns, McRae, population 610, seems to be doing better than most of the others. The Southern Grill and the McRae Grocery on the old highway still do brisk business, and while about half of downtown was destroyed by a tornado in the 1990s, the remaining buildings are mostly occupied by solvent businesses.
The old depot is gone, but it's been replaced by the McRae Veterans Memorial, which has become something of a tourist destination in recent months, with new crosses bearing the names of Arkansans killed in Iraq placed on the lawn before the concrete monument to vets from other wars.
A block away, the two-room city hall and police station sits across the street from the town water tower. A few picnic tables sit beneath the tower, forming a make-shift park.
Perhaps because it has struggled through so much, an unusual civic pride permeates McRae. When the local school district fell victim to the recent state-wide school consolidation mandate, hundreds of people turned out to protest their schools being consumed by the larger Beebe School District. They ultimately lost their struggle for control, but in part because of the outcry, officials in the Beebe district agreed to keep the McRae schools open rather than force students to enroll in schools five miles down the road.
THE WATER TOWER
Still, some residents are concerned for their town.
"This used to be a real tight-knit community," said Chester Waters. "I don't know what's happened in the past few years, but it just doesn't seem to be the old town. We want to bring some of that back."
McRae isn't any more crime-laden than other nearby rural communities, said Police Chief Anne Cook, the only-full time cop in town. But the typical problems with aimless youth and random vandalism has taken on a larger dimension because her staff has been stretched thin.
"I have five part-time officers," she explained. "One of them was sent to Iraq, and three of them are so busy with their full-time jobs they can't put in the 19 hours a week here. I just don't have enough people to patrol."
Last summer the town was rocked by an adolescent prank some have described as "sabotaging the water tower."
Some person or persons unknown scaled the tower and placed a "Miller Lite" super bowl flag atop the tank, a joke which didn't sit well in dry White County. Worse, when workers went to remove the flag, they discovered a hatch on the tank was open, and leaves and other debris were floating on top of the town's water supply.
It's not known if the hatch was opened by the pranksters or was left open on some other occasion, but the town had to pay for testing to determine if the water had been contaminated. As it turned out, the water supply was safe.
But Cook, Waters, and a dozen other locals had had enough - it was time to do something about the youngsters roaming around town.
"Basically, someone climbed the water tower, and it united the town," said resident Johnny Castera, one of thirteen people who formed a group called Citizens on Patrol.
"I wouldn't say it was any one person's idea," said Cook. "I called a meeting to see what we could do about these problems, and we discussed it, and this is what we came up with."
COP acts as an auxiliary to the police force, patrolling the town through the night, making note of "suspicious" activity and jotting down the license plate numbers of unfamiliar vehicles. COP members wear identical jackets, shirts and caps with COP logos, and are issued identification cards.
"We're basically a neighborhood watch group," said Waters. "But we don't have any big neighborhoods here, so we watch the whole town."
"I'm working with what the good lord gave me," said Cook. "And the good lord gave me a group of concerned citizens who are willing to take care of their town."
The group checks in on the homes of people who have been out of town, and of elderly residents living alone. They swing through the cemetery on their rounds, and check to make sure newspaper carriers and others working the streets at night are who they say they are.
McRae, said Mayor Sullivan, is the kind of town "that rolls up the sidewalks at five in the afternoon," but at 10 p.m. Thursday there was still a surprising amount of traffic downtown. Carloads of teenagers, their music blaring out open windows, rolled by pedestrians wandering through downtown and along the tracks.
CITIZENS ON PATROL
A reporter drove up, parked on the street and sat on the small brick wall encircling the Veterans Memorial. A slow-moving pickup truck passed in about a minute, then passed twice more before parking in front of the McRae Grocery across the tracks.
By 10:05 two other vehicles, another pickup and an older Chevy Blazer, made slow moving passes by the memorial, and both vehicles eventually turned around and met up in front of the police station. They paused at the police station for a minute in conference then pulled out in unison.
The drivers of both vehicles had their windows down and could be seen speaking into radios as they drove toward the memorial.
Both vehicles pulled in on either side of the reporter.
"OK, anyone who is parked here at this hour with a big camera like yours must have a pretty good reason for being here," joked one of the drivers.
The speaker was Marvin Gilley, a member of COP who was expecting the reporter/photographer to show up that evening.
Waters then came to the memorial, followed at last by Sullivan.
"I got your license tag number and vehicle description when I passed you the first time, as soon as you parked," Sullivan said.
"I'm not part of [COP]," Sullivan said. "But I am out here every night. I will be out here. I totally support what they are doing and think it is making our town a better place, a safer place."
"Used to be, years ago when I was rodeoing, when we were done we would come down and park out there in the parking lot in front of the store and just hang out," said Waters.
Night traffic was friendly back then, he said. Just good ole' boys spending time together.
But things changed and by last year McRae was dealing with late night problems like a series of break-ins and vandalism. No longer were cars gathering for casual socializing, but unknowns were perpetrating crimes. Because of this there was a growing sense of unsafety in the town.
Then someone placed a beer flag on the water tower.
"What we want to happen is to bring McRae back to what it once was," Waters said. "I want for a young woman to feel safe that if she wants to walk out of her house late at night and cross the street and the railroad tracks to go over to the store to buy a Coke from the Coke machine, that she can. And I think this is happening.
"People know we are out here and many of the problems have stopped," he said. "We usually park right over there in front of the store - I do mainly because I drive a diesel and it is loud and I don't want to wake anybody up - where I can see the highway and several of the main roads in town. I sit there a good bit of the time and the other patrols drive the streets."
The patrols work to prevent crime and make the town feel safer in part just because there is a presence of people on the streets at night, Sullivan said.
"You may drive through town and see the trucks parked over there at the store and think that is all there is," he said. "But there may be two or three other trucks over there on that street." He points to an area without street lights where the eye cannot penetrate at night.
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
According to Sullivan, 99 percent of the populace supports COP.
"Some people at first thought we were just a bunch of vigilantes and they didn't like the idea," Waters said. "But we are not vigilantes, we are just citizens who want to help out, who want to make this a place that seems safer. We want people to feel good about walking out of their houses at night or leaving their businesses and not worrying that someone is going to break in at night."
Still, he admitted that some are opposed to the group.
When Mayor Sullivan was first contacted for this story, he said he expected a "big blow up" at a city council meeting over the COP group, but said the blow-up never materialized. Asked to identify people opposed to the group he declined.
"I've got one in my office right now," he said over the telephone. "But I don't want to get into that."
But on Thursday Sullivan said there was minimal opposition to the group.
Other COP members bristle at the suggestion there is any opposition to the group's efforts.
"If any one was opposed to it, they can come to the meeting," said Judy Coffee. "No one has ever showed up."
The group holds an open meeting the first Monday of every month at city hall.
A handful of McRae residents expressing reservations about COP were contacted for this story, but none would be quoted in print.
The dissidents' reluctance to be speak publicly is matched by the close-guardedness with which Cook and Sullivan discuss COP. Asked to identify the members of COP, Cook initially declined, although she later brought members Judy Coffee, Chester Water and Johnny Castera together for a meeting with a reporter.
Similarly, when Cook was asked to provide the bylaws for COP, she initially declined. Pressed, she gave a reporter a three-page document entitled "Citizens on Patrol: By-laws and Code of Conduct," but asked that they not be published.
The code consists of simple dos and donts, reminding COP members that they are to act professionally and are to never use information gained through COP for personal reasons.
One rule is that family members and friends who are "untrained or unauthorized" are not to be taken on patrol with COP members. Dissidents, however, say some COP members carry small children with them.
"You must be talking about me, because I'm the only one with a six-year-old daughter," said Waters. "But I don't bring my daughter with me when I'm on my scheduled patrol. I'll be going down to the store for something in the daytime, and if I see something, I'll write it down, but I'm not on duty."
Cook makes clear that she expects COP members not to engage any suspected law-breaker in any way. They are forbidden from carrying weapons or even menacing-looking dogs, and reports and license plate numbers are handed to her only. If she doesn't make use of the notes, she destroys them, she said.
QUESTION OF LIABILITY
Still, the arrangement between the police department and COP raises concerns for other police chiefs.
"I'm concerned that someone might get hurt," said Sheriff Pat Garrett. "They have their own CB radios, but they're not on our police bands, so we don't know where they are. That's my biggest concern."
"I don't know that I would go about it like that," said Charles Yeager, police chief in Kensett. "If I were to put citizens out on the street, I'd first want to put them through a series of classes to make sure they're properly trained in law enforcement activities."
McRae COP members take no classes, Cook said.
Asked what would happen if a COP member was injured, or if a COP member injured someone else, Cook said she had no concerns about liability.
"They sign a liability waver," she said.
Sullivan agreed there were no liability concerns, and added that the entire operation was okayed by Mark Pate, a Searcy attorney who doubles as the municipal judge for McRae.
Pate did not return repeated calls for comment.
A group of the members was reminded of the controversy that ensued after U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft introduced his TIPS program. Ashcroft had suggested that mail carriers, meter readers and other citizens check in on their fellow citizens and report any "suspicious activity" to authorities. Civil libertarians objected to the suggestion, and the program was aborted before it began.
"This is nothing like that," said Waters.
"Any citizen can do what we're doing on their own," said Cook. "They don't need to be a member of COP."
"We're not Los Angeles, we're not Little Rock, we're not Dallas, Texas," said Waters. "The chances are slim-to-none that we're going to get into any bad situation."