13 August 2002. Thanks also to P.
Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2002 16:55:52 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Operation TIPS Update, August 13, 2002
Thank you for requesting information about Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) on the Citizen Corps website. As you are probably aware, TIPS is a hotline reporting system. Unlike other Citizen Corps programs, which invite the participation of the general public, only those who work in the trucking, maritime, shipping, and mass transit industries will be eligible to participate in this information referral service. General information about the program will continue to be available to the public; however, the TIPS hotline number will only be provided to participating industries.
Below is the most recent description of the proposed initiative that we have released to correct some public misperceptions about the program.
OPERATION TIPS OVERVIEW
This reporting system is being developed by the Department of Justice in coordination with several other federal agencies, including the Office of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and FEMA, as a part of Citizen Corps. The program was announced in concept in January 2002 for the stated purpose of creating a national information sharing system for specific industry groups to report suspicious, publicly observable activity that could be related to terrorism. The program is scheduled to be operational in the fall of 2002 as one of the new Citizen Corps programs.
The initiative's design is based on existing programs, such as Highway Watch and Coast Watch, that allow truckers and ship captains to report dangerous conditions along their routes. In response to significant demand among industry groups, Operation TIPS provide specific industry groups a single phone number for reporting potentially terrorist-related activities occurring in public areas. Industry groups have looked to the Justice Department to offer a reliable and cost-effective system that their workers could use to report information to state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies about unusual activities they might observe in the normal course of their daily routines. Similarly, law enforcement agencies have sought a system for receiving terrorist tips that would avoid overburdening the 911system.
The Operation TIPS hotline would also offer some unique improvements upon current systems by:
* Providing a centralized telephone hotline and web-based reporting system that automatically and immediately routes tips to appropriate federal, state, and local law enforcement nationwide;
* Providing specific industry groups with a means of reporting non-emergency, potentially terrorist-related activity; and
* Enabling law enforcement officials to "connect the dots" and take appropriate action on potentially terrorist-related activities that may be occurring simultaneously.
Industries interested in participating would be given printed materials on how to contact the reporting center, and would in turn provide information and any training to their workers directly. Many industries already provide this type of information as part of their security and job training.
Operation TIPS would offer its hotline service to workers involved in the transportation, trucking, shipping, maritime, and mass transit industries. Industry associations and groups in these areas would be invited to receive information about the hotline so their workers could participate in the program if they so choose. Other industry associations involved in the above-mentioned industries could also seek participation by contacting the Department of Justice.
* At the outset of the program, the Department of Justice planned to engage the postal and utility industries to participate because their workers maintain regular public routes in the communities they serve, putting them in a unique position to recognize potentially dangerous activity along transportation routes and in public places. In addition, the inclusion of postal workers and utility workers made sense because they have been identified as targets for terrorism. Postal workers in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. were victims of the anthrax terrorist attacks last year, and postal workers across the country were affected by the recent pipe bomb attacks. As attacks on utility plants and water systems could affect the public health and safety of millions of people, these facilities have long been considered prime targets of domestic and international terrorism. The Department never intended that workers calling the hotline would report on anything other than publicly observable activities. However, given the concerns raised during the program development phase about safeguarding against all possibilities of invasion of individual privacy, the Department of Justice has decided that the hotline number will not be shared with any workers, including postal and utility workers, whose work puts them in contact with homes and private property.
Thank you, again, for your interest. Additional information will be provided as the Justice Department continues to develop the program.