Has hypocrisy ever been more conspicuously on display? Since Attorney General John Ashcroft floated the idea of a sort of nationwide Neighborhood Watch, Operation TIPS, the commentariat has been hyperventilating with outrage.
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Daniel Kurtzman, writing on July 28, contributed a column called “Learning to Love Big Brother: George W. Bush Channels George Orwell.” The column’s subheads sound one portentous beat after another: “Permanent War,” “Ministry of Truth,” “Infallible Leader,” “Big Brother Is Watching,” “Thought Police.” The column delivers a great deal less. But never mind. Let nothing stand in the way of a good metaphor.
Liberal high priestess Mary McGrory, writing in the Washington Post the same day, manages incoherence of a Maureen Dowdian intensity:
“I would have liked to see how Ashcroft adjudicated in the multiple grandmother deaths, which seem to plague some of our no-show artisans. I would have liked his take on a tiler who was doing his stuff on my small bathroom. He carefully placed some carefully chosen decorative tiles in spots where they could not be seen. I asked if he could relocate them. I was told that was impossible because he was in North Carolina attending his grandmother’s funeral…”
The fact is, there have been nationwide and local “tip” programs for a long, long time. On May 14, the New York Police Department set up its own terrorist tip hotline, at (718) 615-7040. California long ago appropriated the word “tip” as an acronym in its “We Turn In Pushers” program. “We Tip” now exists as a website operated by a non-profit, with three nationwide phone numbers, 1-800-78-CRIME, 1-800-47-ARSON, and 1-800-US-FRAUD.
Then there is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which describes itself this way:
“NCMEC, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and state and local law enforcement in Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, serves as the national CyberTipline and as the national Child Pornography Tipline 1-800-843-5678. Please contact us if you have information that will help in our fight against child sexual exploitation. Your information will be forwarded to law enforcement for investigation and review, and, when appropriate, to the ISP. The U.S. Congress has funded these initiatives for reporting child sexual exploitation.”
Oh, what else? Let’s see. Connecticut has a law on the books allowing anonymous grudge-mongers to report neighbors who might own “too many” guns. Connecticut law enforcement officers can obtain search warrants based on those anonymous tips, search the homes of law-abiding people, and confiscate legally owned guns.
As recorded by William F. Buckley in a May 24 syndicated column, “Smoke Get In Your Eyes?” an anonymous snitch reported to the New York City authorities that people were smoking — smoking! — in the Manhattan offices of National Review. Never mind that the offices were private, contained, and that no one working at NR objected. Threatened with severe financial penalties, NR had to forbid further smoking on its premises.
And there are “hate-crime” hotlines almost without number — talk about Orwellian.
Of all these snitching and tipping incidents and programs, we hear not a liberal peep.
But let John Ashcroft point out that truck-drivers and meter-readers see a lot, and the big balloon goes up. To be fair, we all shrink from turning into “a nation of whistle-blowers,” as Buckley puts it. And the AG’s proposal may have been clumsy in its details.
But the administration has to handle some serious stuff here. People are trying to kill us and destroy our institutions. Meanwhile, as author and former cop Joseph Wambaugh points out, our law enforcement institutions are “balkanized.”
The problem is far worse than the FBI and the CIA not talking to each other. Sheriffs’ departments, whose authority overlaps that of city police within a county, don’t talk to city police forces. Federal marshals will not work with either sheriffs or local police. State investigative agencies guard their territories from local police, from marshals, from sheriffs, and from national investigative agencies. Police will not work with arson investigators from fire departments.
Records get lost. Miscreants arrested in one jurisdiction are never tied to crimes they have committed in another. The INS leaks like the proverbial sieve. And what do we do? We create more police programs and agencies, not fewer. The EPA has a police force, for Pete’s sake.
Against that fragmented backdrop, set against those sprawling inefficiencies, Ashcroft’s TIPS program threatens no Big Brother-ish control. Rather, it will simply pile up more information that nobody knows what to do with — and that almost certainly will not even be used, let alone shared.
Meantime, you’d think our various commentators might try to help out here, rather than simply waving their progressive freak flags. But no. It’s more fun to bait their favorite conservative bull.
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