Uncle Sam Meets Big Brother
© 2002 Contender Ministries
In George Orwell’s 1984, the Spies and Youth League enlisted young volunteers to turn in friends and family members suspected of committing thought crimes. They were little snitches run amok. In August of 2002, the United States government will kick off a program that is eerily similar to the nightmare vision of Orwell.
In the interest of national security in the post-9/11 society, the government has taken a step that endangers the foundation of what makes the United States a uniquely free country. Next month, the Department of Justice will roll out a pilot program to turn citizens into spies. TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) will enlist 1 million domestic informants in 10 cities across the U.S. Under the government’s plan, there will eventually be one snoop for every 24 Americans. The Sydney Morning Herald (who originally reported on TIPS) points out that the U.S. would have a higher percentage of citizen informants under this program, than the former East Germany through the Stasi secret police. I originally wanted to be supportive of the idea, but I cannot subscribe to the philosophy that the end always justifies the means – especially when the means are so thoroughly Orwellian in nature.
The TIPS spies will be truck drivers, railroad workers, utility workers, mail carriers, and workers from other occupations that take people on the road and into your communities. As if that weren't enough, the government also wants to recruit people such as installers and repair technicians whose occupations bring them into people's homes. The next time you have a plumber or cable TV installer in your house, he or she may be an informant! These spies will then be able to phone in “suspicious activity” to a central office via a toll-free telephone number, alerting the federal authorities of the situation. This situation presents the problem of how each of these millions of informants will interpret “suspicious activity.” What is intended as a measure to thwart terrorist activities can quickly turn into government interference in expressions of free speech.
As a Christian in the United States, I value the freedom to hold strong to my religious beliefs, and express them openly. My right to do so can only be preserved if that right is extended to people who believe differently than me. What “suspicious activity” will result in further action by federal law enforcement investigators? That question is unanswered as of yet.
This domestic spy program becomes even more frightening when viewed in light of the Patriot Act. Under this legislation, the government could search your home, whether you know about it or not. They could then seize documents or even plant listening devices. All of this could happen based on a tip from an overzealous domestic spy with a negative attitude about how you talk, dress, or comport yourself. Perhaps he or she is even someone you know, but with whom you have a less-than-cordial relationship.
No, the end cannot justify the means, if the means includes trampling on our bill of rights. Americans have the right to hold whatever beliefs they desire, and express them freely. That right is protected by the first amendment. The fourth amendment was designed to protect Americans from unreasonable search and seizure. With two amendments already on the endangered list, what’s to stop the government from going after the other eight? The answer is: “We the people!”
Our government is held accountable for their actions by “we the people.” We must hold them accountable now, by letting the president, the attorney general, and our legislative representatives know that we are citizens of the United States of America. We will not abide by thought police or the Spies. TIPS has good intentions, but the program represents an undeniable danger to our constitutional freedoms. Let Orwell rest in peace, and safeguard our constitutional freedoms!
© 2002 Contender Ministries
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