State Officials Deputize Online Vigilantes
Sep 20 2006 -
found at www.redstateupdate.net
Colorado authorities have implemented a program that allows private citizens to report their suspicions about other citizens’ activities through a state-run website that is linked to federal intelligence databases. Tips received from online informants are forwarded to a data analysis center, called a “fusion center,” which provides an interface between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Counter terrorism agents working at the fusion center then evaluate the significance of each report of suspicious activity, in some cases referring the reports to the FBI for investigation.
State officials launched the program on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, encouraging citizen participation in anti-terror surveillance efforts. According to a report in the Denver Post, authorities said that suspicious activities might include “unusual requests for information,” “unusual interest in high-risk or symbolic targets,” “unusual purchases,” or “persons who appear out of place.” Reports received through the system are sent for initial analysis to the Colorado Information Analysis Center in Centennial, where they are checked against an array of state and federal databases. If data analysts feel further investigation is warranted, the report is forwarded to the FBI, and state counter terrorism officials are notified.
Privacy rights activists and civil libertarians have assailed the program as unconstitutionally intrusive. Legal experts warn that the newly implemented program will eventually be challenged in court. “This is encouraging people to spy on one another,” Colorado ACLU executive director Cathryn Hazouri told the Post, “Be careful. Be aware that you could ruin peoples’ reputations; ruin their ability to go on an airplane. There are so many things that grow out of this kind of program.”
The Colorado fusion center has forwarded approximately 300 tips to federal authorities over the past 18 months. Officials have designed the new system to increase the flow of information into state and federal anti-terrorism programs. Citizens may even upload photos with their reports. The CIAC also operates an anti-terrorism telephone hotline for would-be informants, which receives about 20 tips each week.
funny, frightening, free