The 2002 law that created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) explicitly prohibited “the proposed component program of the Citizen Corps known as Operation TIPS,” a project aimed at encouraging Americans to spy and snitch on each other in the name of fighting terrorism. In 2010, however, DHS chief Janet Napolitano bragged about a suspiciously similar program that operates under the slogan “If You See Something, Say Something.”
According to DHS, the effort was “launched in conjunction with the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative, an administration effort to train state and local law enforcement to recognize behaviors and indicators related to specific threats and terrorism-related crime and report and share information on suspicious incidents or activity nationally.” Videos promoting the program were rolled out at some Florida Wal-Mart checkout counters during the 2010 Christmas season, and DHS plans to have them in 600 stores in 27 states by the end of 2011.
SAR is aimed at creating a government database of suspicious activities involving people who have not actually been charged with a crime. With nearly 900 state and local agencies contributing reports, more than 160,000 suspicious activity files are in the SAR database, ready to be searched, collated, and crosschecked. According to a December report in The Washington Post, you can get yourself listed in the SAR database through such acts as taking pictures of a boat on a dock.
How many terrorists have been captured thanks to this searchable list of suspicious people? So far, according to the Post, there have been exactly five arrests and no convictions.