The US As Soviet Russia- Homeland Security Wants Firefighters to be Spies, Too


 

The US As Soviet Russia- Homeland Security Wants Firefighters to be Spies, Too
 


12 December 2007 at 4:03:02 PM
salon

Have said before that the whole term "Homeland Security" sounds like a Nazi phrase, very creepy. Well, so's this.

The image of the friendly firefighter helping rescue a wayward kitten from a tree might need updating. If the federal Department of Homeland Security has its way, firefighters across the country will be armed not only with firefighting equipment, but also issued training materials on how to recognize suspect behavior on the part of citizens and what to look for in peoples' homes that might be "suspicious." In other words, firefighters would become domestic spies. In fact, such training already has begun.

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, in a recent speech to the country's fire chiefs, reminded his audience that in the government's view, a fire or any natural disaster should be seen as no different from a terrorist act. The secretary noted that among the billions of taxpayer dollars that had been distributed to fire departments since the Sept. 11 attacks, were significant sums to develop "fusion centers" in the various states (including Georgia). These strangely named "fusion centers" (officially, "Counter Terrorism Information Centers") already include firefighters. Chertoff did not in his public remarks to the fire chiefs explicitly mention training firefighters to spot "suspicious" activity or items as among the training they do or should receive, but recent news stories are detailing the troubling manner in which the feds are doing just this.

As usual, New York City — training ground for public officials such as former mayor Rudy Giuliani and current mayor Michael Bloomberg who apparently consider surveillance the Holy Grail of modern government — is leading the way. Fire chiefs in the Big Apple, for example, already have been granted federal security clearances to further this "integration" of firefighters into the homeland security. According to published accounts of such training, firefighters are being trained to watch for "hostile" or "uncooperative" individuals, or those "expressing discontent" with our government. They are also trained to watch for and report on things that "seem out of place" in a home or business such as firearms and video recording equipment. Rooms with "little or no furniture" fall within the reportable suspicious activity.

This latest Homeland Security program smacks of the previously discredited "TIPS" (short for Terrorism Information and Prevention System) started shortly after Sept. 11. TIPS was designed to enlist a broad swath of workers in America — meter readers, postal workers, cleaning personnel and others — to report "suspicious" activity to the federal government. Under pressure from many in the Congress and the private sector, the TIPS program supposedly was ended some four years ago, but this latest firefighter spying program makes clear the government has not lost its appetite to continue the effort.

What makes the latest effort to bring firefighters within the ambit of government-sanctioned domestic spying especially insidious, is the fact that when a firefighter responds to an emergency or conducts a regulatory inspection, they do not require a warrant in order to enter a home or business and look around for "suspicious" items, people or behavior. This freedom greatly facilitates the power of the government to gather evidence on the citizenry.


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