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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
US denies creating civilian spies
Security barriers were set up around the Washington Monument for 4 July celebrations
Critics say the plan erodes civil liberties

The American Justice Department has denied that it has plans to turn millions of US citizens into spies in the war against terrorism.

Civil liberties groups are complaining that a pilot scheme due to begin next month could lead to government spies prying into all American homes.

Operation TIPS, the Terrorism Information and Prevention System, will, according to the Justice Department, give millions of American lorry drivers, postal workers, train guards and gas and electrical engineers a way to report suspicious activity.

Security around the Washington Monument was heightened
Security was boosted at recent Independence Day celebrations

Starting in 10 cities next month, participating workers will be given a free phone number and told to call in if they notice anything out of the ordinary during their daily routine.

The American Civil Liberties Union is horrified. It says the gas man will become a government-sanctioned peeping tom and that the programme will encourage vigilantism and racism.

In response, the Justice Department is partially backing down.

It has issued a statement saying only public places will be covered by the scheme.

But TIPS will still go ahead, with its supporters saying it will make it more difficult for terrorists to operate undetected, and its opponents saying it turns America into a nation of spies.

See also:

02 Jul 02 | Americas
04 Jul 02 | Americas
16 Jul 02 | Americas
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