CLEVELAND—The Ohio Department of Homeland Security (ODHS) will hold a press conference to promote its “See Something, Say Something” campaign in Cleveland on Friday, June 9. This campaign aims to combat terrorism by encouraging Ohioans to call or fill out an online form if they witness something they believe is “suspicious.”
“Programs such as this are counter-intuitive to effectively combating terror because it creates large numbers of reports that flood law enforcement and leave them unable to sift through all of the information,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link.
“Instead of preventing terrorism, it will open the door to racial and ethnic profiling, put many innocent people under government scrutiny and infringe upon the privacy of countless Ohioans,” added Link.
The campaign focuses on distributing flyers and posters urging residents to report suspicious activity. A brochure published by the ODHS called “The Seven Warning Signs of Terrorism” suggests that people report someone who “does not fit because of demeanor, language usage or unusual questions he/she is asking.”
They add that those who are visiting or working at “key terrorist locations” such as landmarks, airports, and bus stations should be watched.
“This language is broad and arbitrary, and encourages citizens to take a law enforcement role,” said Link. “It will likely lead to a backlog of reports, which may distract law enforcement personnel from the important work of stopping real terrorist threats.”
“See Something, Say Something” resembles Operation TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System), which was introduced by the federal government in 2002. TIPS intended to set up a network of utility workers and postal carriers to spy on other Americans and report any “suspicious activity” to a tip line. The program was eventually suspended because of increasing concerns over privacy and the possibility that it may encourage racial profiling.