COLUMBUS—The Ohio Department of Public Safety recently announced a new initiative called, “See Something, Say Something,” which encourages Ohio residents to call a toll free line if they witness something they believe is “suspicious.”
ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link said, “Programs such as this almost always prove to be ineffective in gathering information on possible terrorists.” Link went on, “Even though they are created with the best of intentions, they only serve to reinforce stereotypes and cause innocent people to be subjected to government scrutiny.”
The campaign will focus on distributing flyers and posters urging residents to report suspicious activity. Some of the examples of this type of activity that they cite include videotaping a government building or wearing bulky clothing on hot days.
Jeff Gamso, ACLU of Ohio Legal Director said, “Many people who vacation in Ohio videotape government buildings while they are sight-seeing. Calling that behavior suspicious and encouraging people to report will do nothing to prevent another terrorist attack and will only lead to innocent people coming under government scrutiny.”
The program lists a few organizations as co-sponsors, most notably the American Red Cross and the Ohio Hispanic Coalition.
Link added, “It is especially disappointing to see that the Red Cross has departed from its core mission of rescuing and providing care for others in order to promote an ineffective program such as this.”
This newest initiative resembles the ill-fated Operation TIPS proposed by the federal government in 2002. TIPS was 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.