||Florida "State" Citizen Spy Program Is National and Is Here in Austin, Texas
july 21, 2004
Alex Jones has learned that the program described below is national, as Homeland Security practices here in Austin, TX outline the same system. The system in Austin will be complete and without "revision."
'Aware' primer will be revised
By Brian Baskin
Sentinel Staff Writer/ July 16 2004
A program that will urge workers in Orange County such as cable TV installers and firefighters to report suspicious or illegal activities they spot in private homes will be rewritten after complaints the plan would target Arab-Americans.
The Orange County Sheriff's office has already printed 5,000 training brochures outlining the Citizen Awareness Program, which seeks to train workers who regularly enter private homes to identify signs of terrorism, drug trafficking and child pornography. But law enforcement officials will now scrap the brochures -- one week after the Florida ACLU and others labeled the effort as an attempt to create a citizen spy network that would infringe on privacy rights.
The sharpest criticism came from Arab-Americans, who said language in the brochure amounted to racial profiling because it said several adult males "usually of Middle Eastern appearance" who live together with little or no furnishings could be a sign of international terrorism.
The brochures will be rewritten and references to specific ethnic groups will be removed from the final version, said Joyce Dawley, regional director for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and co-chairman of the Central Florida's Domestic Security Task Force, which oversees the program.
"You don't want to focus for a number of reasons on any one group," Dawley said. "A number of different groups out there are willing to hurt people."
Dawley and other law enforcement officials will present a full list of revisions to leaders in Orlando's Arab-American community this morning, said Taleb Salhab, president of the Arab-American Community Center of Central Florida.
Other aspects of the plan will also change, Dawley said, though she would not elaborate.
Lt. Lee Massie, deputy chief of the Sheriff's Office intelligence unit, who designed much of the program, said the brochures were not meant to be a final version, only a draft. But officials said last week they spent $500 on the 5,000 copies and contacted Orange County Fire Rescue Division to talk about starting training sessions.
Massie said the brochure went to print before it was ready and would have been recommissioned anyway to correct design flaws.
"It's common practice not to put a working draft to print," Massie said. "When it came back it was not very well done."
Dawley, of the FDLE, said the program will proceed despite the criticism. Operation TIPS, a similar program attempted at the federal level in 2002, was scrapped after civil liberties organizations objected.
The revisions mark the first time the FDLE has actively participated in designing CAP. Dawley said she approved of the idea when the Sheriff's Office presented it to FDLE shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and has always supported the program.
But though she sat in on planning meetings, Dawley said she had not offered specific suggestions until Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary approached her this week about revising the program.
Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar, who came up with the initial idea and is one of the program's most vocal supporters, was not involved in this week's revisions, according to Lisa Roberson, a spokeswoman for Lamar.
Dawley said she expected the program would draw criticism, but that she strongly believes that it is necessary and will not intrude on people's rights.
"We don't want to make [trainee] agents of the government, we just want them to be aware of their surroundings," Dawley said.
Mark NeJame, a defense attorney and one of the Arab-American leaders meeting with law enforcement officials today, said the promised revisions are an encouraging sign.
"There's been a healthy ongoing dialogue between certain leaders of the Arabic-American community and certain leaders in law enforcement," he said.
But the Sheriff's Office should have told Orlando's Arab-American community long before the program was about to begin, NeJame said.
"If there were people involved in the onset from the Arab-American community, it might prevent a lot of these reactive measures from having to be taken because they may never have occurred in the first place," he said.
Other groups that were at the forefront of the fight against Operation TIPS are still waiting to give their ideas about the Florida program.
The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations tried and failed to get a copy of the program brochure from the Orange County Sheriff's Office, according to spokesman Ahmed Bedir. The group is still trying to schedule a meeting with FDLE to discuss the plan.The Florida ACLU is also largely in the dark, said Scott Rost, Central Florida chapter chairman. But he said the Citizens Awareness Program is probably unfixable.
"We think it should die a merciful death in the near future because of public outcry, just like [Operation TIPS] did," Rost said.
Brian Baskin can be reached at 407-420-5446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.