An Informed Citizenry

Before the Berlin Wall came down, members of the resistance in East Germany kept a wary eye on every street corner, where it was common to see two men slouched down in the front seat of a little red car. These were the local Stasi agents, sent to spy on the populace.

We don't have them here yet. Congress directly rebuffed Attorney General John Ashcroft's attempt to set up a neighborhood snitch program in the existing Patriot Act. But that didn't stop police departments in the East and Midwest from launching their own private "civil defense" programs, a polite description of a snitch network. It's called Cat Eyes, short for the Community Anti-Terrorism Training Initiative, created by former U.S. military officers along with U.S. cops, and has been supported by the Justice Department and the Arab American Institute. The fledgling project supposedly tries to avoid racial profiling. Its motto: "Watching America with pride, not prejudice."

Cat Eyes calls for block captains and block watchers who report to neighborhood coordinators, who in turn get chummy with local police or sheriffs, as well as provide training sessions for neighborhood recruits. The block captain, according to the program's literature, "personally visits each home/apartment/business in his/her block, announcing the meeting and encouraging neighbors to participate." The block watcher "acts as eyes and ears for law enforcement and reports any suspicious activity."

"Citizens shouldn't worry about someone thinking, 'They're going to think I'm crazy.' Don't worry about that, report it," Bedford County sheriff Mike Brown told the Lynchburg, Virginia, News and Advance. "They may be the little pieces of the puzzle that we need to put the big pieces together. You never know where a lead is going to come from."

Police departments in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Ohio are doing Cat Eyes, as are various cities and towns in Florida, Nevada, and California. Park police in Washington, D.C., and university police at MIT are using the training materials.

Sergeant Frank Hamilton of Perry Township, Ohio, says that he had been trained as a Cat Eyes instructor. "A lot of agencies don't push it," he said, "but we intend to push it and get it out to as many people as possible." Township police are organizing through schools and businesses, and classes are free in the community. "This will be an enhancement to our neighborhood block watch program," Hamilton added.

In Teaneck, New Jersey, specially trained police officers are fanning out into neighborhoods, training people to be more "diligent" and telling them what to look for. A police spokesman called the response from the public "very, very positive." "There's been so many groups," the spokesman added. "Many, many civic groups, religious organizations, councilmembers, politicians." As a result, he said, even ordinary residents "look at the world a little bit different."

That's just what Mike Licata, a high school teacher and retired air force officer who dreamed up and copyrighted the program, hopes for. Licata told The Boston Globe, "If I felt that my neighbor of 10 years was doing fundraising for a group, I'd turn 'em in." He adds that the FBI will "just investigate them—and if you're wrong, you're wrong. And if you're right, that's a big thing!"

NIX FROM A NIXONIAN

"If Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked," John Dean, Richard Nixon's erstwhile White House counsel, wrote last week on findlaw.com. Dean was fired by Nixon, and his subsequent testimony before Congress on Watergate helped sink the president. "Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be 'a high crime' under the Constitution's impeachment clause," added Dean. "It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

Dean went on to set forth the evidence, consisting of Bush's statements on the war, which Bush may well have known were false when he made them. They are:

• "Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons." —October 5

• "We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons—the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have." —October 5

• "We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas." —October 7

• "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard, and VX nerve agent." —January 28, 2003

• "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." —March 17

Dean notes: "Nixon claimed that his misuses of the federal agencies for his political purposes were in the interest of national security. The same kind of thinking might lead a president to manipulate and misuse national security agencies or their intelligence to create a phony reason to lead the nation into a politically desirable war. Let us hope that is not the case."

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