- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Most leads that neighbors would pass along in the government's proposed network of anti-terrorism tipsters will help only a little, a top Justice Department official predicted yesterday.
Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, the administration's lead anti-terrorism prosecutor, also attacked as overblown and paranoid the criticisms that the plan has drawn as an infringement on civil liberties.
"You should not think you're dealing with a bunch of barbarians. That's not true," he told a fairly skeptical group of lawyers at a meeting of the American Bar Association as he and other Justice officials addressed administration efforts against terrorism.
"We need to be sober about what is a threat to civil liberties," he said.
Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System), was to begin this month but is on hold until Congress returns in the fall. That delay will give Justice Department officials a chance to consult with lawmakers.
Mr. Chertoff's defense did not sway James Brosnahan, a lawyer who represented John Walker Lindh.
"You can make a telephone call about somebody you don't like, and maybe they'll be declared an enemy combatant with no rights, even though they're a U.S. citizen," Mr. Brosnahan told Mr. Chertoff and others at a discussion of civil liberties. Mr. Brosnahan's client pleaded guilty last month to charges related to his joining the Taliban and faces up to 20 years in prison.
The TIPS program "is as sinister as anything I've ever heard of," Mr. Brosnahan added.
Mr. Chertoff said the administration has sought innovative ways to catch terrorists without violating the Constitution.
Under the program, the government would encourage tips from everyday citizens about suspicious activities. Mr. Chertoff denied it would encourage Americans to spy on one another.
"The government is asking people to do this, not making them," he said. "I would suspect most of [the tips] will wash out." He also said, "We're not looking for a community of snoops."

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