Sunday, December 02, 2007

Firefighters being trained as domestic spies

This is a little old but somewhat disturbing. The US Department of Homeland Security has deemed it appropriate to train city firefighters to spy on the occupants of buildings. Firefighters and emergency medical personnel are not required to have a warrant to enter a building. In the course of their duties DHS expects them to report material and behaviour that may be deemed suspicious.
The Homeland Security Department is testing a program with the New York City fire department to share intelligence information so firefighters are better prepared when they respond to emergency calls. Homeland Security also trains the New York City fire service in how to identify material or behavior that may indicate terrorist activities. If it’s successful, the government intends to expand the program to other major metropolitan areas.

This program is little different from one Bush tried to have implemented in 2002.
As part of the program, which started last December, Homeland Security gave secret clearances to nine New York fire chiefs, according to reports obtained by The Associated Press.Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now national security policy counsel to the ACLU, said the concept is dangerously close to the Bush administration’s 2002 proposal to have workers with access to private homes — such as postal carriers and telephone repairmen — report suspicious behavior to the FBI.

“Americans universally abhorred that idea,” German said.

And they're not likely to appreciate this one either. In fact, firefighters and emergency medical personnel are viewing this with a great deal of skepticism. By becoming the eyes of the government, they fear the position of trust they hold with the public will be eroded.

Keith Olbermann interviewed Mike German on Countdown last Wednesday. The video is at Raw Story. Watch and wonder.

And while the Bush administration seems to be insisting that everyone, including the dog catcher, be recruited to spy on everyone else, it's going to cut the funding that DHS provides for emergency response and emergency management.

The department wanted to provide $3.2 billion to help states and cities protect against terrorist attacks in 2009, but the White House said it would ask Congress for less than half—$1.4 billion, according to a Nov. 26 document. The plan calls outright elimination of programs for port security, transit security, and local emergency management operations in the next budget year. This is President Bush's last budget, and the new administration would have to live with the funding decisions between Jan. 20 and Sept. 30, 2009.

Really, have these guys ever had anything close to a plan for anything?

Hat tip reader Todd.

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