Monday, May 29, 2006
The roaches of Tishomingo
Tishomingo, Oklahoma, population 3,186 (2003), was named after a Chicasaw chief. Just north of the Texas border, it lies amidst the land given to the Chicasaws after the forced evacuation from their lands known as "the Trail of Tears" and is the very capitol of the Chicasaw Nation. By 1970 the Chickasaws had advanced to the point that Congress decided to let them select their own principal officers.
But don't start imagining an all-Indian enclave. The town, which is the county seat of Johnston County, is 73% White and 15% Native American. There are a few Blacks, a few Hispanics, even fewer Asians and one Hawaiian. Of the rest they're not sure.
There's a two-year college there, but it's probably more trouble than it's worth because—whatever the Indians may think—this is Red State territory and most people voted for George Bush. Naturally when the median income of the town is only $20,938, you expect that sort of thing.
You also expect some kind of public housing for the wage slaves. That's where the Tishomingo Housing Authority (THA) comes in. It's part of their responsibility to assure that you and your entire family are morally fit to occupy one of their dwellings.1
No doubt taking their cue from our Great Leader, they've become "proactive" and use whatever means at hand to police the tenants. In Tishomingo that means rats, roaches or whatever vermin they can find. Sarah Lindenburg of KTEN news reports—
A Johnston County man has been arrested, thanks to a tip by an exterminator....
This is the fourth case where the Tishomingo Housing Authority has let police investigators know what some tenants might be hiding.
The housing authority had ordered an extermination at the Green Acres section of the apartments on North Byrd.
What the exterminator, from out of town, found when he got there led to the execution of a police search warrant yesterday.
Police just needed the tip.
"We've been working quite a bit with the Tishomingo housing authority....quite a bit of success... Actually this is the fourth search warrant that we have obtained this way," Shannon Smith, Tishomingo Police Chief said.
Due to the tip by the exterminator police were able to arrest 45-year-old Gary Morrow and take him to the Johnston County Jail.
He was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
In 2002 the White House was planning a project along these lines for all of us. It was known as TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System). The House of Representatives passed it, but the Senate refused to go along.
Anita Ramastry wrote about it at Findlaw—
Did you know that the cable installer, your FedEx deliveryperson, or your electricity meter reader might soon be spying on you? They may be preparing to alert the federal government to any signs of suspicious activity as they install cable, ask you to sign for a package, or check your meter.
According to the White House, TIPS is scheduled to be introduced as a pilot project in August 2002. By fall, up to one million U.S. service workers in ten cities may be recruited as volunteer citizen informants, assisting the government in its hunt for the terrorists among us.
TIPS is one of five component programs of the Bush Administration's Citizen Corps. The Bush Administration has proposed that it be administered by the U.S. Department of Justice and run in partnership with several other federal agencies.
Most of the other Citizen Corps functions relate to assisting with disaster relief and emergency preparedness in the event of an act of terrorism or crime. TIPS ... is very different - and intensely threatening to basic civil liberties. Shockingly, if the Bush administration's estimates are correct, under TIPS the US will have a higher percentage of citizen informants than were enlisted by the former socialist East Germany through the notorious Stasi secret police.
The ACLU has cautioned that law enforcement may use civilian volunteers as an end run around the warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment.
Police cannot routinely enter people's homes without first obtaining a search warrant. But the occupant's consent to a search allows an exception to that rule. So now, by consenting to have cable television installed or have your water meter read, and being unlucky enough to have let in a TIPS informant, you might be held to have effectively "consented" to a search - without any notice to you that this is what you have done.
Search resources that in the past have been limited will suddenly become virtually unlimited - with millions of new searchers enlisted as unpaid volunteers - and prioritizing serious crime may thus give way to a dragnet free-for-all.
Senator Patrick Leahy, (D-VT.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has compared TIPS to a "ghetto informant" program created in the 1960s by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI hired neighbors of suspected political protesters to spy on them.
Operation TIPS also seems reminiscent of the use of citizen informers in countries of the former Soviet Union - where neighbors, and even husbands and wives, were encouraged to spy on one another.
One lesson we can learn from history is that if citizen spies walk among us, we will live in a constant state of fear and distrust. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, that will be nothing less than a tragedy and a betrayal of our national character.
KTEN broke the exterminator story, and no other news outlet thought it was important enough to carry. And it may well be that the Tishomingo Housing Authority is just a bit over-zealous.
Or maybe the TIPS program is alive and well, nestled among the other secret surveillance programs of the Bush administration.
Footnote1Here are some of the ways you may be found wanting. These rules apply to any member of the family, and a discovery of a violation by any member will result in the eviction of the entire family.
- Violation of family obligations under the program;
- If any member has been evicted from Public Housing;
- If any member of the family has been terminated from any federal housing program;
- If any member of the family commits drug-related criminal activity, or violent criminal activity;
- If any member of the family commits fraud, bribery or any other corrupt or criminal act in connection with any federal housing program;
- If the family owes an amount to OCHA or another federal housing program;
- If the family has not reimbursed OCHA for amount paid to an owner under the HAP contract;
- If the family breaches an agreement to repay amounts owed to OCHA;
- If a family participating in the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program fails to comply, without good cause, with the FSS Contract; and
- If the family has engaged in or threatened abusive or violent behavior toward housing agency personnel.