Suspicious Act Reports: Useful Or Rights Violation?



A growing number of big-city police departments and other law enforcers are using a new system to report suspicious activities that officials say could uncover terrorism plots but that civil libertarians say might violate individual rights, the New York Times reports. In nearly a dozen cities, including Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and Miami, officers fill out terror tip sheets if they run across activities that seem out of place, like someone buying police or firefighter uniforms, taking pictures of a power plant, or expressing extremist views.

Officials plan to have a nationwide reporting system in place by 2014, using a standardized system of codes for suspicious behaviors. It is the most ambitious effort since the Sept. 11 attacks to put in place a network of databases to comb for clues that might foretell acts of terrorism. The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups warn that the program pioneered by the Los Angeles Police Department raises serious privacy and civil liberties concerns. “The behaviors identified [] are so commonplace and ordinary that the monitoring or reporting of them is scarcely any less absurd,” the ACLU says.

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