The Department of Homeland Securities’ tip line has yet to net a terrorist
suspect, but what a great way to exact vengeance on your spouses, neighbors, and
co-workers! Just call 1-866-347-2423, that is 1-866-347-2423, today.
[Posted By remarcus]
By Kevin Johnson
Republished from USA
DHS hotline a hotbed of weak tips.
The tipster from Illinois first called the Department of Homeland Security’s
hotline here on Feb. 15, when he reported that while he was helping a “Russian
lady” change a flat tire, he saw a pipe bomb in the trunk of her car.
The tip set off a public safety alert in central Illinois, where state police
and Naperville authorities responded to a bulletin from the DHS. The dragnet
finally ended Feb. 21, when officers found the woman, her car and a device in
There was a twist: The device had been placed in the car by the innocent woman’s
ex-husband, who was identified as William Nakulski. He and his son were charged
in what turned out to be a bizarre and unsuccessful plot to have Nakulski’s
ex-wife, an immigrant, jailed and deported.
The incident was an extreme example of how the hotline – designed to
help identify foreigners and others who could harm U.S. interests – has
become a venting board for tens of thousands of tips from across the USA that
have nothing to do with potential threats to the homeland.
Sifting through tips
Each day, operators at the Law Enforcement Support Center hear stories that
could be straight out of television drama: broken marriages that lead one spouse
to report the other’s illegal immigration status; disputes that lead one
neighbor to report information about another; business owners reporting that
their rivals are employing illegal immigrants.
Scott Blackman, the center’s unit chief, says it’s unclear whether
information received here and directed to law enforcement agencies across the
nation has led to the arrest of a terrorism suspect. However, during the 2004
budget year, the center – which besides operating the hotline runs an
immigration database for law enforcement agencies – reported identifying
more than 6,000 illegal immigrants who were wanted by police.
Blackman estimates that about half the calls to the hotline contain false information
that law enforcement agencies nevertheless have to check out. He says that’s
a reasonable cost for getting leads that local law enforcement can use.
“Roughly half the information will be used in some way,” Blackman
says. “A marriage-fraud tip may end up as a piece of a larger puzzle.
We don’t want to turn anybody away. If we have to put up with the occasional
frustrating call, it’s worth it to get the other 50%” with good
However, some civil liberties activists and immigrant advocacy groups are expressing
concern that the hotline and others like it have merely awakened a nation of
busybodies motivated by revenge, ethnic bias or worse.
“The whole question of what the DHS and the government is permitted to
do with this information becomes a very big concern,” says Kate Martin,
director for the Center for National Security Studies. The center, based in
Washington, D.C., has cited privacy concerns in calling for limits to the investigative
powers of the FBI and CIA.
“There appears to be nothing to prevent an innocent person from being
targeted by another who is simply bent on retaliation,” Martin says. “The
question is: How is the government using this information?”
Jesselyn McCurdy, the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative counsel
in Washington, says anonymous tip programs often waste “precious resources”
by forcing authorities to investigate unsubstantiated information.
“A lot of this information simply doesn’t pan out,” McCurdy
says. “And we’re always concerned about the prospect that the subjects
of these calls may become victims of unwarranted retaliation.”
The hotline – 866-347-2423 – was established after the Sept. 11,
2001, terrorist attacks. The number of calls to the hotline this year is nearing
100,000, almost triple the number during 2004.
A separate staff at the Law Enforcement Support Center handles hundreds of
thousands of electronic requests for background checks and other inquiries on
potential suspects from law enforcement agencies. So far this year, agencies
have made nearly 700,000 requests for information from the center, which has
handled a steady increase in such requests since 2003.
Blackman says the increasing number of calls to the hotline suggest that people
“are much more aware of the people living in their communities now.”
Besides thousands of immigration complaints, the hotline is receiving a rising
number of abuse complaints.
Last year, an allegation of abuse called in to the hotline led federal agents
to a home in Milwaukee, where a woman was freed from what the DHS described
as almost 20 years of indentured servitude, says Michael Gilhooly, spokesman
for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
On a recent day, however, the hotline’s call logs revealed the results
of a more typical day. Between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m., operators fielded at least
17 tips, some of them angry husbands or wives who accused their spouses of using
marriage to fraudulently obtain legal status in the USA. The calls came from
Ohio, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Texas, Illinois, Florida and California.
“That’s just one shift,” Gilhooly says.
Julie Dowd, a center supervisor, says many calls come from disgruntled workers
who say they have lost their jobs to people they believe are illegal immigrants.
Along with that, she says, “we do get a certain amount of crazies.”