New Jersey Transit's 'Text Against Terror' Program Exchanges $5.8 Million For ZERO Terrorists

from the throwing-real-money-at-fake-problems dept

The “War on Terror” continues unabated despite a lack of results. The grand (over)reaction to the 9/11 attacks has become a multi-billion dollar industry in which civil liberties are exchanged for money to throw into a bottomless pit labeled “safety.” A recent Senate report on the DHS’s so-called “fusion centers” unveiled more layers of waste, fraud and abuse of civil liberties, perpetrated under the guise of “anti-terrorism.”

Here’s another unsurprising report detailing an anti-terrorist effort that’s produced next to nothing in exchange for nearly $6 million. The oddly credulous “reporting” simply runs down the facts as presented by NJ Transit police chief Christopher Trucillo.

A $5.8 million federally funded program allowing NJ Transit commuters to “Text Against Terror” has brought 307 tips to the agency since its startup in June 2011 — ranging from some warranting further investigation to travelers testing the system.

Of those 307 text messages, 71 have “referred to something regarding homeland security,” said Christopher Trucillo, chief of NJ Transit police.

In 16 months, nearly $6 million in spending has resulted in 307 tips. This may seem like a good number of tips (nearly 20 a month!), but it breaks down to about $19,544 per tip. And most of those tips weren’t even useful. (Note that a percentage of this tip count includes people “testing the system” — which sounds like something between a mic check and a prank call. Someone must be padding numbers if they’re going to include varieties of “IS THIS THING ON?” in its published tip count.)

Only 71 tips actually met the criteria of the program, requiring further investigation. One would hope that each of these tips was investigated to the fullest possible extent, considering taxpayers are spending $84,507 per “useful” tip.

And what sort of things did the “see something text something” Jersey natives report?

“Someone saw something that made them uncomfortable that required us to take secondary action, like an unattended bag or someone taking pictures in a particular area,” Trucillo said.

While I can see the “unattended bag” being a cause for alarm, the vague “someone taking pictures” reports are a very simple way for taxpayers to heap more chilling effects on their own shoulders. But better safe than sorry, I suppose. How many terrorists were nabbed as a result of these select texts?

The majority of subjects of those 71 texts were investigated and eliminated as a cause for concern, he said.

Trucillo’s answer is purposefully vague. Is a majority 2/3rds? Is it all but a handful? There’s no telling. He does state that in a “rare instance,” tips have been referred to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, composed of State Police, NJ Transit and Port Authority representatives, the FBI, and the DHS. Unfortunately, no more information is being made available.

“We can’t discuss those things,” he said, when asked to elaborate on the nature of some of the text messages investigated by the task force. “There have been things investigated by the joint task force.”

With all these parties investigating some-number-much-smaller-than-71 tips, we can at least be sure that all of the $84,500 per tip is being spent. Costs are ongoing, despite any publicly noted successes. “Text Against Terror” ads are being run on New York radio and TV stations, one of the most expensive ad markets in the country. In addition, $13,400 is needed to reserve the NJTPD domain (to receive texts) and secure unlimited texting capability. Trucillo doesn’t specify the time frame for the $13,400, which could mean per month, per year or any other period in between.

All this expense and nothing to show for it. Going back through the NJ Transit’s press release archives, there are only two incidents that even sound potentially threatening and in both cases, “heightened security” and DHS initiatives had nothing to do with the resolution. In 2006, a suspect wanted in an earlier subway shooting turned herself in to NJ Transit police. And in February of 2012, NJ Transit police arrested a man who had called in a fake bomb threat in December, 2011. So, we have one person surrendering and one person sort of calling in their own tip. Anyone feeling safer? SIX MILLION DOLLARS worth of safer?

One wonders why this texting initiative wasn’t just piggybacked onto the existing tip line set up in 2003. It would seem that blending the two would cost far less than $6 million and wouldn’t necessitate an overly expensive, brand new ad campaign. I can’t imagine the blended, cheaper version would have resulted in fewer terrorists thwarted or arrested.

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Comments on “New Jersey Transit's 'Text Against Terror' Program Exchanges $5.8 Million For ZERO Terrorists”

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49 Comments
Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

They already have. The fear induced state that we are currently in is proof of that. Terrorists sow seeds of terror and fear. Things like this, the Patriot Act and NDAA are proof. Freedom and Liberty are not free, they have costs and that’s usually in blood. I would sooner have my freedom, rights and liberties and take my chances than have Big Brother watching out for me.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

They have won in a way I don’t think they ever anticipated, or did they? The have given the US government carte blanche to take away the citizenry’s liberties and personal freedoms under the guise of “if we don’t the terrorists win.”

So essentially the “real” terrorists have outsourced terror to the US government and they are happily toting the water, hoping no one will notice the kool-aide they have laced it with.

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

They have won in a way I don’t think they ever anticipated, or did they?

if by “the terrorists” you mean Al Qaida, then yes, they anticipated it. They stated what their goals were in the 9/11 attack and have achieved most of them.

The response of the US government in clamping down on freedom is one of the outcomes they were hoping for.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

LOL are you being sarcastic? If not the “terrorist” win every single time we waste our money and drive our country closer and closer to going bankrupt.

I mean really!! FFS just look at the TSA and how much they’ve done for the USA. They’ve caught zero terrorist and every time the government test them THEY FUCKING GET PAST THEM WITH EASE. It’s a bunch of smart assed bad attitude twits that are on a power trip. They’re worse than the police and that’s pretty fucking sad if you ask me.

I would much rather be a victim of a prison gang rape than having a run in with the TSA. At least in the prison version my asshole would heal in time.

Jaysays:

“I can’t imagine the blended, cheaper version would have resulted in fewer terrorists thwarted or arrested.”

Don’t you get it? If they’d COMBINED the two programs like you suggested, Terrorists already in custody would escape, resulting in a new loss of Terrorists arrested! And then the Terrorists would win! It all makes sense!

PS: You see, I capitalize the word “Terrorists” because it gets thrown around so much it might as well be a worshipped entity.

Anonymoussays:

This is just another manifestation of the “If you see something, say something” campaign, which to my knowledge has averted a total of zero terrors while simultaneously fostering fear, suspicion, and distrust among citizens.
Given results like these, I can’t imagine a more glowing success report for those terrorists over a decade ago.

out_of_the_bluesays:

Ah, Techdirt: slow to re-write the news of last week.

A couple block quotes and a bit of ranting, and voila! A framework of pap for fanboys to “add” inane comments to.

[At last I see what the “framework” is really for:

Started in 1997 by Floor64 founder Mike Masnick and then growing into a group blogging effort, the Techdirt blog uses a proven economic framework to analyze and offer insight into news stories about changes in government policy, technology and legal issues that affect companies ability to innovate and grow.

But “insight” is missing in this piece, it’s too bland to even call ranting.]

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Ah, Techdirt: slow to re-write the news of last week.

Wow, ootb, I can see you’ve really developed over your absence – you’ve learned to pick on issues that have absolutely nothing to do with the article in question and combine them with ad hominem attacks!

Almost seems like you’re posting EXACTLY like a few individuals who swore that they wouldn’t bother the site anymore…

Anonymous Cowardsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Ah, Techdirt: slow to re-write the news of last week.

If you’re referring to AJ he just post as an Anonymous Coward. He pretty much burns himself every time because he speaks exactly the same way. It’s like people don’t listen when I tell them that everyone has a unique writing style.

OotB though is his own individual. He just rants and jabbers on like an idiot, like a few other individuals. But you know, I’ve noticed that whenever bob post lately (since last week) he sounds exactly like OotB sounds, and no longer like he used to. Coincidence?

Also, isn’t it interesting that OotB came back out of nowhere, then someone else (forget who exactly) then darryl?

Again, coincidence?

Anonymoussays:

I thought that the public would report suspicious activities without a big advertising campaign, after all the could be caught in the next outrage. This smeall of politicians making sure that they are seen to be doing something, and like all such efforts a waste of money
Also wasn’t 9/11 carried out by foriegn terrorists, and so looking for them inside the USA makes total sense, to a politician.

Anonymoussays:

how much is reasonable?

I completely agree that there is too much spending on this “war”, often on programs and gadgets that will have virtually no impact.

But this one I don’t see much of a problem with. It’s for fifteen months, roughly 400k per month. That includes the initial cost to get everything set up (infrastructure, phones, computers, etc) and then a lower monthly maintenance. Add then staff who, I imagine, wants to get paid, plus office space. Even with just a handful of people in this team there isn’t much per person per month.

If 6 million is clearly too much, as hinted at in the post, how much would be reasonable, Tim? Or should the program be removed entirely?

And no, I don’t work for any goverment agency or political party/forum/whatever. I just don’t like rants with no attempt at explanations or alternatives.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: how much is reasonable?

Would you buy an insurance for your house in case of fire before of after it burnt down? True, not the exact same thing but you can’t start spending for preemptive measures after a terrorist attack, and I doubt you meant we should stop looking for them completely. It needs to be reasonable but I don’t see this as particularly unreasonable.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: how much is reasonable?

Insurance is fine, but it does not include afire officer spying on the occupants of the house, or over the top warning about the dangers of Fires. The anti terrorist effort seems to include both of the latter problems, never mind the invasive security at airports, and attempts tp spread it to other transport systems. The USA is off my possible places to travel to.

naschsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: how much is reasonable?

Would you buy an insurance for your house in case of fire before of after it burnt down?

The question is, is this more like fire insurance, or flood insurance for a house that’s nowhere near a flood-prone area? At the beginning was there a reasonable expectation that the program would find and stop some terrorists, or was it just to satisfy the requirement that Something Must Be Done?

Re: Re: how much is reasonable?

If 6 million is clearly too much, as hinted at in the post, how much would be reasonable, Tim? Or should the program be removed entirely?

And no, I don’t work for any goverment agency or political party/forum/whatever. I just don’t like rants with no attempt at explanations or alternatives.

FTA:

“One wonders why this texting initiative wasn’t just piggybacked onto the existing tip line set up in 2003. It would seem that blending the two would cost far less than $6 million and wouldn’t necessitate an overly expensive, brand new ad campaign.”

There’s plenty of money to save there. No breakdown was given on the expense of the ad campaign, but I would imagine the amount was more than “insignificant.” NJ Transit could also look at a cheaper texting package, seeing as “unlimited” is far more than it needs. It’s averaging about 20 texts per month. Something in the area of 100 texts per month should more than cover what’s being used. Even if something huge went down and every rider started texting at once, you’d figure NJT would have the gist of it within the first 50 or 60 texts.

As for a reasonable amount? It’s tough to say. The “initial costs,” which may have chewed up much of the $6 million, simply shouldn’t have been spent. If you give an entity $6 million, every cent will get spent. If you task an entity with setting up a text tipline and have it work within the confines of its normal budget, things will be done more efficiently. If additional funding was needed, it could be added as needed, rather than pre-funded.

Stephensays:

bags on nj transity

i ride nj transit everyday. after the stop at newark broad street, we realized some lady had left her gym bag on the floor. the conductor came. we pointed it out. he looked at us and said, “i’m going to kick it.” and he toed it, felt it was clothes, and opened it up. someone dug out the owner’s id and called her and told her the bag would be at hoboken lost and found. because that’s how civilization works.

The program worked as intended...

This program was never about getting terrorists.

99% of “terrorist plots” are hatched by the US Government. (Remember all those FBI-created phony bombs? Do you really think they never plant a real one?)

This program is about turning us against each other. It’s about turning us into snitches who rat out our neighbors, friends, and family members.

This program has turned millions of Americans (the new Germans) into good little NAZIs that rat out their Jewish neighbors to the Gestapo.

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