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.