Big Brother could be your APS meter-reader

By John Dickerson

According to a local source and Department of Justice documents now available online, counter-terrorism officials are training government employees and civilians to keep an eye on you. And few states are training Big Brother’s informants faster than Arizona.

These unpaid spies are called TLOs (Terrorism Liaison Officers). They’re taught to report anything from a suspicious tourist video-recording a bridge to the theft of potential bomb-making materials. Even suspicious note-taking warrants their scrutiny.

Most TLOs already work as firefighters or federal employees, though our state Department of Homeland Security source says some civilians have joined rank in the Phoenix area. In contradiction to that, Phoenix Fire Captain Rick Salyers, who runs Arizona's TLO program, says Arizona has not trained a single civilian TLO.

Though the fact that TLOs are so prominently in our midst was news to us, the program has been in progress long enough here to train 250 of the government snoops.

This according to our Homeland Security source, a TLO himself. He asked to be unnamed because he isn't authorized to speak on the topic and doesn’t want to get a verbal whipping from Homeland Security's Phoenix media officer, who’s currently out of town.

Captain Salyers confirmed the 250 figure and added that "We have not trained civilians as TLO's in Arizona. What we have trained are law enforcement brethren, firefighters, military and those working for law enforcement agencies." Salyers points curious conspiracy theorists to this Web site and to this one.

Doubtless, the infiltration of Big Brother down to meter-readers, firefighters and potentially even cable guys will have civil libertarians crying 1984!

If only George Orwell could've jumped into H.G. Wells' time machine and traveled to the next century to see that his vision of future government control was 12 or 14 years too early (at least in the Western World).

Then again, many may be relieved to know that TLO informants are out there keeping an eye on anyone who might be pouring toxic chemicals into a canal or looking too closely at the steel joints at Chase Field.

Salyers puts it this way. "We’re not here to spy on the normal citizen. But we can’t trip over a case of dynamite, and not report that," he says.

In Arizona, TLO-supplied intelligence goes to the state “intelligence fusion center.” Fusion centers are new cross-agency intelligence offices federally mandated in the wake of 9/11. Arizona, California and Colorado led the way in building fusion centers, so they also have the jump in training TLOs.

According to the Arizona Department of Homeland Security’s Web site, the state's intelligence fusion center was dedicated by Governor Janet Napolitano in 2004 and named the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC).

So leave the light on tonight. Maybe an unidentified TLO will be reading your meter.

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