WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. government has blown nearly $6 million on an experimental “anti-terrorism” program in New Jersey that encourages the public to send tips via text message from their cellular phones.
Since it was launched in mid-2011, the federally-funded “Text Against Terror” project has produced no credible tips, according to a local newspaper report that reveals the feds have poured $5.8 million into the initiative. Police in New Jersey claim 307 tips have been texted so far and that includes people “testing the system.”
Of the 307 text messages, 71 “referred to something regarding homeland security,” according to the New Jersey police chief quoted in the story. The majority of the 71 texts were investigated, the chief says, and “eliminated as a cause for concern.” In other words, the costly program, funded with a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public awareness grant, is a cash cow that’s accomplished nothing.
The taxpayer dollars have paid for advertising time on local radio and television as well as fliers and ads on buses and trains. Other expenses include reserving a domain for unlimited texting capability. In a “rare instance” when a tip has required a follow-up, the New Jersey police chief says a state Joint Terrorism Task Force is available to get the job done. It includes state police, New Jersey’s transit and port authority police and the FBI.
News of this disturbing waste of public funds for an ineffective homeland security program comes on the heels of a U.S. Senate report blasting a huge post-9/11 counterterrorism program that’s received north of $300 million but hasn’t provided any useful intelligence. Even scarier is that DHS has covered up the mess from both Congress and the public, according to the bi-partisan investigators who conducted the lengthy probe.
The inept domestic counterterrorism program features fusion centers that are supposed to share terrorism-related information between state, local and federal officials. But nine years and more than $300 million later, the national centers have failed to provide any valuable information, according to Senate investigators.
Instead they have forwarded “intelligence of uneven quality – oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.” A review of more than a year of fusion center reports nationwide determined that they were irrelevant, useless or inappropriate.
None uncovered any terrorist threats nor did they contribute to the disruption of an active terrorist plot, the Senate report says. In fact, DHS officials acknowledged that the information produced by the fusion centers was “predominantly useless.” One branch chief actually said “a bunch of crap is coming through.” Evidently, the same thing applies to the costly New Jersey text experiment.