In 2002, the White House created Operation TIPS, encouraging citizens to report suspicious activity in the wake of 9/11. As Amitai Etzioni in USA Today succinctly put it, the program "enraged the critics, the media and a large segment of the public. Americans feared that every mail carrier, UPS driver and meter reader would be peeking into their living rooms and that, in effect, we were being asked to spy on one another. TIPS was killed by Congress."
Seven years later, the White House once again called on Americans to report anything "fishy" to the government:
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there .... These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com.
You can see the difference, of course.
In 2002, lives were at stake, and we were looking for terrorists, so naturally a volunteer network to report them was condemned as creating a "society of snitches" by folks like the Center for Constitutional Rights.
In 2009, though, it's the President's health care initiative that's at stake, for crying out loud, and we're looking for dissenters, so of course we need a volunteer network to report them straight to the White House.
Don't tell me that's a double standard.
I don't want to have to report you.