FAQ :: What is the Highway Watch program?

Highway Watch is a program the Department of Homeland Security started to create a nation-wide force of more than 400,000 men and women to spot terrorists.

In 2004 the federal government gave $19.3 million to the American Trucking Associations to recruit a volunteer “army.” The DHS signed up 10,000 truckers to become spies. It quickly added tollbooth workers, rest-stop employees and construction crews.

Members of Highway Watch are given a secret toll-free number to report any suspicious behavior–people taking pictures of bridges, for example, or passengers handling heavy backpacks with unusual care. Highway Watch received an additional $22 million in 2005. The Department of Homeland Security also launched Port Watch, River Watch and Transit Watch.

The Highway Watch website, which was shut down in 2008 along with the secret toll-free number, boasted that the program is open to “an elite core [sic] of truck drivers who must have clean driving and employment records. The truth is their records were not vetted by the American Trucking Associations. “It could be infiltrated,” said Dawn Apple, Highway Watch’s director of training and recruitment.

States and cities have started their own programs. Thousands of doormen and building superintendents in New York City have been trained to watch out for strange trucks parked near buildings and tenants who move in without furniture. Other states that still have their own Highway Watch programs are Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and New Jersey. [1]

[1] Ripley, Amanda. “Eyes And Ears Of The Nation.” 6.27.2004. www.time. com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101040705-658321-1,00.html