Please assist us in keeping the information provided in the PIB [Pennsylvania Intelligence Bulletin] to those having a valid need-to-know; it should only be disseminated via closed communications systems. Thanks for your support. We want to continue providing this support to the Marcellus Shale Formation natural gas stakeholders while not feeding those groups fomenting dissent against those same companies.
James F. Powers, Jr. | Director
Office of Homeland Security
Excerpt from an email by Jim Powers, former director of Pennsylvania's Office of Homeland Security mistakenly sent to a critic of gas drilling in Pennsylvania.
The "support" Powers was referring to was intelligence information provided by the Institute for Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR), a private Philadelphia/Jerusalem based company that received a $103,000 no-bid contract from the PA Office of Homeland Security. ITRR boasts that its "Analyst team is comprised of the leading experts in terrorism and international security," and that "Intelligence is gathered by multi-language and Arab native-language who have previously served in security and armed forces positions in the war on international and domestic terror."
However, the "intelligence" provided to Homeland Security in Pennsylvania by ITRR was comprised almost exclusively of reports on activities and events organized by political (from anti-tax Tea Party groups to anti-war organizers), environmental, LGBTQ and animal rights activists who challenged the government and private sector interests.
Even though the Pennsylvania state legislature, after initial outrage, seems content to consider this an isolated incident (James Powers resigned and Governor Ed Rendell allowed ITRR's contract to expire) and move on with business as usual, this is just a symptom of a larger issue of a failed and dangerous intelligence network in the United States. OpEdNews.com will be reporting more on these abuses in future issues.
In response to this assault on first amendment rights and in the shadow of recent FBI raids of activists in the Twin Cities and Chicago, the ACLU along with targeted activists joined forces in a town hall titled the "War on Dissent." OpEdNews covered this event held in Philadelphia earlier this week.
The videos below include must-see presentations by Mary Catherine Roper, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania; Paul Hetznecker, a Philadelphia civil rights attorney; Michael German, former FBI agent now with the ACLU Policy Counsel; and Jess Sundin, one of the targets of the recent FBI raids on activists in the Midwest. The forum was moderated by activist and attorney, Michael Coard.
Mary Catherine Roper: "If you read the bulletins from the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security all of which are on the Internet, very interesting reading in your free time, what you see is not a collection of information about threats from people who threaten violence or property damage, what you see is a wholesale attack on the whole concept of dissent."
Paul Hetznecker: "The danger is the label "communist" in the 1950s is now "terrorist." So, if you can be labeled a terrorist by a private think tank and that think tank can push the federal government into an investigation, where does that leave you if you're simply opposing gas drilling in Pennsylvania and the destruction of pristine wilderness in our state? Where does that leave you? It leaves you on a watch list, it leaves you labeled as a terrorist, it leaves you labeled as someone to be watched and afraid of..."
"Democracy is based on not a dead scroll that says you have the right to free speech. It's a dead paper, it has no meaning. It only has meaning in the exercise of those rights, everyday, all the time...Don't be afraid, don't be chilled by the activities of this organization or the state police or the FBI, be emboldened by the fact that they threatened your privacy interests and your freedom. If you believe that freedom, in this country, is still alive, it's alive and it's in your hands, I'd ask that you exercise it."