The Fruits of Excessive Fear Over Terrorism - PA Gov is ‘Appalled’
Linked is an AP story that broke today about an abuse of power that some had feared would happen in the reaction to terrorism. Fortunately in this case the PA Governor is going to right this wrong:
An embarrassed Gov. Ed Rendell apologized Tuesday to groups whose peaceful protests or events, from an animal rights demonstration to a gay and lesbian festival, were the subject of regular anti-terrorism bulletins being distributed by his homeland security director.
Rendell said that the information was useless to law enforcement agencies and that distributing it was tantamount to trampling on constitutional rights. Bulletins also went to members of Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry because of several acts of vandalism at drilling sites.
A Philadelphia rally organized by a nonprofit group to support Rendell’s push for higher spending on public schools even made a bulletin, as did a protest at a couple of Rendell news conferences in recent weeks as he pressed for a tax on the natural gas industry.
“This is ludicrous. This is absolutely ludicrous,” Rendell said. “And I apologize to any of the groups who had this information disseminated about their activities. They have the right to protest.”
Rendell said he was “deeply embarrassed,” and said the fact that the state was paying for such rudimentary information was “stunning.”
Rendell said he ordered an end to the $125,000 contract with the Philadelphia-based organization, the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, that supplied the information, but said he was not firing his homeland security director, James Powers.
The 12-page bulletin included a list of municipal zoning hearings on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling, a forestry industry conference and a screening of the documentary “Gasland” as events likely to be attended by anti-drilling activists.
Aside from the drilling-related events, the bulletin mentioned other potential security concerns that it said could involve “anarchists and Black Power radicals.”
It listed demonstrations by anti-war groups, deportation protesters in Philadelphia, mountaintop removal mining protesters in West Virginia and an animal rights protest at a Montgomery County rodeo.
It also included “Burn the Confederate Flag Day,” the Jewish high holidays and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as potential sources of risk. […]
Got all that? Everything from protesting drilling to gay and lesbian festivals to “Burn the Confederate Flag Day” made the list of possible sources of suspicious activity.
Who generated these reports? A firm called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR). I’ve not had time to try and research the company thoroughly to see what kind of connections it has, but in this case in PA clearly ITRR was putting ideology ahead of analysis.
The person responsible for the unit which produces these ITRR reports is a Mr. Mike Perelman, who is not mentioned in the above AP article but is in the Harrisburg PA newspaper article:
Mike Perelman, codirector of ITRR, would not say if his firm was tracking anti-drilling activists.
“We have a very strict policy that we don’t discuss client matters, period,” said Perelman. “We respect the confidential relationship between us and the client.”
So, who else are Mr. Perelman’s clients? Why look, it’s the US government. The Bush administration EPA used him:
Key speakers at the 2008 conference will include:
· Aaron Richman, former Israeli police captain, on counter-terror techniques.
· Thomas Dunne, EPA associate administrator of homeland security.
· Mike Perelman, Institute of Terrorism Research & Response, on unlawful tactics used by eco-terrorists and anarchists.
So Mr. Perelman seems to be a specialist in “eco-terrorists”. I wonder if he considers those who want to protest gas and oil drilling “eco-terrorists”?
I don’t know if the current Administration is still using Perelman and ITRR, but if they are I hope they investigate the products carefully and determine if Perelman is giving the government useful intelligence or just ideological warfare.