Pennsylvania’s Gov. Ed Rendell insists he had no idea the state’s Homeland Security department was paying a third-party company to track activists in the state, ranging from animal rights supporters to, yes, the queers. Not that he’s going to fire James Powers, the guy in charge.
Something called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response earned $125,000 in taxpayer funds to go all big brother on you, without the Showtime behind-the-scenes feed. And while it may have violated your constitutional rights, it’s not like it even helped keep the state safer.
Rendell, who claimed he’d just learned about the practice, said Tuesday that the information was useless to law enforcement agencies and that distributing it was tantamount to trampling on constitutional rights. In recent weeks, several acts of vandalism at drilling sites spurred the inclusion of events likely to be attended by environmentalists and the bulletins began going to representatives of Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry.
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 drilling protests at a couple of Rendell’s news conferences this month as he toured the state to boost support for a tax on the natural gas industry.
“I am deeply embarrassed and I apologize to any of the groups who had this information disseminated on their right to peacefully protest,” Rendell said at an evening Capitol news conference. Rendell called the practice “ludicrous” and said the fact that the state was paying for such rudimentary information was “stunning.”
So what the heck was this company charged with doing?
[T]he company passed on alerts about legitimate protests – and the state Homeland Security Office then disseminated them in an intelligence bulletin that it publishes three times a week. The bulletin included information about a PrideFest by gays and lesbians; a rally that supported his administration’s education policy; and an anti-BP candlelight vigil. “Tell me, what critical infrastructure does the gay and lesbian PrideFest threaten?” Rendell asked. “How in the Lord’s name can we consider them to be terrorists?”
Well some of them are radical homosexuals.