Who Is Calm?
Gov. Apologizes for Terror Bulletins on Protests
Homeland Security Director for Pa. Gov't Distributed Regular Anti-Terror Reports about Peaceful Groups, Events
By Marc Levy
September 14, 2010
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.
Rendell said he learned of the matter from a story in the Patriot-News of Harrisburg on Tuesday morning, and was appalled that aides did not notify him before inking the contract a year ago.
"I think I would have said 'no' to this contract before we ever spent a dime and before we sent out any information that was wrong and violative of, in my judgment, the constitution," Rendell said.
Mike Perelman, a co-director of the institute, would not respond to questions about the contract or the bulletins, saying by telephone Tuesday that he does not discuss client matters.
Rendell said the bulletin was being used - wrongly - as a way to satisfy a federal requirement to protect "critical infrastructure" and notify law enforcement of credible information about real threats.
He said he has asked several top aides, including state police Commissioner Frank Pawlowski, to come up with a way to satisfy the requirement.
Powers did not respond to interview requests Tuesday.
The bulletins, which went out multiple times a week, were not intended for public distribution.
But someone who received the Aug. 30 bulletin gave a copy to Virginia Cody, a retired Air Force officer who lives in Factoryville and is concerned about the rapid expansion of Marcellus Shale drilling in northeastern Pennsylvania.
"The idea that my government thinks that what I'm doing is worthy of anti-terrorism interest goes against everything I stand for and everything I ever stood for," Cody, 54, said.
Cody gave the document to a friend, who posted it on an online forum largely read by drilling opponents in the area, Cody said. She would not say who gave her the bulletin, just that the person works for a private company and was an intended recipient of it.
After it was posted online, Powers sent Cody an e-mail saying that the bulletin was intended for owners, operators and security personnel associated with the state's "critical infrastructure and key resources."
He closed by saying, "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."
Rendell: "Deeply embarrassed" over spying on peaceful groups
By Laura Rozen
September 14, 2010
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell apologized Tuesday to groups whose entirely lawful events were the subject of regular anti-terrorism reports provided by a Philadelphia-based Israeli-American outfit to state law enforcement agencies, the AP reports:
"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. ....
"This is 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. ..."
Here's a link to the firm, which has contracts with several other law enforcement agencies across the country.
A 2008 Jewish News of Greater Phoenix article promoted on the firm's website says: "ITRR, which has offices in Jerusalem and Philadelphia, was founded in 2004 by co-directors Michael Perelman and Aaron Richman to provide counterterrorism training, education and security expertise in dealing with terror threats such as weapons of mass destruction and suicide bombings to corporate and government entities.
Seminars are conducted either in Israel or in the United States. In addition to offering training primarily to American first responders, ITRR also provides clients with international intelligence information."
A further article on the firm's website, dated September 2008, states that all of the intelligence information the firm collects in the United States is sent for analysis to Israel. "All of the information ITRR's staff creates is sent to its monitoring center in Jerusalem, where it is analyzed and verified with other local sources."
See this on the firm's "actionable intelligence" products, which seem to be at issue in Pennsylvania's homeland security contracts.
"Actionable Intelligence enables security professionals to plan for and monitor future events that may be a threat to assets and/or personnel," the firm states. "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."
ITRR co-founder Aaron Richman is an Israeli security consultant who previously was an Israeli police commander in Jerusalem, his bio says.
Co-founder Mike Perelman's bio says he graduated from Iowa Wesleyan University in 1971 and then lists nothing for 35 years until his work for ITRR began in 2004.
Between former Rep. Curt Weldon and the late Jack Murtha and former governor and first Department of Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, Pennsylvania seems uniquely active as a homeland security contractor cash cow.
(H/T Justin Elliott.)
Update: More questions from Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields about how ITRR's contract from Pennsylvania DHS came about:
"Mr. Shields said he was up into the wee hours of the morning speaking with gas opponents about the intelligence-gathering program, including some who wondered whether they're on some kind of enemies list.
"Am I on the list?" said Mr. Shields, who also wondered whether the institute's representatives photographed or videotaped him at Frick Park during a recent airing of an anti-drilling documentary.
He noted that Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania governor and the nation's first homeland security secretary, is now an adviser to a Marcellus Shale trade group."
Mr. Shields said the state should consider appointing a special counsel to probe who authorized the program and why. He said he'll do some legwork, such as examining the institute's tax documents, himself.
The institute is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit group."
ITRR's website terrorresponse.org is registered by Mike Perelman of the Perelman Security Group and was administered by the Gilman Group, of Glen Rock, Pa (no connection to the former Congressman Ben Gilman group in D.C.).
A person with the Gilman Group, the Pennsylvania web design firm, told me he developed the website 7 or 8 years ago for ITRR, but ITRR later went with a different web firm.
He said Mike Perelman is a former police captain with the York County (Pennsylvania) Police Department.
Update II: Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Daniel Rubin writes to point out that Rendell shouldn't be shocked about the revelations, as he wrote about the state's contract with ITRR and some of its questionable targets for actionable intelligence reports back in July.
Rendell's office releases content of all bulletins on planned protests
By Joelle Farrell and John P. Martin
September 18, 2010
PA Intelligence Bulletins
Intelligence bulletins distributed by the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security (POHS) since it began in October 2009 subscribing to the service provided by the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR).
Please Note: When POHS began receiving bulletins from ITRR in October 2009, it distributed them as received. Beginning in July 2010, POHS began using ITRR reports to create its own bulletin.
(137 PDF Documents)
One bulletin from Harrisburg warned that a protest over use of carriage horses in Philadelphia could turn into "a fertile recruiting or meeting ground" for militant animal-rights activists.
Another said convicted police killer Mumia Abu-Jamal's supporters might turn desperate and "attack perceived enemies" after a prosecutor vowed to seek his execution.
And Halloween might bring "rowdy behavior" from eco-activists in masks and costumes at a lunchtime rally outside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Philadelphia office.
Those and other warnings about domestic political groups - ranging from antinuclear protesters to tea-party activists - can be found all through 137 state-issued intelligence bulletins that Gov. Rendell's office released Friday amid continuing criticism of the program that produced the bulletins.
The bulletins, issued to police, public officials, and commercial interests three times a week since October, were prepared by a private contractor that the state Office of Homeland Security hired last year for $103,000 without competitive bidding. Much of their content - such as announcements of protest events - was readily available through Internet searches.
The contractor the state hired, the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, lists offices in Philadelphia, Washington, and Jerusalem. The state Homeland Security Office in turn disseminated the information to a yet-undisclosed list of police, elected officials, and others in the private sector, Rendell spokesman Gary Tuma said.
Rendell said Tuesday that the contract would be terminated next month when it comes up for renewal. The state still receives alerts from the institute, but none has been disseminated since Monday, Tuma said.
At the center of the controversy is an e-mail written by the director of the state Homeland Security Office that seemed to take sides in the Marcellus Shale gas-drilling debate.
"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. wrote in a Sept. 5 e-mail to Virginia Cody, an antidrilling activist in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Cody said Friday she believed the e-mail had been sent to her unintentionally.
Powers declined Friday to respond to requests for an interview.
In a form signed by Powers and other state officials last year, his office explained the need to hire the security firm without competitive bidding. Officials said they had done an exhaustive search over three years and determined that "outside the FBI and CIA, there exists no other service of this kind."
The officials warned of the consequences of not having the bulletins the contractor would provide.
"Without this information, the ability to protect commonwealth assets and resources while simultaneously alerting/notifying private sector owners/operators of the potential and/or credible threats/warnings is severely hindered," they wrote.
Powers asked that the order be processed immediately so officials could get up to speed about protests planned for last fall's G-20 international summit in Pittsburgh.
Mary Catherine Roper, a staff lawyer at the Philadelphia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Friday that Powers should be fired.
"They are using these bulletins to support the Marcellus Shale gas industry against the people who oppose this industry, and that is appalling," Roper said. "They shouldn't be taking sides in a public debate over where and under what circumstances drilling should be taking place. That is not the role of our public-safety agencies."
Michael Perelman, a former York, Pa., police officer who is one of two directors of the company, said in a statement Friday: "The Institute of Terrorism Research and Response tracks events, giving law enforcement a heads-up for the potential of disorder as our bulletins provided to the [state] clearly show . . . [and] does not follow people, conduct surveillance, photograph, or record individuals."
Rendell has convened a task force to review the state's contract with the firm and determine what security tasks may be redundant with what state or federal authorities provide.
The bulletins list protests and parades as well as public meetings where controversial issues were expected to draw large crowds. They also note national and international terrorism threat alerts from government agencies, even if Pennsylvania was not specifically mentioned as a possible target of such threats.
Bulletins highlighted antiwar demonstrations by West Chester University students, gatherings of antiabortion advocates, and the protests by peace activists who have become a fixture outside the premises of defense contractor Lockheed Martin in King of Prussia.
"When their focus is not directed at Lockheed itself, protesters will likely gather at the traffic light on the corner of Mall and Goddard to wave signs at cars," the bulletin said. Still, it warned that the event could draw "radical protesters from the ranks of local communist and/or anarchist movements."
Two bulletins late last year included warnings about tea-party activists - one before a march in Harrisburg, the other before anti-immigration rallies in Hazleton and Valley Forge. "Analysts have collected disparate communications among individual white nationalists expressing an affinity for the tea-party ideology and a willingness to join the protest," the bulletin said.
Opponents of drilling in the natural-gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation appear regularly in the bulletins, with listings of meetings where activists were expected to show up.
An Aug. 9 bulletin, for example, called attention to an event in the northeast corner of the state - a picnic at Montrose High School sponsored by one of the drilling companies.
"Of note is that the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition has released a special communication harshly ridiculing and criticizing this event," analysts wrote.
Cody said she and seven other antidrilling activists attended the picnic and set up a table with literature.
She ridiculed the bulletins. "Yes, I'm such a dangerous person," she said Friday. "I'm a 54-year-old woman who's making eggplant parmesan right now."
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