Marcellus Shale Protesters Terror List Subject Of Senate Hearing, Homeland Director Resigns
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee this week held a hearing on a contractor for the state Office of Homeland Security adding Marcellus Shale protesters to a terrorist watch list.
Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), Majority Chair of the Committee, said as more information comes to light, state actions in this area has become more of a concern.
"People were targeted for no reason other than they were exercising their fundamental rights of free speech and assembly. Beyond that, there seems no justification for sharing this kind of information with the private businesses who received it," Sen. Baker stated.
"News reports are indicating that key administration officials had the chance to change this or put a stop to it months ago. But the program would still be running if someone had not blown the whistle. Citizens want to know why this was allowed to continue, and they deserve answers. This is too serious a matter to trust to an in-house inquiry alone," she pointed out.
In a press conference Friday, the Governor announced the resignation of Colonel James Powers, Director of the PA Office of Homeland Security, by mutual agreement. Powers was the official responsible for issuing and managing the contract listing Marcellus Shale protesters and others on a list of possible terrorist threats.
Sen. Baker had this to say in response to the resignation, "Given the troubling revelations about the security contract and his continuing defense of it, his position was untenable. So his decision to resign is the right one. His departure opens the door to some badly needed changes, but restoring credibility to the operation now looks to be a monumental task."
The Committee heard testimony from a variety of witnesses.
Virginia Cody, a Wyoming County resident targeted on the list, said she no longer feels safe in her own home and worries her telephone conversations are being monitored. "For exercising my right to free speech, a dossier on me may now be secreted in the halls of Israeli intelligence," she said.
General Robert French, Director of the PA Emergency Management Agency, said he issued the contract to the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response which compiled the information on terror threats that was forwarded to the State Police, local officials and the natural gas industry. He called it an "error in judgment."
Colonel James Powers, Director of the PA Office of Homeland Security, said he apologized to the individuals and groups on the list who felt their constitutional rights were infringed, but added the contractor fulfilled the letter of the contract.
Frank Pawlowski, PA State Police Commissioner, expressed significant concerns about the quality of the work done by the contractor highlighting comments by the FBI calling the work amateurish and uncorroborated and an improper dissemination of information.
Sen. Baker said she was "stunned."
Michael Perelman, Co-Director of ITRR, offered a brief history of the company and its operations noting they have been active since July 2004 operating in the United States and Israel.Other testimony was submitted to the Committee by David Kairys and Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU and Scott Portzline at Security Consultant to Three Mile Island Alert.
Video of the hearing and testimony are available at the Committee's webpage.
Sen. Lawrence Farnese (D-Philadelphia) serves as Minority Chair of the Committee.
NewsClips: State Homeland Security Chief Powers Resigns
State Police: Terror Bulletins Sent Them On Wild Goose Chases
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