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Activists want promise they won’t be spied on again

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Activists targeted with surveillance by a private security contractor want governor-elect Tom Corbett to promise not to spy on them.

The state had previously hired a Philadelphia-based intelligence company to provide information in the name of protecting state infrastructure. The company turned over details about public gatherings attended by opponents of natural gas drilling, animal rights groups and peace activists.

On Wednesday, a group of those activists called on Corbett to issue an executive order forbidding any surveillance of activists.

But Corbett says he has no plans to do so.

“Particularly when it comes to homeland security when it comes to law enforcement I think I have a pretty good handle on some of the things there,” Corbett said.

The state Office of Homeland Security paid the non-profit Institute of Terrorism Research and Response more than $100,000 to provide updates on infrastructure threats three times a week.

Bob Smith, with the Brandywine Peace Community, has conducted anti-war demonstrations for more than 30 years. He said the FBI and the state police have spied on him before, but this time was different.

“This whole phenomenon of private, for-profit security agencies, billions of dollars appropriated for it since 911 is something that people need to be aware of, need to be alarmed about and it needs to stop,” said Smith.

Governor Rendell apologized for the surveillance, and ended the contract with the company.

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