Activists say Pa. wasted money spying on them

    Governor Ed Rendell apologized for the Pennsylvania’s homeland security office hiring a outside contractor who kept tabs on peace activists and opponents of natural gas drilling.

    Environmental activists critical of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania say the use of tax dollars to monitor their activity is a waste of money. Governor Rendell apologized to the groups this week after leaked documents revealed that the state office of Homeland Security monitored their activities with the help of a private contractor.

    The state gave a year-long contract to the Philadelphia based Institute for Terrorism Research and Response. The $125,000 contract is part of a federal program to monitor threats to critical infrastructure. The website of the organization describes itself as an American-Israeli non-profit with expertise in suicide bombings, weapons of mass destruction and “Israeli style training.”

    An example of their work monitoring activists could be glimpsed in a recent Pennsylvania Intelligence Bulletin, which listed several public meetings and film showings that gas-drilling opponents might attend. And it warned of potential threats to the industry.

    Austin Kelly helped organize the Philadelphia showing of the anti-gas drilling documentary Gasland.

    “I was shocked that they were linking us with terrorists and portraying us as a threat to public safety when all we were trying to do is educate our neighbors and our community about a very important issue that should be of concern to all of us.”

    Governor Rendell apologized to activists like Kelly and said he would terminate the contract with the Institute for Terrorism Research and Response.

    A statement issued by The Institute says it’s mission is to identify and analyze information that can be leveraged to prevent injury, loss of life and destruction of property.

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