Attention, Pennsylvania Has Been Monitoring You
- News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
October 6, 2010
Attention Left, Liberal and Radical Groups
Pennsylvania Has Been Monitoring You!
By BILL QUIGLEY and RACHEL MEEROPOL
Thank you, Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR), for
reminding us how many bad-ass, dedicated, and creative groups we count
as allies in our efforts to create a more just world!
Our friends at MoveON.org, the Ruckus Society, Immokalee Workers, the
new SDS, Jobs with Justice, the Brandywine Peace Community, ANSWER,
PETA, Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty, MOVE, The Yes Men, Poor People’s
Economic Human Rights Campaign, Climate Ground Zero, the Rainforest
Action Network, pro-Palestinian Groups, Puerto Rican nationalists,
prisoners’ rights organizations, citizen conservation groups, and
immigration activists opposing Arizona’s crazy attempts to criminalize
all non-citizens should know – Pennsylvania has been monitoring you.
Just over a month ago, ProPublica broke the story that Pennsylvania’s
Office of Homeland Security contracted with the Institute of Terrorism
Research and Response (ITRR), a private Israeli-based company, to assess
terrorist threats impacting law enforcement priorities in Pennsylvania.
For almost a year, ITTR provided bi-weekly intelligence briefings to
Pennsylvania Homeland Security which focused in equal part on “jihadist”
communications and trainings throughout the world, and also social
justice organizing and protests across the country.
Pennsylvania Homeland Security, in turn, distributed this information to
800 federal, local and state law enforcement agencies, along with
“relevant stakeholders” like local businesses. Information provided
included the political views and movement building strategies of
hundreds of law-abiding groups and individuals.
The targets of ITTR are not just Pennsylvania groups but also a
veritable who’s who of left and liberal groups, including MoveON.org,
the Ruckus Society, Immokalee Workers, the new SDS, Jobs with Justice,
the Brandywine Peace Community, ANSWER, PETA, Stop Huntington Animal
Cruelty, MOVE, The Yes Men, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights
Campaign, Climate Ground Zero, the Rainforest Action Network,
pro-Palestinian Groups, Puerto Rican nationalists, prisoners’ rights
organizations, citizen conservation groups, and immigration activists
opposing Arizona’s crazy attempts to criminalize all non-citizens.
In the scandal that followed PA Governor Rendell disavowed ITRR’s focus
on First Amendment protected activity, and promised to end the contract.
Pennsylvania State Homeland Security Director Ed Powers resigned. And
in response to significant public pressure, OHS published the
hundred-odd intelligence bulletins produced by ITTR over the last year
on its website. These bulletins are posted on the home page of the
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency
As lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights, many of these groups
are longtime friends and allies.
Indeed, even our organization, CCR, itself gets a mention, as
“Pennsylvania Actionable Intelligence Bulletin No. 106” includes a
lengthy discussion of an ALF press release reminding activists that:
“Nobody Talks, Everybody Walks” and suggesting as further reading CCR’s
know-your-rights pamphlet, “If an Agent Knocks.”
CCR is succinctly described as “a veteran legal advocacy organization
devoted to a plethora of radical causes.” Well said!
But we shouldn’t joke too much.
While ITTR frequently acknowledges that the groups whose first amendment
actions it has so closely monitored have no history of violence or
illegality, over and over they warn law enforcement of the risk of
violence and property destruction that accompanies protest.
Bulletin No. 6, for example, provides the details of an anti-war protest
at Lockheed Martin. “TAM-C analysis have found no indication that this
protest will be disorderly” ITRR reports, but “Lockheed Martin is an
[sic] key commercial-resource … The possibility exists that the
high-profile nature of the target will attract radical protestors from
the ranks of local Communist and/or Anarchist movements.” Similarly, a
Lancaster protest against the desecration of Native American Graves
appears to be a “peaceful protest designed to conform to legal norms”
but, “ITRR analysts note the small, but present, risk that the
above-mentioned issue may be taken up by more radical elements,
potentially including anarchists or lone-wolf Native American rights
If there is one central theme to be taken from the bulletins, it is
this: dangerous anarchists are everywhere, and even the most peaceful
protest may turn violent.
ITTR provides not just dates and times, but “strategic analysis.” For
example, the November 20, 2009 Bulletin includes a lengthy and detailed
account entitled “the Return of Campus Activism.” Students everywhere
are organizing against increases in tuition, we are told. Protests like
one at UC Davis, which included placards stating “Education only for the
rich” are not “spontaneous,” but rather are “part of an international
Anarchist movement that has been coordinated through Internet postings.”
If “student are coordinating their activities” ITTR ominously
concludes, “it behooves law enforcement personnel from both the campus
environment and civil authorities … to start working on their
Another exceptionally creepy bulletin includes a segment entitled “West
Chester Activists Hope to ‘Build Momentum’” recounting an anti-war
activist group’s attempts to mobilize people to attend anti-war
demonstrations in DC. ITRR recounts “thus far, the group has: lectured
to college students, taken part in a protest organized by the West
Chester University branch of Students for a Democratic Society in
opposition to the troop surge in Afghanistan … and some members have
helped put out a radical newsletter.” Don’t worry: “ITRR is monitoring
anti-war activist communications for additional planning related to
The extent of the “monitoring” here is far from clear. Much of ITRR’s
information clearly comes from organizations’ own websites and press
materials, but the bulletins are laced with more sinister references to
“intercepted internal communications.”
And not just groups are named, there are some references to individuals
too, including an inexplicably detailed bio and discussion of the
political views of the newly hired Executive Director of Rainforest
The Bulletins are so outrageous as to be almost comical, but the upshot
is not funny.
This is not an isolated incident. While ITRR claims to have no other
governmental contracts, it seems clear that they generally perform just
this type of surveillance and monitoring of protest groups for
corporations who fear the impact of speech and organizing on their
bottom lines. This explains the constant rants regarding the potential
dangerousness of animal rights and environmental activists: when
successful, such groups force corporations to internalize the harm they
cause to the environment and to the communities who stand in their way.
And yes, this contract may end shortly, but what has happened to the
hundreds of bulletins already distributed to law enforcement across the
There is a direct negative effect of consistently teaching law
enforcement that protestors pose national security risks has real
effects on policing and on enforcement respect for lawful protest.
Since 9-11 we have seen increased hurdles to dissent in the US. Every
protest now not only brings out local cops but also is a potential
terrorist event monitored by Joint Terrorism Task Force personnel.
These folks do not have any real terrorists to monitor so they are going
after First Amendment protected activities of freedom to assemble and
freedom of speech.
For an example, we need look no further than the Office of the Inspector
General report released last month, detailing what happens when an FBI
agent has a slow day. It is titled A Review of the FBI’s Investigations
of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups, Office of the Inspector General,
Sept. 2010. Available online at
Apparently the FBI has so little work to do they occasionally tell new
agents something like “you might as well go watch the crowd at a
protest, and hey, while you are there, be sure to photograph any folks
who look Middle-Eastern.” It is also noteworthy that this report only
discusses FBI surveillance which people outside the FBI have documented.
Reflect as well, on the recent series of FBI raids and grand jury
subpoenas issued to over a dozen anti-war and anti-imperialism
activists. Going to Palestine or Colombia for a solidarity trip and
protesting at the RNC? Well, our country has FBI agents and Joint
Terrorism Task Force people to investigate you.
Our advice to you: take a look at the bulletins for yourself. If you or
your group is named, make a stink about it. Find out if your local law
enforcement offices have received the information, and demand they
destroy it. And remember, at least you’re in good company.
Bill Quigley and Rachel Meeropol are attorneys working with the Center
for Constitutional Rights. You can reach Bill at quigley77@...
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News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
in charge on this island?
Professor: Why, no one.
Skipper: No one?
Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
-- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"