PHILADELPHIA - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed a Right to Know request asking for all records related to the anti-terrorism bulletins circulated by the state Office of Homeland Security that included information about activists involved in lawful protests. The ACLU is also calling for a full investigation by an independent party.
"The Pennsylvania surveillance program was based on the un-American notion that dissent equals danger," said Witold Walczak, the ACLU of Pennsylvania's Legal Director. "This is an egregious abuse of governmental power and a full, independent investigation needs to be launched to determine who was spied on, what other investigations of these groups were undertaken, and who outside of law enforcement was given the intelligence bulletins."
In its Right to Know request, filed with the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security (OHS) and the Pennsylvania State Police, the ACLU-PA asked for agreements between the Institute for Terrorism Research and Response and state agencies, agreements between other private agencies and the state to provide surveillance and intelligence information about terrorism threats, the source of funds paid to ITRR or other private parties engaged in surveillance, and the identities of all persons or entities who received all or parts of the Pennsylvania Intelligence Bulletins.
The ACLU-PA has also posted Right to Know templates on its website that individuals and organizations who may have been targeted can use to obtain copies of any relevant materials from the state Office of Homeland Security and the state police. The ACLU-PA will provide assistance to anyone who encounters difficulties during the process.
The ACLU-PA is also now representing an anti-Marcellus Shale drilling activist, Virginia Cody, who obtained a copy of one of the ITRR bulletins and circulated it to her fellow activists. Office of Homeland Security head James Powers sent Ms. Cody an e-mail, mistakenly believing she was pro-drilling, which said, "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."
"It's disturbing that the Office of Homeland Security is s run by a man who apparently believes that people in this country need a permit to publicly criticize the government or industry and who feels it is more important to protect industry than the constitutional right to free speech," said Walczak. Powers was quoted in the Harrisburg Patriot-News last week as saying that anti-drilling activists' failure to get a permit before speaking at public meetings was "a violation of the law" that justified the surveillance.
Copies of the ACLU's Right to Know requests to the Office of Homeland Security and the Pennsylvania state police are available here: