BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: When the '60s were over and the files of that era were finally thrown open, we learned about all kinds of domestic surveillance, some of it illegal, on Americans who pose zero threat to our democracy or our way of life. And it has apparently happened again. It's a sign of our times that the state of Pennsylvania has its own office of homeland security, and the governor of Pennsylvania is reacting with shock and anger that they have been found to be tracking legitimate protest groups that pose no danger to public safety. Our justice correspondent Pete Williams is in Philadelphia tonight. Pete, good evening.
PETE WILLIAMS reporting: Brian, this has turned out to be a big embarrassment for Pennsylvania, and some of those groups targeted for intelligence gathering by the state are already talking about suing. Keep an eye out, warns a Pennsylvania state intelligence bulletin, for the screening of movie critical of natural gas drilling.
P. WILLIAMS: The showing of the movie " Gasland" was among events on a list called "dates of interest" in an official intelligence bulletin from the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security sent to local law enforcement statewide. But the discovery that the state was keeping tabs on a long list of peaceful groups stunned Pennsylvania's governor, who ordered an immediate stop to it.
Governor ED RENDELL (Democrat, Pennsylvania): The fact that they disseminated this to state holders, to local law enforcement, on what were legitimate protests, citizens exercising their rights under the constitution, it's especially embarrassing because this is Pennsylvania. This is where the constitution was written. This is where the country started.
P. WILLIAMS: Along with environmentalists protesting this huge natural gas project in Pennsylvania, the state was tracking gay rights events, demonstrations against BP for the gulf oil spill, and animal rights groups protesting rodeos.
Mr. ERIC EPSTEIN (Pennsylvania Activist): Frankly, I was under the impression that enemies of the state were Iran, Libya and North Korea. I don't know when Lassie, mother nature and granola bars became enemies of the state.
P. WILLIAMS: The list was drawn up by a private contractor hired by the state. In a written statement the contractor says protests can be trigger events for radicals and that some environmentalists are becoming more violent. But a Washington Post reporter says it's part of a huge growth in what she calls secret America.
Ms. DANA PRIEST (The Washington Post): And, in fact, there's very little oversight at the state level on what state government is collecting on their citizens. And if anything, this example shows us a need to get a hold of that.
P. WILLIAMS: Pennsylvania's contract with the company responsible for that intelligence bulletin expires in a few weeks and the state now says it will
not be renewed. Brian: Pete Williams in Philadelphia for us tonight. Pete, thanks.
Friday, September 17, 2010
On the Alex Jones Show yesterday, investigative journalist Wayne Madsen discussed the involvement of a shadowy Israeli company in an effort by Pennsylvania’s Homeland Security to spy on activists exercising their First Amendment.
On Wednesday, Infowars.com reported that Pennsylvania paid a Philadelphia-based nonprofit $125,000 to compile a list of activists as part of the state Homeland Security’s federally mandated mission to protect public infrastructure. Madsen, citing a story published on late Wednesday by the Philadelphia Citypaper, revealed that the “non-profit” operates not only out of Philadelphia, but Israel as well.
Research conducted by Citypaper journalist Isaiah Thompson shows that the company, the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR), in fact does not operate under non-profit status, as reported yesterday by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Although the group claims nonprofit status on its website and is listed as a nonprofit corporation by the Pennsylvania Department of State, a search on websites Guidestar.org and IRS.gov yielded no indication that the organization enjoys tax-exempt status. An email seeking clarification of the group’s nonprofit status was not returned,” writes Thompson.
ITRR’s website describes the company as “the preeminent Israeli/American security firm providing training, intelligence and education to clients across the globe.” ITRR categorizes itself as a “Targeted Action Monitoring Center” that does not function as a “clipping service, but a powerful fusion center of battle-tested operatives, analysts, and researchers who have real-life experience fighting both terrorists and criminal entities [...] distinguished among other agencies by its access to a vast network of on-the-ground key-sources in virtually every region of the world.”
For a company boasting specialized counter-terror services, there is virtually no information available on it in the mainstream media. Citypaper’s research turned up a scattering of lackluster ITRR reports published in trade publications, primarily dealing with international terrorism. One report, authored by an intern, details the use of Twitter by “religious, anarchists, anti-government, and anti-globalization” activists who are described as extremists.
In addition, ITRR participated in a 2008 Philadelphia “Emergency Preparedness and Prevention and Hazmat Spills Conference” sponsored by the EPA.
According to the ITRR website, courses offered by the company “are approved by the Israeli Department of Defense (note: this page has since been removed from the website) and ITRR shares a relationship with the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute, an organization promoting trade opportunities, joint ventures, and strategic alliances between international businesses and Israeli companies. Interestingly, ITRR also shares a partnership with Philadelphia University.
ITRR’s two principles are Aaron Richman, a former Israeli police captain, and Michael Perelman, a former York police commander. The Associated Press yesterday cited an interview conducted in 2007 with Perelman where he admitted ITRR information came from news and internet sites, as well as “on the ground” sources who check on travel routes used by company clients including Harvard University and the United Nations.
The ITRR, however, does more than scour the internet and news services and repackage information for its clients. Pennsylvania Homeland Security director James F. Powers Jr. told the Philadelphia Inquirer in July that ITRR operatives posed in chat rooms as people opposed to last year’s G-20 summit in Pittsburgh and compromised the Pittsburgh Organizing Group, an anarchist organization. “We got the information to the Pittsburgh Police, and they were able to cut them off at the pass,” Powers told Inquirer columnist Daniel Rubin.
On Thursday, the scandal widened when Pittsburgh officials refused to comment on the role ITRR played in tracking and disabling activist groups that planned to protest the 2009 G20 summit in their city. Police Chief Nate Harper and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s spokeswoman, Joanna Doven, said they could not talk about information provided by ITRR, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The evolving scandal reveals how far the state of Pennsylvania and apparently the city of Pittsburgh will go in order to deny citizens their First Amendment right to protest and petition the government and demonize disfavored political groups.
ITRR’s connection to Israel also raises the specter that the company is a front for an Israeli intelligence operation and the Israelis gained more than they gave in the relationship with Pennsylvania’s Homeland Security and apparently the city of Pittsburgh.
The use of an Israeli company is especially egregious considering the track record of Israel in violating the civil and human rights of the Palestinians and its far reaching global intelligence operations, including the assassination of activists in foreign countries.
From dancing Israelis on September 11, 2001, to Israeli spies posing as art students and Israeli intelligence operatives shadowing and presumably handling Mohammad Atta and other supposed hijackers in Florida, there is evidence of Israel spying on Americans and running intelligence operations on U.S. soil.
The Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal, otherwise (and more accurately) known as the AIPAC espionage scandal, remains largely unpunished to this day. Lawrence Franklin, a policy analyst under Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz — both key pro-Israel neocons in the Bush administration — passed on a classified presidential directive and other sensitive documents pertaining to U.S. deliberations on foreign policy regarding Iran to AIPAC and subsequently to the Israeli government.
False flag events staged by Israel against the United States are legendary. In fact, the Israeli Mossad admits it uses false flag in most of its operations to cover its tracks.
On June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel directly attacked a United States Navy technical research ship, the USS Liberty, and killed 34 crew members and wounded 170. The attack was swept under the rug and never appropriately investigated.
Less deadly instances of Israeli treachery continue unabated. On September 7, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee accused Israeli agents of posing as FBI agents in an effort to harass and intimidate Muslims. The ADC called on the Department of Justice, Department of State, and other federal agencies to investigate.
“Israel’s undercover operations here, including missions to steal U.S. secrets, are hardly a secret at the FBI, CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. From time to time, in fact, the FBI has called Israeli officials on the carpet to complain about a particularly brazen effort to collect classified or other sensitive information, in particular U.S. technical and industrial secrets,” Jeff Stein wrote for the Washington Post on September 2. Stein quotes a CIA official as stating that Israeli intelligence operatives are “all over the place” in the United States.