This Is Your State Government’s Brain On Terrorism

INQUIRER: Gov. Rendell said Tuesday that he was “appalled” and “embarrassed” that his administration’s Office of Homeland Security has been tracking and circulating information about legitimate protests by activist groups that do not pose a threat to public safety. Rendell said he did not know that the state Office of Homeland Security had been paying an outside company to track a long list of activists, including groups that oppose drilling in the Marcellus Shale, animal-rights advocates, and peace activists. The office then passed that information on to large groups of people, including law enforcement and members of the private sector. In doing so, Rendell said, the Homeland Security Office had distorted and made a mockery of the state’s responsibility to protect “critical infrastructure,” and collect and share credible plots to harm it. “Let me make this as clear as I can make it,” the governor said at news conference Tuesday night, pounding his fist on the podium. “Protesting against an idea, a principle, a process, is not a real threat against infrastructure. Protesting is a God-given American right, a right that is in our Constitution, a right that is fundamental to all we believe in as Americans.” Rendell said that he will not fire or discipline anyone in the Office of Homeland Security, headed by director James F. Powers Jr., for the lapse. But he said he ordered the office to terminate its contract with Philadelphia-based Institute of Terrorism and Research Response, which he said has been paid $125,000 in the last year to gather data about possible security threats. Instead, the governor said, the company passed on alerts about legitimate protests – and the state Homeland Security Office then disseminated them in an intelligence bulletin that it publishes three times a week. The bulletin included information about a PrideFest by gays and lesbians; a rally that supported his administration’s education policy; and an anti-BP candlelight vigil. MORE

PHAWKER: If the Guv is truly shocked — SHOCKED! I tell ya — to just learn about this, (and we have our doubts that he is either shocked or just learning about this) he better start reading Dan Rubin’s column. He wrote about this back in July.

PREVIOUSLY: Those out of the loop might be alarmed to read the Pennsylvania Actionable Intelligence Bulletin, which warns law enforcement officials of such potential trouble spots as pro-education rallies, antigun demonstrations, and the coming of the circus. Someone put a dozen of the bulletins in my hands recently, wondering whether the money for them was well spent. The alerts made for disturbing bedside reading. MORE

TANGENTIALLY RELATED: You may have noticed that Molly Norris‘ comic is not in the [Seattle Weekly] this week. That’s because there is no more Molly.The gifted artist is alive and well, thankfully. But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, “going ghost”: moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity. She will no longer be publishing cartoons in our paper or in City Arts magazine, where she has been a regular contributor. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program—except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab. It’s all because of the appalling fatwa issued against her this summer, following her infamous “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” cartoon.

PREVIOUSLY: The Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – the radical who’s also been cited as inspiring the Fort Hood, Tex., massacre and the plot by two New Jersey men to kill U.S. soldiers – singled out artist Molly Norris as a “prime target,” saying her “proper abode is Hellfire.”Awlaki, a 39-year-old born in New Mexico and pictured up top, made the comments in the June issue of “Inspire,” an English-language magazine meant to help radicalize American Muslim youth. (One counter-terrorism official described it as “Al Qaeda’s ‘Tiger Beat.'”)News. MORE

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