The scandal over ITRR and the terrorism reports they disseminated is getting worse. Last week The Reading Eagle reported that a local group meeting every Friday at 5 PM on the Penn Street Bridge to protest the wars was reported to the city police chief as possible threats. I know these folks and have stood with them on the bridge on a few Fridays. They are mostly Quakers and some local peace activists. They are no threat to anyone.
They were comparing environmental activists to Al-Qaeda.
They were tracking down protesters and grilling their parents.
They were seeking a network of citizen spies to combat the security threats they saw in virtually any legal political activity.
And they were feeding their suspicions not only to law enforcement, but to dozens of private businesses from natural gas drillers to The Hershey Co.
Why was a state agency doing intelligence work for private businesses? This was a direct violation of these people’s constitutional rights for free speech and assembly. In this country we remain allowed to express our opposition to corporations seeking to poison us, conduct illegal wars, rape the environment or demand equality. At least the ACLU is sticking up for us:
“They’re not focused on illegal activity – they’re focused on people organizing, and clearly everybody’s in bed with the drilling industry,” said Witold Walczak, legal director for ACLU of Pennsylvania.
“It’s one thing for private industry to hire groups like ITRR to gather information, but for the government to get involved – you’ve got a nasty menage-a-trois going on here and the citizen activists are the ones getting fracked.”
Equating peaceful activists doing nothing more than exercising our constitutional rights with Al Qaeda is as outrageous as can be imagined. I expect such oppression from someone like Tom Ridge or Tom Corbett but Ed Rendell? The Governor didn’t even fire James Powers for such treacherous violations of our rights.