Big Brother Has Come to the Birthplace of America

Pennsylvania is literally the birthplace of the United States of America. The Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia, and that is where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed.

It is therefore disconcerting that Pennsylvania’s tax authority – the Department of Revenue – recently launched a big brother “we know where you live” type ad:

And according to the Department of Justice’s Inspector General (via AP), the FBI spied on an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh sponsored by a nonviolent anti-war and anti-discrimination group, pretending it was preventing terrorism:

The FBI gave inaccurate information to Congress and the public when it claimed a possible terrorism link to justify surveilling an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh, the Justice Department’s inspector general said Monday in a report on the bureau’s scrutiny of domestic activist groups.

Inspector General Glenn Fine said the FBI had no reason to expect that anyone of interest in a terrorism investigation would be present at the 2002 event sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center, a nonviolent anti-war and anti-discrimination group.

The surveillance was “an ill-conceived project on a slow work day,” the IG stated in a study of several FBI domestic terrorism probes of people affiliated with organizations such as Greenpeace and the Catholic Worker.

Earlier, in statements to Congress and in a press release, the FBI had described the surveillance as related to a terrorism investigation.

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The FBI has broad definitions that enable it to classify matters as domestic terrorism that actually are trespassing or vandalism, the inspector general said.

Regarding the Pittsburgh rally, controversy erupted in 2006 over whether the FBI had spied on protesters at the event several years earlier because of their anti-war views.

(Its not just trespassing and vandalism. According to Department of Defense training manuals, protest is also now considered “low-level terrorism”. And see this, this and this).

And the state of Pennsylvania hired an Israeli-American company with extensive military and intelligence ties to put out “terror” alerts. The company – ITRR – describes itself as:

The preeminent Israeli/American security firm providing training, intelligence and education to clients across the globe.

ITRR explains:

The Institute of Terrorism Research and Response’s research and analysis center, known as the Targeted Actionable Monitoring Center (TAM-C), is located in Israel. The Targeted Actionable Monitoring Center is staffed with former law enforcement, military, and intelligence professionals experienced in the production and utilization of intelligence products.

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.”

In Pennsylvania, ITRR apparently considered opponents of gas drilling, and attendees at anti-BP candlelight vigils and a gay and lesbian festival to be potential terrorists.

And as Pittsburgh Live notes, the ITRR may have also tracked and disabled “activist groups that planned to protest the 2009 Group of 20 economic conference in the city”. And see this and this.

For more on “fusion centers” and the use of national security apparatus for corporate purposes, see this, this and this.

Big brother has come to the birthplace of America.

ITRR does not just operate in Pennsylvania. It’s website states:

The client list of the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response is confidential.

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Training clients of the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response have ranged
from
• US military and law enforcement personnel in Israel
• the South Central Pennsylvania Taskforce
• AMTRAK counter-terror unit
• New Hampshire law enforcement agencies

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