Pennsylvania May Still Be Watching You (If you are an anti-gas drilling activist)


The attacks of September 11, 2001 led to the creation of Homeland Security. Working with other agencies and departments of the US Government, Homeland Security was tasked with identifying critical infrastructure and to protect them from terrorist attacks.

Per Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7: Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection | HSPD 7 Abstract (1):

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 establishes a national policy for Federal departments and agencies to identify and prioritize critical infrastructure and to protect them from terrorist attacks. The directive defines relevant terms and delivers 31 policy statements. These policy statements define what the directive covers and the roles various federal, state, and local agencies will play in carrying it out.

The energy industry is considered a critical infrastructure. Individual states created their own Homeland Security departments.

Pennsylvania Homeland Security Private No-Bid Contract
To gather information and intelligence, Pennsylvania’s Homeland Security awarded a no-bid private contract to The Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR).

Per ITRR Website (2):

The Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR) is an American and Israeli corporation established to assist companies and organizations succeed in a world threatened by terrorism.

ITRR provides counter-terrorism training, seminars, and security specialization in dealing with threats such as Weapons of Mass Destruction, suicide bombers, and additional forms of global terror striking both the public and private sector. ITRR additionally founded the Targeted Actionable Monitoring Center in order to provide reliable and actionable intelligence concerning possible threats throughout the world.

On his LinkedIn profile, Michael Perelman lists himself as Co-Director for Institute of Terrorism Research and Response. (3) perelman-linkedin

As part of the private no-bid contract ITRR agreed to maintain surveillance and report potential terrorist threats against Pennsylvania’s critical infrastructure (4), which included the infrastructure of the growing natural gas industry in Pennsylvania.

According to Contract Data on ITRR obtained by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in a Right To Know Request (5):


The Leak
During the last few months of Governor Ed Rendell administration in 2010, a leaked document revealed the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security has been tracking anti-gas drilling groups and their meetings — including a public screening of the film “Gasland,” a documentary about the environmental hazards of natural gas drilling. The office has included this and related information in its tri-weekly Pennsylvania Intelligence Bulletins (PIB) sent to law enforcement agencies. (6)

leakThe then State Homeland Security Director James Powers stated the inclusion of anti-drilling activists information in the PIBs was due to about 5-10 acts of vandalism around the state related to the natural gas drilling industry. He did not state which of these incidents, if any, were connected to any of the anti-drilling groups being watched.

Although originally intended for law enforcement officers, regional advisors or security directors the PIBS were also passed along to drilling companies and other 3rd party interests in the Marcellus Shale.

Powers sent copies of his e-mail to the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR) as well as to Pam Witmer, of the Bravo Group (7) which among other things, lobbys for the natural gas industry. At that time Witmer was Energy & Environmental Practice Lead Government Relations for Bravo Group and represented Chief Oil & Gas (a subsidiary of Devon Energy), and RRI Energy (Reliant Energy).


Witmer lobbying clients included Chief Oil & Gas, LLC. and RRI Energy (Reliant Energy). Witmer was a member of Corbett’s Energy and Environment Transition team (8) and in late 2010 and she appointed as a Commissioner on the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) by Governor Tom Corbett in June of 2011. (9)

This raises the question of why Pam Witmer of the Bravo Group received these emails as neither Witmer or Bravo Group are fall into the category of law enforcement officers, regional advisors or security directors. How many others who were not law enforcement officers, regional advisors or security directors received similar emails or PIBs? And why?

When asked if ITRR was tracking groups — specifically, people opposed to drilling in the Marcellus Shale or attending showings of “Gasland” — Powers replied, “I don’t know, I haven’t asked them.”

Powers did indicate that someone — either ITRR or state employees, he wouldn’t specify which — was monitoring the “Web traffic” of anti-drilling groups. Michal Perelman, co-director of ITRR, would not say if his firm was tracking anti-drilling activists. The September 5, 2010 memo from Powers did alert him to the existence of the internet. (10)

PIB-Valid-right-to-knowWe ask is a lobbying firm considered a “valid need-to-know” entity?

Leak Turns to Flood
The PA-ACLU filed a Right-To-Know requesting a variety of information about the anti-terrorism bulletins created by ITRR and circulated by the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security. They received the following documents (11):

ITRR Contract Information (1037k PDF)
Misc Communications 1 (5644k PDF) – List of all distribution lists receiving intelligence bulletins
Misc Communications 2 (8915k PDF) – List of individuals receiving at least one of the intelligence bulletins (Part I)
Misc Communications 3 (466k PDF) – List of individuals receiving at least one of the intelligence bulletins (Part II)
Out of Cycle ITRR Documents 1 (7968k PDF)
Out of Cycle ITRR Documents 2 (10353k PDF)
Out of Cycle ITRR Documents 3 (10410k PDF)
Out of Cycle ITRR Documents 4 (9738k PDF)
Out of Cycle ITRR Documents 5 (7055k PDF)
Out of Cycle ITRR Documents 6 (9016k PDF)
Out of Cycle ITRR Documents 7 (9744k PDF)
Out of Cycle ITRR Documents 8 (1674k PDF)
Out of Cycle ITRR Documents 9 (7348k PDF)
Out of Cycle ITRR Documents 10 (6947k PDF)
Out of Cycle ITRR Documents 11 (3865k PDF)
PIB Trans Emails 1 (10363k PDF)
PIB Trans Emails 2 (4622k PDF)
PIB Trans Emails 3 (6489k PDF)
Press Docs 1 (5477k PDF)
Press Docs 2 (8168k PDF)
Per Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (PA-ACLU) groups and individuals mentioned by ITRR (12) include: American Federation of Government Employees, Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition, Casino-Free Philadelphia, Citizens for Clean Water, Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, Congressman Mike Doyle, Congressman Tim Murphy, Hillcrest Women’s Medical Center in Harrisburg, DEP Sec. John Hanger, John Quigley, Secretary of the Penn. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, Lancaster County Council of Churches, Lancaster County Democratic Committee, Lancaster County Democratic Women’s Association and Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition.

Following the news of PA Homeland Security tracking anti-drilling groups, the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (GDAC) of Luzerne County in Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in federal court. GDAC asked for a judge to rule that Powers, Perelman and the Institute violated the U.S. and state constitutions; that all the information gathered against the Coalition should be deleted and destroyed; and to stop the defendants from conducting surveillance and reporting on “individuals and groups engaged only in peaceful First Amendment conduct (13).

The Pennsylvania Intelligence Bulletins (PIBs) issued by the Institute and distributed to the Department of Homeland Security and to the industries concerned – including natural gas companies – frequently mentioned the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition by name.

The tri-weekly bulletins featured a wide range of supposed threats to the state’s infrastructure. It included warnings about Al-Qaeda affiliated groups, pro-life activists, and Tea Party protesters. The bulletins also included information about when and where groups like GDAC would be meeting, upcoming protests, and anti-fracking activists’ internal strategy. The raw data was followed by a threat assessment – low, moderate, severe, or critical – and a brief analysis.

For example, bulletin no. 118, dated July 30, 2010 gave a low to moderate threat rating in reference to public meetings that anti-drilling activists planned to attend, and suggested that an “attack is likely… and might well be executed.” The threat assessment was accompanied by this note: “The escalating conflict over natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania may define local fault lines and potentially increase area environmentalist activity or eco-terrorism. GDAC communications have cited Northeastern Pennsylvania counties, specifically Wyoming, Lackawanna and Luzerne, as being in real ‘need of our help’ and as facing a ‘drastic situation.’” Another bulletin referenced an August 2010 FBI assessment of the growing threat of environmental activism to the energy industry. Because of Pennsylvania’s importance in the production of natural gas, ITRR concluded, an uptick in vandalism, criminal activity, and extremism was likely. (14)

After the revelation of the PIBs existence, Gov. Ed Rendell said he was “appalled” and would cancel the $103,000, one-year contract with ITRR, but would not fire Powers.

Powers resigned in October of 2010.

In his resignation letter, Powers told the governor he had reached the decision after “thorough examination and reflection” on “emerging events surrounding the credibility” of the information provided by the institute. (15)

Prior to leaving, Powers destroyed the original intelligence reports he had received from the ITRR. (16)

Scott Davis, a Lower Paxton Twp. resident who operates the website Pennsylvania Revolution, requested raw reports of the intelligence monitoring program from the Homeland Security office. Homeland Security is part of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). Internal e-mails from other PEMA staffers indicate that the raw reports existed one day after Davis filed his request, but none were released.

Eight days later, Powers sent his e-mail saying the reports had been shredded. However, Powers did make a point of asking if another staffer had saved any copies — because they could become public.

When asked if there were any copies on other computers, PEMA spokeswoman, Maria Finn said the raw reports still existed, but “miscommunications” led to their not being released. Copies were later supplied to approximately 50 interested parties who had submitted Right-To-Know requests.

The Office of Homeland Security was merged into the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency during the last days of Gov. Rendell’s administration. Under Governor Corbett, in November 2011 it was announced Office of Homeland Security would move its operations to the Pennsylvania State Police headquarters in Harrisburg. (17)

A review determined that relocating the office to the state police headquarters, where staff could partner with the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center (PACIC), would result in an even greater combination of intelligence gathering and sharing.

PACIC gathers and shares information from a variety of sources, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the PA Attorney General’s Office, the PA Department of Corrections, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the New York City Police Department.

GDAC Settles Lawsuit
Approximately 5 years after the documents were leaked; the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition settled the lawsuit against Pennsylvania Homeland Security. Although details of the settlement cannot be disclosed, GDAC did receive a letter from Glenn M. Cannon, Esq., Director, PA Emergency Management Agency stating (18):

As the current Director of PEMA, I can state unequivocally – and I assure the public – that this agency has no information or reason to believe that GDAC at any time in the past or currently could be fairly characterized as a “terrorist organization,” as OHS and ITRR stated or implied in material that they distributed in 2010. PEMA has no reason to doubt GDAC’s representations that it has done nothing more than engage in the exercise of its rights guaranteed by the United States and Pennsylvania constitutions.

Press conferences regarding the settlement were held on Thursday, January 22, 2015 in Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre PA. (19)

GDAC-press-conference-1-22-2015Click here to watch the Press Conference held in Wilkes-Barre, PA on 1/22/2015

GDAC’s attorney, Paul Rossi, said Thursday he has evidence that improper monitoring of citizen groups is still happening within state government.

“This has to stop,” he said. “State officials ought to … understand they can’t do this, in any form whatsoever.”

Diane Dreier, vice president of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, said Thursday at a news conference with Rossi that including groups like hers on a terror watch list “can and does have a chilling effect upon freedom of speech.”

ITRR and its co-director, Michael Perelman, were earlier dismissed as defendants in GDAC’s lawsuit, but Rossi said he is appealing.
Cannon’s letter shows that Perelman “simply lied about my group, and that clearly states a defamation claim that ought to be litigated,” said Rossi, who accused Perelman of maliciously targeting environmental groups that raised questions about the Marcellus Shale drilling boom.

Perelman’s attorney did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. Perelman defended his company’s work before a legislative committee and denied allegations it compiled a terror watch list. (20)

Rossi says he’s also disturbed to hear about recent reports state law enforcement officials are working with gas companies to collect information about other environmental groups and activists who oppose drilling.

Still Spying?
spy2Anti-fracking activists protesting a natural-gas conference in Philadelphia were being monitored by a private security company that sent a photo of a demonstrator to the Pennsylvania State Police, according to an email obtained by Pittsburgh City Paper.

Per Pittsburgh City Paper the Marcellus Shale Operators’ Crime Committee (MSOCC) sends updates to more than 150 recipients, including all of the major drilling companies in the Marcellus Shale, the FBI, state Homeland Security, and state and local law enforcement.(21)

Established in late 2011 or early 2012, the Marcellus Shale Operators’ Crime Committee (MSOCC) is a group of “professionals with a law-enforcement background who are interested in developing working relationships and networking on intelligence issues,” according to an email sent to group members by James Hansel, regional security manager for Anadarko Petroleum.

The MSOCC has taken a keen interest in environmental activists and anti-fracking groups, according to documents obtained through a state Right to Know request. The collaboration raises questions about the increasingly close ties between law enforcement and the natural-gas industry in Pennsylvania, and whether law enforcement has violated the civil liberties of protesters and environmental groups in its effort to protect the state’s most controversial industry.

©2015 Dory Hippauf


[1] Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7: Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection | HSPD 7 Abstract

[2] ITRR – Institute of Terrorism Research & Response |

[3] Michael Perelman | LinkedIn


[5] Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union | Results of Right to Know Request on Bulletins |

[6] State tracks anti-Marcellus Shale drilling groups, notifies law enforcement | by Donald Gilliland | PennLive Sept.14, 2010

[7] Sun, September 5, 2010 3:18:08 PMRe: Dissemination of sensitive information | From:”Powers, James”

[8] Gov.-elect Corbett announces members of his transition team |

[9] Pennsylvania Utility Commission |

[10] Sun, September 5, 2010 3:18:08 PMRe: Dissemination of sensitive information | From:”Powers, James”

[11] Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union | Results of Right to Know Request on Bulletins |

[12] Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (PA-ACLU) | List of all groups and individuals mentioned in the intelligence bulletins put together by Institute of Terrorism Research and Response on behalf of the PA Office of Homeland Security from 10/30/09 to 9/13/10 |

[13] Anti-drilling group sues head of Homeland Security | By Elizabeth Skrapits | Citizens Voice Sept 28, 2010

[14] We’re Being Watched How Corporations and Law Enforcement Are Spying on Environmentalists | By Adam Federman | Earth Island Journal 2013

[15] Pennsylvania Homeland Security director resigns amid intelligence-gathering controversy | By Amy Worden and Angela Couloumbis | Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau Oct.02, 2010

[16] Former director of Pennsylvania’s Homeland Security destroyed original intelligence reports | by Donald Gilliland | PennLive Nov. 6, 2010

[17] Governor Corbett Transfers Homeland Security Office to State Police | PR Newswire | November 22, 2011

[18] GDAC – PEMA Letter 12-18-2014 |

[19] GDAC Press Conference Homeland Security Law Suit Settlement | January 22, 2015 | Luzerne County Courthouse, Wilkes-Barre PA |

[20] Gas Drilling Watchdog Group Settles Suit Over Terror Listing | By MICHAEL RUBINKAM Associated Press | January 22, 2015

[21] State police documents show intelligence-sharing network between law enforcement and Marcellus Shale drillers “They’re using the state police to try to silence us.” | By Adam Federman | Pittsburgh City Paper October 8, 2014

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