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Fact Check: Mountaintop Removal Protest Labeled “Terrorist” by PA Homeland Security Was Entirely Peaceful

There’s disturbing news on the Homeland Security front that you may have heard about if you live in the state of Pennsylvania. If you live elsewhere you’re not likely to have heard a word, since wire services and newspapers outside Pennsylvania have neglected to cover it. Regardless of whether you live in Pennsylvania, you should know what’s going on, because it’s part of an metastasis in the covert surveillance industry that has stretched its fingers to touch every state in the nation.

The Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security has been caught distributing a full 137 bulletins over the past year alone regarding the political protest activities of law-abiding Pennsylvanians. These bulletins were distributed not only to government and law enforcement officials, but to private corporations as well, with the express purpose of countering protesters and supporting corporate interests. “We want to continue providing this support to … stakeholders while not feeding those groups fomenting dissent against those same companies.” — that’s a quote from Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security chief James Powers.

The 4th and 1st Amendments to the United States Constitution make it doubly illegal to spy on people who’ve commited no crime in order to stop them from engaging in acts of dissent. Yet the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security distributed 137 of these bulletins produced by Homeland Security contractor ITRR, the Institute for Terrorism Research and Response. ITRR got the job thanks to a no-bid contract, and all this is made possible by funding from the federal U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Now that the news is out, Democratic Party officials in the Pennsylvania state government insist they knew nothing of these activities, which means that they’re either lying or they didn’t actually read the terrorist activity alerts that were regularly distributed to them. ITRR’s TAM-C analysis unit, based in Israel, has intelligence assets deployed around the world and declares its work to be:

… no 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. TAM-C is distinguished among other agencies by its access to a vast network of on-the-ground key-sources in virtually every region of the world.

ITRR repeatedly refers to itself as a private intelligence agency with “international contacts and sources to provide live intelligence from the field.” According to its own promotional materials, ITRR specializes in:

current use of undercover agents, their recruitment, training, management, evaluation and control…. undercover activity… protection against undercover operators… covert searches + information gathering from target obtaining documents… recruitment and “running” of operatives.

Is Mountaintop Removal Protest Terrorism?

Consider just one of the hundreds of protest events stamped with a terrorist warning by the Office of Homeland Security’s ITRR reports. On March 1 2010, 40 Americans gathered outside the Region 3 office of the Environmental Protection Agency in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Their goal: to publicly demonstrate for the EPA to stop issuing new mountain top removal mine permits.

Photograph of a March 1 2010 protest outside the EPA, calling for an end to mountaintop removal mining.  Is this a terrorist action?  Not according to the U.S. Constitution.

Here’s the call to action:

Mountaintop removal mining doesn’t happen here in Philadelphia, or even in Pennsylvania, but the decision to destroy our Appalachian mountains, happens at 1650 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19103.
It is where we need to be.
The EPA Office in Philadelphia is currently reviewing 23 mountaintop removal mining permits. Community leaders in West Virginia are organizing around the clock to stop these permits and to stop further destruction from mining. In the past few months, senior citizens have marched to Massey Energy subsidiary Mammoth Coal, bringing a message to end mountaintop removal mining.
In Pennsylvania, we need to stand with West Virginians. Nearly 500 miles away, we have the opportunity to get the attention of EPA administrators deciding on the mining permits. Join us on March 1st to speak out against mountaintop removal mining.
What: Protest! We will have signs, information flyers, and chants prepared
Where: 1650 Arch St., Philadelphia
When: March 1st, beginning at 11am
Who: You! Recruit a friend or 5
RSVP: If possible, let us know if you are planning on coming.
Robin Markle: robinmarkle [at], 845.594.9138
Amy Wilson: amy [at], 507.581.4421
You can also RSVP and invite your friends on facebook:

To see how mountaintop removal is affecting communities, check out this trailer to the film Burning the Future:

Signs, information flyers and chants outside a government office. A facebook page and a youtube video. Do these strike you as terrorist acts?

The report disseminated by the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security suggested so. Its Pennsylvania Actionable Intelligence Report of February 22, 2010 cited “open and closed sources of intelligence” to classify the upcoming EPA protest with a Threat Indicator Warning of “Moderate.” As the Homeland Security report explains, a “Moderate” Warning is given when:

Available intelligence and recent events indicate that hostile elements have the capability to take action against the target and that such action is within the adversary’s current intent. It is assessed that an attack or action is likely to be a priority and might well be mounted.

The Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security’s intelligence assessment labeled these protesters to be “hostile elements” capable of an attack and intending to take action, likely to be a priority and one that might well be mounted. But the news media didn’t seem to think so: no professional news organizations even covered the protest, and there wasn’t so much as a misdemeanor civil disobedience arrest at the protest. The EPA office didn’t see the group as a threat either: after the group asked, the EPA sent down an administrator to have a chat, hardly the action to take in the midst of a terrorist attack. The administrator scheduled a follow-up meeting with the group in his office. What high terrorist drama!

This morning I spoke with Amy Wilson and Robin Markle, the two activists who planned the March 1 action. Both were surprised to find out that their First Amendment activities had been the subject of a Homeland Security intelligence report. When I asked Wilson whether her group had carried out any form of assault or attack, she responded directly: “No. It was entirely peaceful.” Robin Markle agreed, musing that “Maybe it got a little noisy, but it was completely peaceful.” “We’re planning a book reading next,” Markle pointed out. “Should we watch out?”

8 thoughts on “Fact Check: Mountaintop Removal Protest Labeled “Terrorist” by PA Homeland Security Was Entirely Peaceful”

  1. Ross says:

    Hmm, I live in PA and I planned two anti-BP protests over the summer. I volunteer for the Green Party in Philly. I have attended an anti-drilling protest outside the local DEP. I’ve been to numerous other protests in the area. I wonder if I’m in those reports.

    1. Jim says:

      Click on that “137 bulletins” link and find a date just before your protest, and you just may find something, Ross!

      I’m going to keep looking through them, too. There’s a lot of stuff in there, some of it just plain laughable. Did you know that ITRR told the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security there was a terrorist threat because February is Black History Month?

      1. Ross says:

        So I did look through them. And they had stuff on the BP protests. They also quoted what I posted on facebook about why I was holding them (stuff about a higher gas tax and public transportation and shale drilling).

        1. Jim says:

          Oh, my, Ross. I appear to have been conversing with a traitor. “Freedom of speech” is no excuse, young man. Excuse me; I have to go wash my hands now.

          Can you post the particulars?

        2. Jim says:

          More seriously, Ross, you and everybody who has been spied on by the contractors for the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security should check out this ACLU resource. It includes ACLU contact information and a “Right to Know Kit” that you can fill out to obtain — as is your legal right — full information on how and why you were spied upon. That includes information about communications between state officials regarding you and information on who the recipients of your particular ITRR bulletin were.

          1. Ross says:

            Here’s what it said in the June 9th report (and there was a bit more general stuff about other BP protests):

            10. Yet More Anti-BP Protests, Including in PA
            A date for yet more protests against the BP energy corporation has been shared in anarchist, environmentalist and anti-capitalist forums. According to various communications, numerous anti-BP demonstrations will be held on 12 June 2010 and thereafter. Although most of the protests are in the CONUS, numerous other cities worldwide will have similar rallies.
            As of this writing, 12 June 2010 demonstrations are planned for cities in California, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Massachussets, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Washington. In Canada, anti-BP rallies are expected on that date in Montreal, Halifax, Charlottetown, Cornwall and Calgary. Outside North America, protests will take place in Brazil, Germany, New Zealand, Panama and South Africa.

            In Pennsylvania, a “Seize BP” protest is scheduled for 9 June 2010 across from Philadelphia’s City Hall. In addition, activists have called for anti-BP protests in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia on 14 June 2010 (at the BP Station at the corner of Ridge Ave. and Shawmont Ave.) and in Flourtown on 15 June 2010 (at the BP Station on 1674 Bethlehem Pike). Both events are scheduled to start at 5:00 pm. On 12 June 2010at 4:00 pm, a protest is scheduled to occur outside of Patrick Murphy’s office, 72 North Main Street, Doylestown.

            Pennsylvania-based activists will demand, along with common nationwide themes of anti-BP protests, “higher gas taxes in Pennsylvania, more and better public transportation” and “a moratorium on all new natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale” area.
            The number of protest sites and dates continues to increase as the target date approaches.
            ****** ANALYSIS ****** T/I/W Rating: MODERATE

            ITRR analysts note that the above calls for anti-BP demonstrations come on the heels of two previous calls to “seize BP:”
            the radical anti-capitalist ANSWER COALITION called for “actions” against BP from 3-5 June 2010 (as cited in PAIB No. 93)
            an identical call was issued on 12 May 2010 (as cited in PAIB No. 82)

          2. Jim says:

            I notice that (he Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security contractor is declaring the existence of a threat on the basis of the policy positions being expressed. That is not the proper role of government.

  2. J. Clifford says:

    This information is coming out just as the Obama Homeland Security Department is issuing more warnings of “homegrown” terrorism. Why do people keep falling for this fearmongering?

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