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State of Pennsylvania Kept Tabs on Ontario Activists

December 7, 2010

Paranoia pays for US firm

The Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR) is a private company that was hired to write “Intelligence bulletins” for the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security. The nature of the reports, which contained information on activist groups across the US as well as G20 activists in Southern Ontario, lead to a scandal in Pennsylvania.

In September ProPublica revealed that the ITRR had been monitoring the activities of groups opposed to the oil and gas drilling process know as “fracking.” The implication that these groups may be criminal or terrorist organizations soon caused high ranking officials to condemn ITRR. By October, the Governor of the State said he was “appalled” and “deeply embarrassed” by the $125,000 contract with ITRR, an official in the State Police called the contents of the bulletins “unsubstantiated gossip,” and The Director of Pennsylvania Homeland Security was forced to resign.

The Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security received several reports a week from ITRR, and then passed the information on to law enforcement, governments and businesses in the state. But soon after the scandal erupted the contract was Terminated. ITRR still has numerous unnamed corporate clients.

Unlike many of the groups monitored by the ITTR, there was indeed property destruction and other criminal acts that took place at the G20 protests. It was not always clear why Pennsylvania law enforcement needed updates on G20 activists in Ontario, but on several occasions they claimed that   protest in Toronto would inspire violence in Pennsylvania. One report linked protests in Philadelphia to free political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal with the G20 protest in Toronto.

“The G20 riots, vandalism, street protests and property destruction in Toronto have invigorated certain anarchist and left-wing radical elements. Therefore, protests on behalf of Mumia … are likely to draw a broad, dangerous cross-section of opportunistic activists.”

One of the more tangible recommendations stemming from the group’s reports on the G20 was the recommendation to review security procedures at RBC branches in Pennsylvania, due the campaign by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) targeting RBC for their financial support of the Alberta Tar Sands. In describing RAN, which is a non-violent group, they asserted that the group used “extremely aggressive tactics.”

Between March and August 2010 ITRR wrote a total 32 reports that mention the G20 protests in Toronto. The contents of the reports seem to be based on public information that anyone who had an Internet connection could easily acquire, but they add editorial comments that emphasized the danger, risk and threats posed by G20 activists.

“There is a huge industry making lots and lots of money off of paranoia,” read an editorial in the York Daily Record that looked at the ITRR. “Paranoia is providing a very good living to a lot of people these days. It drives our public discourse. It drives our politics. It is, it could be argued, the dominant force in this country today.”

Fear has been the state’s tool to make us alienate ourselves from each other so that we cannot build the world WE truly want to see—together,” said Maryam Adrangi, a spokesperson for the Community Solidarity Network, a Toronto-based group that is responding to the police actions during and after the G20 Summit.

She believes demonizing G20 activists has also been undertaken by groups at home.

Painting activists as terrorists or violent gives them a base on which to justify more repression, suspension of civil rights, and increased security spending.”

We see in corporate media that over 1,100 violent protesters were put in the detention centre, when the reality is that over 1,100 people who were concerned about austerity measures and the implications it will have on people’s ability to live with dignity and self-determination were put in jail,” said Adrangi. “Which then raises the question: who really are the criminals?”

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