Homeland Scrutiny

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Democracy Rising Pennsylvania

Homeland Scrutiny
No one who knows how Harrisburg operates can be surprised that a private contractor with the state’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been discovered tracking the activity of citizens and civic groups raising concerns over Marcellus Shale drilling. More surprising is that DHS’s contractor also has been tracking the activities of religious groups, education advocates, anti-tax protesters, and just about anyone else it wants. Click here for a column by the Post-Gazette’s Brian O’Neill.
Nor can anyone be surprised that Gov. Ed Rendell is denying knowledge of the story that first grabbed most people’s attention on Tuesday in the Harrisburg Patriot, State tracking outrages foes of gas drilling . The story was based on an official bulletin leaked to ProPublica, a national organization devoted to public interest investigative reporting.
But it turns out that Rendell’s office was made aware of the contractor’s activities last week. According to ProPublica’s Marian Wang, "Rendell’s office was informed about the leaked bulletin last Wednesday, when ProPublica broke the story and asked the governor’s office for comment." Click here to read her blog entry from yesterday.
Rendell captured headlines after a Tuesday evening news conference in which he described himself as "appalled" and "embarrassed" by the event, claiming he had no knowledge of the contract or the contractor’s activities. Rendell to activists: ‘I apologize’ , Patriot, Sept. 15.Apparently, Rendell staff didn’t think news of widespread violations of citizens’ Constitutional rights under a contract with a state agency was worth sharing with Rendell.
While the DHS has a federal mandate to seek information about potential terrorist threats to "infrastructure" and report them to state and local authorities, DHS Director James Powers acknowledged also sending information to drilling companies. "We want to continue providing this support to the Marcellus Shale Formation natural gas stakeholders while not feeding those groups fomenting dissent against those same companies," Powers wrote in an email to a citizen he believed to be a supporter of drilling in northeastern PA’s Wyoming County.
Despite what appears to be a clear violation of the Constitutional rights of citizens, Rendell says he will not fire Powers. Instead, Rendell has appointed Powers to a "task force" to investigate himself. After saying Rendell would not cancel the contract, news reports now say that he has.
• What would Powers have to do to get fired?
• In how many other ways is state government secretly subsidizing the Marcellus Shale drillers at taxpayer expense?
• Has Rendell received campaign contributions from the owners of the DHS contractor?
• Was Rendell’s immediate response to this week’s Patriot story, but not last week’s ProPublica story, intended to prevent questions rather than answer them?
Tomorrow is Constitution Day
September 17 is the anniversary of the day in 1787 when the members of the convention meeting in Philadelphia signed our national Constitution. Click here for more from the U.S. Constitution Center.
Here’s something to ponder from PA’s Constitution of 1776. This original Constitution required legislation to be printed for inspection by the public before a final vote in the legislature. It also prohibited bills from being voted on in the same session in which they were introduced. The right of the people to know what their government was contemplating before enactment was paramount. (Article II, Section 15, PA Constitution of 1776)
How far we have fallen from the Liberty Tree. Instead of the people seeing proposed laws before final passage, it’s now the other way around. Instead of waiting until the next session to vote, lawmakers don’t even wait to understand what they’re voting on.
This explains the manufactured legislative crises we will see in the next few weeks. Having taken a two-and-a-half-month vacation, lawmakers will now enact some important legislation at the last minute while also claiming they didn’t have time to enact other important legislation. These manufactured crises are exactly what the original Constitution sought to prohibit – and what today’s PA Supreme Court refuses to prohibit.
Integrity Questionnaire Update
Some DR Fans and others have had trouble reading the pdf versions of the gubernatorial candidates’ responses to the Integrity Questionnaire. Attached, therefore, is a Word version.
Potts to Speak at Chester Co. LWV Event, September 26
If you’re near West Chester University on Sunday, September 26, stop by at 1:30 for a discussion of the report by the 28th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury . Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Chester County, the event is at the Sykes Student Union Theater, 110 W. Rosedale Avenue, West Chester. Contact the LWVCC at www.palwv/cc.org or 610-431-9986.
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