The Privatization of Citizen Informant Networks

Remember the former JSOC guy in charge of Homeland Security for PA who hired an Israeli-connected private intelligence company to collect information on environmentalists and peace activists? Well, it will surprise none of you that they were comparing Rainforest Action Network to Al Qaeda and trying to set up their own network of people informing on US citizens.

It turns out the homeland security office or its private consultant were doing more than just monitoring law-abiding citizens.

They were comparing environmental activists to Al-Qaeda.

They were tracking down protesters and grilling their parents.

They were seeking a network of citizen spies to combat the security threats they saw in virtually any legal political activity.

And they were feeding their suspicions not only to law enforcement, but to dozens of private businesses from natural gas drillers to The Hershey Co.

It was only a matter of time before the corporations running our country would equate–as ITRR did–embarrassing one of those corporations with terrorism.

And if that bugs you, just gorge yourself on some Hershey kisses. You can rest assured those Hershey kisses haven’t been damaged by scary peace activists or environmentalists!

  1. klynn says:

    Would the owners of the connected firm be of Russian/Soviet background?

    This sounds like a Communist model.

  2. Xboxershorts says:

    Living in Potter County, PA in the middle of the Marcellus play and being a very vocal advocate of a moratorium on drilling, I am almost certain now that I would have great difficulty flying now and maybe I should put off that Canadian vacation too.

    And one of the most amazing things about this is that the Tea Partiers here in Potter County were CHEERING THIS ON…even though many of their own were put under direct surveillance.


  3. Jeff Kaye says:

    Thanks for this, EW!

    From the same article, to be filed in the “I can’t believe they said it” department:

    How did the leaders at ITRR view legal political activity? In a May 3 e-mail sent to Powers, ITRR co-founder Mike Perelman writes:

    “The Internet is an incredible force multiplier — example: I doubt that the Rainforest Action Network or the Ruckus Group number more than 25 people each. But they have incredible reach, sophistication, and influence on local groups.”

    Perelman immediately followed with this description: “Shades of Al Qaeda!”

    The story also documents how lists of meetings by “anti-drilling activists” included “township supervisors meetings, county commissioners meetings and a possible Pennsylvania Forestry Association meeting in Mechanicsburg.”

    All political action is terrorism. That is the reductio ad absurdum of the direction this country is going.

  4. Frank33 says:

    I really hate it when my paranoid conspiracy theories come true. The corporations poison us with Bis Phenols, and Corexit and only God and the Devil knows what is in the Frackin chemicals. The corporations are terrorists.

    So they set up a Gestapo to “neutralize” anyone who does not want to be poisoned by Exxon or British Petroleum or Monsanto. Of course Bill Gates and Goldman Sachs and Peter Peterson, are always major players behind these police state conspiracies.

  5. kbskiff says:

    I can vouch for the accuracy since I am a victim of the Fusion Center/Corporate alliance.

    I got news for you. These corporations that are considered “critical infrastructure” are required to provide for their own security and are authorized by DHS to use deadly force if they can “credibly articulate the threat”.

    In my case, myself and a reporter for the local newspaper were gathering evidence in public waters near a Kinder Morgan facility. I was later called by the commander of Charleston Sector US Coast Guard who informed me in no uncertain terms that they can use force against US citizens if they consider it a threat.

    In South Carolina recording phone calls is legal if one party is aware of the recording taking place. Here is the call I received from the DHS commander.

    My “crime” was complaining about them polluting the water and my sailboat to our Department Health and Environmental Control. They denied it. I took videos and caught them in the act. My reward for this was an armed raid by 7 Homeland Security agents.

    I never thought this would happen in America but it is now common place.

    The company did end up with 75K in fines and had to spend millions on upgrades to their facility and a year long delay on a planned expansion of their facility.

    If I had not recorded all phone calls, had video proof and witnesses I am sure the outcome would have been different.

      • kbskiff says:


        All I can say is that any “activist” or in my case complainer better be squeeky clean and cover your ass because they will use everything at their disposal to stop any “threat” including threats and lies. No doubt in my mind who they are working for.

        I had the honor of being audited by the IRS as well that year with no discrepancies found.

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      In July of this year, Emptywheel hosted a salonat FDL with Tim Shorrock…re: intelligence contracting.

      Fusion centers were discussed at length in the commentaries.

      However, if you use the search engine for this site (in the upper right hand corner), you will find many exceedingly informative threads on fusion centers,here at EW,going back several years.

      • kbskiff says:

        Yes I read the blog daily and have for years, some of the best commentary on subjects that many choose to ignore. I commented on several of the threads. I limit my comments here unless I think I can contribute.

        Not sure what you mean by “edgy” activist. I never involved myself in matters like this until I was directly affected and never considered myself an activist in the least. What do you mean and what does “G” signify?

        • pdaly says:

          If I understand this correctly it is a coal processing plant. Perhaps I lack imagination to understand (unlike at a nuclear facility) why the plant would have to use deadly force to protect itself from would-be terrorists interested in a take over a coal plant to ‘wreak havoc.’

          BTW, the *G* means “grin” used instead of the emoticon ;-)

          (At one point, the FDL page did not recognize the teletype emoticons so the *g* or *G* have been used)

          • kbskiff says:

            They don’t process coal they just unload it and ship out on rail to power plants. The ships carry foreign coal from Drummond Coal in Colombia. They were recently sued in the US for using right wing hit squads to murder union activists striking for better wages and working conditions.

            I guess maybe I am a little “edgy” after learning the history of this company and its Enron roots. I think pissed off is probably a better description than edgy. My activism is limited to my stupid Kinder Morgan Watch website that I cobbled together the best I could.

        • Gitcheegumee says:

          “Edgy” was the term used by John Durham’s office in their non reply reply to Bmaz’ letter to them a few days ago,regarding the statute of limitations running out thus week regarding the destruction of torture tapes.

          The “G” stands for grin.

          I asked the same thing.

      • kbskiff says:

        That was just part of the call.

        The locals and DHS contradicted themselves to the press later. It took months and several FOIA requests by myself and our local papers before the agencies and agents involved were identified. One agent remains unidentified.

        I was under the impression that when police invade and search they are supposed to identify themselves. Apparently I was wrong.

  6. harpie says:

    From the linked article:

    In an interview the day before Rendell read about the program in The Patriot-News and halted it, Powers was clearly proud of that effort.

    Comparing himself to the Tommy Lee Jones’ character in the film “The Fugitive,” Powers said, “I don’t care” which side of the issue someone is on — or if they’re innocent. “My concern is public safety.”

    Through the Looking Glass

  7. harpie says:

    From the linked article:

    On the opposite side of the state, Lotorto’s 57-year-old mother, Alexandria, opened the door of her Pike County home to find two State Police officers demanding to know the whereabouts of her son.

    Isn’t this what happened to Bradley Manning’s mother?

  8. lysias says:

    I wonder if one reason our military-industrial complex is so fond of Israel is that they’re able to farm out to that country projects that would be illegal or too embarrassing to conduct here.

  9. klynn says:

    OT question,

    Does anyone else have a display of this page showing a flaw at comment one? The grey line and copy appear broken in my display of the page. It starts at about the end of the time display and”AM” and happens again just above the “gr” in the word background.

  10. harpie says:

    Institute of Terrorism Research and Response

    [DOT ORG ?]

    “ITRR: Working with organizations that refuse to surrender their domestic or international operations to terrorism.”

    ITRR Overview [emphasis added]

    Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR) is an American and Israeli nonprofit corporation created to help organizations succeed and prosper in a world threatened by terrorism.

    ITRR’s Israeli and American experts provide counter-terrorism training, seminars, and security specialization in dealing with threats such as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), suicide bombers, and other forms of international terror striking both the public and private sector.

    ITRR established the Targeted Actionable Monitoring Center (TAM-C) to provide accurate and actionable intelligence about potential security threats throughout the world. With a multilingual team of researchers and analysts, TAM-C gathers and provides intelligence on terrorist activities and plans, information on international hot-spots, historical “red-flag” dates, and real-time security alerts.

    Operating under the auspices and with the resources of TAM-C, the Ground Truth Network (GTN) leverages ITRR’s international contacts and sources to provide real-time intelligence from the field. In this way, the Ground Truth Network keeps international corporations apprised of threats to their assets and personnel throughout the world.

    Intelligence Workshops

    The Workshop will provide skills for overcoming legal and information limitations and for improving operational implementation throughout intelligence and law enforcement communities.

    Focusing on practical implementation, the Workshop provides a strong introduction to methodologies of collection, processing and analysis.

    The Workshop is designed to enable the participant to utilize the Israeli experiences of ITRR Subject Matter Experts. It also shows how these requirements can be practically achieved at the federal, state, and local levels in terms of operations (e.g. information sharing mechanisms and intelligence fusion centers) and technology implementations.

    …makes me wonder what Douglas Feith and Richard Perle are up to these days.

    Pa. Governor Apologizes for Tracking Enviro Extremists, but Questions Remain; Marion Wang, ProPublica; 9/15/10

    […] Gov. Rendell has now terminated the state’s contract with the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response. But it’s worth noting that the information in the document [6] relating to the threat of “environmental extremism” was originally from the FBI, and was extracted into the Pennsylvania bulletin.

    That means the original association between environmental activists and threats to security originated on the federal level. The FBI has not responded to ProPublica’s request for comment.

    PA State Police: Intelligence Bulletins Were ‘Unsubstantiated’, Work of ‘Amateurs’; Marion Wang, ProPublica; 9/28/10

    As early as January, the head of the Pennsylvania State Police’s intelligence unit warned the state’s Office of Homeland Security [1] that its intelligence bulletins — compiled for the state by an anti-terrorism contractor — contained inaccurate and useless information about threats to state infrastructure, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

    “I likened it to reading the National Enquirer. Every so often they have something right, but most of the time it’s unsubstantiated gossip,” George Bivens, director of the state police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, testified in a Pennsylvania Senate hearing Monday. […]

    The documents have been released and are linked at the second ProPublica article.

  11. rosalind says:

    then we have the PG&E Smart Meter exec who just executed an infiltrator-fail:

    “A Pacific Gas and Electric Co. executive who used a fake name in an attempt to join an online discussion group of people opposed to the utility’s SmartMeter program resigned today, a company spokesman said.

    PG&E had placed William Devereaux, senior director of the $2.2 billion SmartMeter program, on paid leave Tuesday after he admitted trying to join the group using the alias “Ralph.” He also admitted monitoring other online groups of PG&E critics for several months.

    In an e-mail to the discussion group’s moderator, he identified himself as “Ralph” and said he wanted to “help out.” But his real name appeared next to his e-mail address.

    (emphasis mine)

    via SFGate

  12. parsnip says:

    Marcie, thanks for keeping us up to date on the PA Gestapo. I am sad to predict that Pennsylvania is slated to become the next Gulf of Mexico. Tom Corbett gleefully announced that Pennsylvania is “Open for business.” at his victory party, and it sent a chill through me (at The Real News). And then I read the linked article today. Here’s The Real News report on it.

    How well will they try to conceal their goons’ activity? The state forests will probably be completely ravaged a la MTR.

    • harpie says:

      Thanks, Jeff. That is quite frightening. Manning’s [ailing] mother was subjected to the same treatment as Lotorto’s [also ailing] mother. See my comment @12.

  13. JohnJ says:

    Totally OT but this is the best place I know to put it:

    Bogus Grass-Roots Politics on Twitter

    Data-mining techniques reveal fake Twitter accounts that give the impression of a vast political movement.

    From Technology review (link).

    Menczer says the research group uncovered a number of accounts sending out duplicate messages and also retweeting messages from the same few accounts in a closely connected network. For instance, two since-closed accounts, called @PeaceKaren_25 and @HopeMarie_25, sent out 20,000 similar tweets, most of them linking to, or promoting, the House minority leader John Boehner’s website,

    Who says Goppers aren’t tech savvy.

  14. alinaustex says:

    1984 knocking at our door

    Why are Israeli terrorism experts here helping make it safe for the Oil&Gas corporations to destroy our drinking water supplies in order to get heretofore unrecoverable natural gas /

    Its the Stassi meets the Pinkertons here in the these United States .

    Where is the Holder DOJ on this subversion of our most basic freedoms ?

    This is not the change we voted for in 2008 .

    • harpie says:

      Where’s the DoJ?

      See the link to the first PropPublica article in my comment @17:

      But it’s worth noting that the information in the document [6] relating to the threat of “environmental extremism” was originally from the FBI, and was extracted into the Pennsylvania bulletin

      That means the original association between environmental activists and threats to security originated on the federal level. The FBI has not responded to ProPublica’s request for comment.

      The FBI is part of the DoJ.

  15. Mary says:

    In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

    Between the crosses row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago

    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie

    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:

    To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

    In Flanders fields.

    Ten years of breaking faith. Nothing but more in sight.