Source: Penn Live
The resignation of Pennsylvania’s Office of Homeland Security Director James Powers is unlikely to quell the furor that has erupted in the wake of news that his office hired a private contractor that monitored the activities and online conversations of lawful citizen groups.
Gov. Ed Rendell announced Friday that Powers will step down Oct. 8, saying “Jim is a good man who made a very significant mistake in judgment.”
Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, chair of the senate committee investigating the issue, said the resignation “opens the door to some badly needed changes, but restoring credibility to the operation now looks to be a monumental task.”
For more than three weeks, Powers has been at the center of the scandal, which made national headlines.
The information collected by the private contractor was distributed three times a week to law enforcement officials around the state, as well as to private companies, including those drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
The Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne County, one of the groups monitored in the Homeland Security “intelligence” bulletins, has filed suit in federal court. Others have indicated they plan to do the same.
Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny, has encouraged all groups listed in the reports to file complaints with the State Ethics Commission, the state Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice, civil rights division.
An event Ferlo hosted in Allegheny County was included in the bulletins. Ferlo said Powers and his boss, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency director Robert French, should be prosecuted.
After The Patriot-News reported the story, Rendell apologized publicly and said the contract with the private firm doing the monitoring would not be renewed when it expires Oct. 25.
Scott Davis, founder of PARevolution.com, is planning a rally at the Capitol Oct. 25 to celebrate the end of the contract. Davis has issued an open invitation to all groups listed in the bulletins.
The bulletins “are proof that the government is watching what we’re doing,” said Davis, adding there are ongoing issues even after Powers’ resignation and the end of the contract.
During a senate hearing last week, it was revealed the state police are poised to take over the intelligence work previously contracted to identify threats to critical infrastructure.
“What role are they taking over, and are they going to be doing the same thing?” Davis asked.
Senate testimony revealed the state police knew there were “severe problems” with the Homeland Security bulletins as early as December of last year. Internal e-mails show they were concerned — in at least one instance — about Powers coordinating local law enforcement efforts in preparation for a lawful gathering of Second Amendment activists.
Rendell’s chief of staff, Steve Crawford, later criticized State Police Commissioner Frank Pawlowski for “the state police’s decision to harbor apprehension about such a serious matter for more than nine months now without calling it to the attention of top officials in the administration who were in a position to address the situation.”
Pawlowski, French and Powers were all on the task force Rendell created to find an alternative to the intelligence-gathering contract.