Big Brother is Watching... Jobs with Justice?
The Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security is paying a private American-Israeli firm, the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR) to monitor the activities of groups like Jobs with Justice, MoveON.org, the Ruckus Society, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Brandywine Peace Coalition, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, Rainforest Action Network, immigration activists opposing Arizona’s SB1070, and many more.
Bill Quigley and Rachel Meeropol reported the story last week in Counterpunch:
For almost a year, ITTR provided bi-weekly intelligence briefings to Pennsylvania Homeland Security which focused in equal part on "jihadist" communications and trainings throughout the world, and also social justice organizing and protests across the country.
Pennsylvania Homeland Security, in turn, distributed this information to 800 federal, local and state law enforcement agencies, along with "relevant stakeholders" like local businesses. Information provided included the political views and movement building strategies of hundreds of law-abiding groups and individuals...
...The extent of the "monitoring" here is far from clear. Much of ITRR's information clearly comes from organizations' own websites and press materials, but the bulletins are laced with more sinister references to "intercepted internal communications."
Paying ITTR for "intelligence" that is not a secret is clearly a waste of taxpayer money, but the practice of monitoring progressive groups has wider implications for our First Amendment protected rights to assembly and freedom of speech. As Quigley & Meeropol point out, "There is a direct negative effect of consistently teaching law enforcement that protesters pose national security risks... Since 9-11 we have seen increased hurdles to dissent in the US. Every protest now not only brings out local cops but also is a potential terrorist event monitored by Joint Terrorism Task Force personnel." This monitoring is even more chilling in light of the recent FBI raids on anti-war activists.
Philadelphia JwJ's peaceful September 15 rally for fair jobs, full employment, and funding for public services was the subject of an entire page in the bi-weekly ITRR bulletin despite the fact that all details of the event were public AND the city Civil Affairs office was notified. I reported on the event September 16th:
A group of approximately 100 activists from Philadelphia JwJ, Temple SLAP, Philadelphia NAACP, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, AFSCME District Council 47, Media Mobilization Project, UNITE HERE, the Philadelphia One Nation Organizing Committee, PASNAP, Neighborhood Networks, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and Progressive Democrats for America rallied to demand an end to local tax breaks for big business, protection of public services in the city, and adoption of national, pro-worker legislation, especially the Local Jobs for America Act.
Are these groups considered dangerous? Is advocating for labor rights, jobs, and public services considered terrorist activity?