Saturday, October 2, 2010

PA Chief of Homeland Security resigns over monitoring gas drilling activists

Appearing in yesterday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
By Tom Barnes:

HARRISBURG -- State Homeland Security Director James F. Powers Jr.-- under pressure for a heavily criticized contract -- today announced he's resigning from state government.

There were numerous calls for Gov. Ed Rendell to fire Mr. Powers, ever since word got out two weeks ago about a $103,000 contract Mr. Powers signed with the Institute for Terrorism Research and Response a year ago. Civil libertarians, state Sen. Jim Ferlo, Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields and others were angry about a so-called anti-terrorism contract he agreed to.

It led to tracking and monitoring of many protest groups around the state, including gay/lesbian parades and protests against Marcellus Shale drilling. Mr. Ferlo and Mr. Shields said he should be fired for violating people's constitutional right of free speech.

Mr. Rendell was sharply critical of the contract, which he canceled, calling it a severe lapse in judgment. But Mr. Rendell refused to fire Mr. Powers and said today that Mr. Powers decision to leave is his own. The governor praised Mr. Powers for serving the country during a 30-year career with the Army.

The director said he was resigning "with deep regret'' but said all his actions during his four years with Homeland Security were meant to foster "the security and wellbeing of the commonwealth citizenry -- our greatest resource.''

He earlier had apologized for unintended consequences of the contract and said he hadn't meant to infringe on anyone's rights. He said he was trying to protect public safety by keeping a watch out for terrorist attacks.

Click HERE to read the original article on the Post-Gazette's website.

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