Official: Take Pa. terror-alert bulletins off Net

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - September 19, 2010

In a memo obtained by The Associated Press, Michael Perelman of the Philadelphia-based Institute of Terrorism Research and Response expresses concern that the state's release of the bulletins last week "has increased the threat to Pennsylvania's infrastructure - including its most vulnerable component, students studying abroad."

The memo, sent to Pennsylvania Homeland Security Director James Powers Jr., urges Powers to pull the PA Intelligence Bulletin issues off the Internet "until they can be carefully reviewed and redacted of all information that provides intelligence to those who would do harm to American citizens, the Commonwealth, and its people."

Perelman told the AP on Sunday that he did not authorize distribution of the memo but he confirmed its contents.

"I'm very uncomfortable about the unredacted posting of intelligence bulletins," Perelman said.

Maria Finn, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the Homeland Security Office, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The bulletins were initially distributed privately through Powers' office. Rendell learned of the bulletins Tuesday, and apologized to groups whose peaceful protests or events, from an animal rights demonstration to a gay and lesbian festival, were the subject of regular anti-terrorism bulletins.

The governor said the information was useless to law enforcement agencies and that distributing it was tantamount to trampling on constitutional rights. He ordered an end to the $125,000 contract with Perelman's company, which expires in October.

The bulletins were posted Friday night on the state Homeland Security website after requests for copies of them were filed by various news organizations, including the AP.

In his memo, Perelman said the alerts included locations of some potential targets that "would not necessarily have been on the radar" of those intending harm. They also discussed planning for terror tactics that was meant to help officials make potential targets more secure, he said.

In addition, the memo said, guidance on increased threats in various foreign countries was intended to help protect students studying abroad.

"Whether the information is used by a criminal gang or an organization with jihadist ties, we have provided them with a significant quantity of intelligence that they can use to victimize our students," the memo said.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, said her Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee plans a Sept. 27 hearing, and she was concerned that people had been targeted for exercising rights of free speech and assembly.

Perelman said in a statement Friday that the company operated within the scope of the law and did not track, photograph or record people, conduct surveillance or generate a terror list. He said the bulletins were intended to give police "a heads-up for the potential of disorder."

Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.