The recent revelations that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania paid a company known as the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response for weekly terror briefings has been alternately comical and worrying. On one side, our esteemed Governor Ed Rendell was full of righteous indignation when he learned that over $ 100,000 in taxpayer money was paid for reports that targeted Pennsylvania citizens- everyone ranging from anarchists to tea party members in an operation that was so wide ranging that nobody can really accuse them of playing favorites. As I’ve said before, I really admire the Gov and his ability to spin absolutely any situation to his advantage- brushing aside the fact that it was his administration that hired the company in the first place, he promised that their contract would be immediately broken (leaving out the fact that it was a one year contract due to expire in October anyway.)
This is a perfect example of one of my earlier posts which highlighted the outsourcing of intelligence by the government to private companies. Why spy on your own citizens when you can pay your fellow citizens to do it for you ? Some information on the company suggests that employees posed in chat rooms to gain information on assorted miscreants in Pennsylvania and passed this information on to law enforcement. It's all so very East Germany circa 1975.
If you have some time on a rainy Saturday afternoon, you can read all of the reports in their glory here. I have to say that I read quite a few of them, and even as a former Army intelligence analyst I’m really not sure exactly what the hell is going on. One of my favorites cites a threat by Al Qaeda to use hot air balloons in IED attacks overseas while noting how balloons are poorly secured around the U.S.- the large lake between the source and the target might be a slight obstacle one would think. Other reports mention such totally bad ass, militant organizations like the Quakers. Another one of my favorites involves potential reaction to the Arizona immigration debate spilling into the Pirates-Diamondbacks game at PNC. This completely breaks the rule of intelligence regarding knowledge of your area- nobody goes to Pirate games anymore.
I don’t know if this company is actually employing a whole cadre of analysts (their website and reports even hint at intercepted communications, translation and "closed" intelligence sources) or a couple of guys hitting Google all day long and selling their product to gullible idiots like the ones running our state. I’m amused by the response by those who take positions contrary to the popular ones in our state and feel like they are being targeted- hey, welcome to my life. They seemed shocked and genuinely hurt that our state government would employ a company to spy on them, pay them and then run the other way when the whole operation was exposed. It was all fun and games until Leviathan actually hit back, wasn't it ?
The only genuine hurt I felt was after I read all the reports and realized I never appeared in them.
Not even once.
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