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In what is striking many as unduly Orwellian, Pennsylvania's Homeland Security Department is actively spying on anti-drilling activists throughout the state -- and then handing that information over to the drilling company that they're protesting against. The activists have been entirely peaceful, so when the drilling company, Marcellus Shale, inadvertently revealed that it was receiving information about them from the state, anger was quick to spread.Centre Daily News reports:
According to recently leaked documents, the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security has been tracking anti-gas drilling groups and their meetings -- including a public screening of the film "Gasland," a documentary about the environmental hazards of natural gas drilling.As you're likely aware, fracking, a dangerous process of drilling for natural gas, has become a contentious issue around the nation. Grassroots protests against the practice are springing up to oppose planned projects in places like Pennsylvania. The protesters, though concerned primarily with their communities' well-being, aren't always viewed kindly -- the police in PA have taken to labeling them extremists.
The office has included the information in its weekly intelligence bulletins sent to law enforcement agencies. The bulletins are also sent to gas companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Activists and environmental groups have responded with outrage and some alarm.
So it's good news for the mining corporations that the government is watching out for them, and preemptively treating concerned citizens like suspects in a crime that has yet to be committed. Boing Boing notes that the "State Homeland Security Director James Powers justifies the snooping on meetings and information sessions because activists' "presence may spark something else. [I don't want to see public meetings] escalate to physical criminal acts.""
Yes, because we all know how out of control screenings of documentaries can get. Here's more from Centre Daily:
Comparing himself to Tommy Lee Jones' character in the film "The Fugitive," Powers said, "I don't care" which side of the issue someone is on -- or if he or she is innocent. "My concern is public safety." However, the "intelligence" in the briefings includes lists of public meetings the state has determined anti-drilling activists plan to attend.I'd have to agree with Jarett -- the whole affair seems pretty thoroughly creepy indeed.
"I find it kind of creepy that the state is compiling information on the innocuous activity of citizens," said Jan Jarrett, president of PennFuture, a group that has expressed concern about drilling issues.