Gov. Ridge: State was wrong to track activists' protests


Former Gov. Tom Ridge, who served as the nation’s first secretary of homeland security, said Pennsylvania’s homeland security office was wrong to track and circulate information about activists’ protests.


“You always monitor demonstrations, regardless of the source,” Ridge, who was homeland security secretary from 2003 to 2005, said in an interview this morning. “But public peaceful demonstrations have nothing to do with terrorism, they have to do with freedom.”


His comments came two days after Gov. Rendell said he was “appalled” and “embarrassed” to learn the state’s homeland security department had hired a private contractor to track activists, including groups that oppose drilling in the Marcellus Shale, animal-rights advocates, and peace activists. The information was then circulated to law enforcement and private industry representatives.


Rendell ordered an immediate halt to the practice and canceled the contract with the Philadelphia-based Institute of Terrorism and Research Response.


“I thought Ed handled it right,” said Ridge, who runs a Washington-based lobbying firm and lobbies for a group that represents companies that want to drill into the Marcellus Shale. “If there are very specific direct threats you have to deal with them. My sense this was just an amalgamation” of planned gatherings.


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