Brad Bumsted and Andrew Conti
An obscure York nonprofit with ties to Philadelphia University and Jerusalem is behind the state Homeland Security agency’s monitoring of protesters, environmentalists and gays, documents show.
The Institute of Terrorism Research and Response is headed by Michael Perelman, who formerly worked for the York City Police Department, and Aaron Richman, a former police captain in the Israeli capital, according to filings with the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Gov. Ed Rendell apologized Tuesday after the disclosure that the state Office of Homeland Security paid the institute $125,000 for weekly reports the agency used to put Marcellus shale hearings and a gay and lesbian festival on terror watch lists for law enforcement.
“We are appalled at what we have learned so far about these reports,” said Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “It all smacks of J. Edgar Hoover. Saying that no harm was done is simplistic. Just raising questions about a group or a person can cause harm. Dissent does not equal danger.”
Perelman declined to comment but provided a statement that explained in general terms what his organization does:
“The mission of the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response is to identify and analyze information that can be leveraged to prevent injury, loss of life and destruction of property. At times, that means providing guidance on the potential for deadly actions.”
Richman could not be reached for comment.