"Coal Country" a Terrorist Threat?
Ken Ward Jr.'s invaluable Coal Tattoo blog reveals today that Sierra Club Production's film Coal Country was among the potential terrorist threats recently monitored by Pennsylvania's hyper-paranoid Office of Homeland Security. That office had contracted with a for-profit outfit called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, which compiled a list of putative threats including an animal-rights group planning to protest a rodeo, a gay and lesbian festival, and filmmaker Mari-Lynn Evan's dramatic look at the modern coal industry. According to ITRR's report,
Throughout the next two months, Planet Green will air ‘Coal Country,’ a documentary promising to “reveal the truth about modern coal mining” …
… Though Pennsylvania mountains have not been subjected to mountaintop mining as of yet, the waste materials from mountaintop mining in other states has been dumped into streams in Pennsylvania, reportedly causing damage to the environment.
On 15 October, 2009, over 300 people attended a public hearing at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh to discuss the Obama administration’s decision to restrict mountaintop removal-related permits. Security was heavy.
TAM-C [Targeted Actionable Monitoring Center] analysts view this film as a potential catalyst for inspiring ‘direct action’ protests or even sabotage against facilities, machinery, and/or corporate headquarters.
The head of Pennsylvania's Homeland Security office, James F. Powers, Jr., resigned earlier this month over the scandal, and a "deeply embarrassed" Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell apologized "to any of the groups who had this information disseminated on their right to peacefully protest." Still unbowed, however, are the terrorist hunters at the Insitute of Terrorism Research and Response, whose Web site still features articles like "Environmental Extremists Continue to Target the Energy Industry":
. . . Authorities though said the fact remains that because extremist elements have emerged from legitimate protest groups throughout the United States, federal and state homeland security officials, especially if they’re charged with protecting critical infrastructure, must keep an eye out for such activity.
Intelligence officials who reviewed the POHS [Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security] report didn’t find anything particularly disturbing about it, and said its content and method of conveying information is similar to many similar intelligent bulletins or alerts that are routinely issued by federal and state homeland security departments.
“You just have to be careful to not cross the line and directly implicate or imply that such and such is actually engaged in terrorism, violence, damage, or whatever,” one of the officials said, adding, “simply listing events where protests are going to be held isn’t a violation of anyone’s right that I can see.”