Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell (pictured at right) said Tuesday he is "appalled" and "embarrassed" that his administration's Office of Homeland Security is tracking and circulating information about protests by activist groups that don't pose a threat to public safety.
Rendell said he was unaware the office had been paying an outside firm to track a long list of activists, including groups that support gay rights, oppose drilling, and work for animal rights, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
"Let me make this as clear as I can make it," the governor said at news conference Tuesday night. "Protesting against an idea, a principle, a process, is not a real threat against infrastructure. Protesting is a God-given American right, a right that is in our Constitution, a right that is fundamental to all we believe in as Americans."
Included in an intelligence bulletin circulated three times a week: information about the city's PrideFest, a rally that supported his administration's education policy, and an anti-BP candlelight vigil.
"Tell me, what critical infrastructure does the gay and lesbian PrideFest threaten?" Rendell asked. "How in the Lord's name can we consider them to be terrorists?"
Rendell said he won't fire or discipline anyone in the department, but has ordered officials to terminate their contract with Philadelphia-based Institute of Terrorism and Research Response, which he said has been paid $125,000 in the last year to gather data about possible security threats.