HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Gov. Ed Rendell says he is ending Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security tracking of political dissidents and that he is "appalled" by the practice.
At a news conference Tuesday, Rendell, at one point pounding his fist, said he was not aware the office was gathering and passing on information on environmental, peace and animal-rights activists, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. He said he was both "appalled" and "embarrassed" when he learned of it.
The office even shared data on PrideFest, a gay and lesbian gathering, a candlelight vigil over the BP oil spill and a rally of supporters of Rendell's education proposals.
Rendell said the state's contract with the Institute of Terrorism and Research Response, which expires in October, will not be renewed. In the meantime, he said, no more information on peaceful protests will be included in the state Homeland Security office's terrorism bulletins.
"Let me make this as clear as I can make it," the governor said. "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."