Gas activists sue over anti-terrorism bulletins

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- A group of Luzerne County natural gas drilling activists filed a lawsuit Monday against Pennsylvania's head of Homeland Security after a set of leaked anti-terrorism bulletins showed the department was tracking and gathering information on peaceful drilling protesters.

The Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition sued James Powers Jr., director of the state's Office of Homeland Security, in federal court in Scranton, and will seek legal fees and $103,000 in damages -- the amount the state paid the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response to develop the documents.

By including the coalition and other drilling activists in the bulletins that tracked potential terrorist activity and security concerns, the state violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the group said in its lawsuit. The bulletins were distributed mostly to law enforcement officials.

"Even after the government knew that the individuals were simply exercising their First Amendment rights, they put them in a report anyway," said Paul Rossi, the group's attorney. "That has to stop. At a minimum, there has to be a line that cannot be crossed by government. If they can cross that line, then government can be used as a tool against any kind of First Amendment speech going forward."

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