Pennsylvania Homeland Security Chief Quits
State Homeland Security Director James F. Powers Jr., criticized for releasing terror bulletins that listed law-abiding protest groups, resigned to protect the office from further distraction, Gov. Ed Rendell said Friday.
Rendell said he did not ask Powers to quit.
Powers declined to comment through an aide but released a statement saying he decided to resign after “a thorough examination, detailed consideration, and reflection on emerging events” related to the terror bulletins.
The bulletins went to law enforcement agencies, local governments and private security officials, warning of protests by environmental activists, anti-war demonstrators and anti-tax groups. Homeland Security compiled them, based on information provided by the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response. The institute, a for-profit company, won a $103,000 contract from Powers with approval of the state Department of General Services. Rendell has said the contract won’t be renewed this month.
Powers, a retired Army Special Forces officer, was a good man who made a bad decision on the bulletins, Rendell said.
“Given the troubling revelations about the security contract and his continuing defense of it, his position was untenable,” said Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne County, who chairs a Senate committee holding hearings on the matter. “So his decision to resign is the right one. His departure opens the door to some badly needed changes, but restoring credibility to the operation now looks to be a monumental task.”
The governor said he accepted the resignation, effective Oct. 8, “out of our mutual concern that the function of Homeland Security is too important to be subject to the distractions resulting from one operation or one man.”
On Sept. 14, Rendell revealed the extent of peaceful protest groups included in the bulletins and said the matter “embarrassed” him.
At this week’s Senate hearing, state police brass testified that they repeatedly warned Powers about inaccurate information in bulletins and said they wasted valuable police and FBI time checking out erroneous reports.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, whose anti-tax and Second Amendment rallies were listed in the bulletins, said the governor should have fired Powers.