James F. Powers had been Pennsylvania's homeland security director less than six months when he spoke at a Philadelphia conference about emergency preparedness in late 2006.
His office's mission, Powers said then, was to identify special events and elements of the state's infrastructure that could be targets - and to coordinate resources to protect them.
Gathering clues on dangerous groups and plots fell to the state police, he said.
"They provide the de facto Intelligence Center for the commonwealth," Powers told the crowd at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a transcript shows. "They have to detect, deter, collect and synthesize information, derive actionable intelligence, disseminate it to the user/stakeholder and monitor it."
It was that kind of intelligence-gathering by his own office that has since engulfed Powers, a former Special Forces colonel, and has activists and legislators calling for his ouster.
On Monday, the Senate plans a hearing into revelations that Powers' office was paying a Philadelphia-based firm $103,000 to compile regular bulletins outlining potential threats from groups including antiwar activists, student demonstrators, and environmentalists.
The bulletins came to light after Powers mistakenly sent a woman opposed to natural gas drilling an e-mail that said he wanted to "continue providing support to the Marcellus Shale Formation natural gas stakeholders while not feeding those groups fomenting dissent" against drillers.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) said Tuesday that the governor needed to hold Powers or his staff accountable. "The actions were so egregious that whoever is responsible should be fired," he said.
Gov. Rendell ordered the contract canceled but did not remove Powers. Still, the episode has given Republicans an issue to exploit as elections loom and Rendell's tenure winds down.
Powers, a 63-year-old Alabama native, has ignored multiple requests for comment, and state officials have declined to make him or any colleagues available.
"He's still on the job. He shows up at the office every day," Rendell spokesman Gary Tuma said Tuesday.
Untangling exactly what the homeland security job is and how it meshes with other offices and agencies has been an ongoing struggle in many states. After 9/11, the U.S. government pressed states to develop homeland security offices. At the same time, most counties, states, and local police agencies devoted new resources to the issue.
When he hired him four years ago, Rendell touted Powers' "excellent planning and management skills" and his "invaluable experience." And the retired colonel's resume was thick: He had three decades of military service around the globe, taught at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., and the Joint Special Operations University in Florida, and earned a master's degree in public administration from Shippensburg University. He and his wife lived in Carlisle and had two college-age children.
At his speech in Philadelphia, Powers said his job included identifying potential targets - roads, industries, or events such as the Army-Navy football game - and coordinating with public agencies and the private sector. The governor, he said, "charged me with making sure that we leverage the federal grant program for all its possibilities" before using state funds.
The presentation was tailored for an audience accustomed to the alphabet soup of government, military, and law enforcement initiatives. But Powers showed flashes of his warrior past.
"This is not your grandmother's emergency management anymore," he said, the transcript shows. "The world changed for us on 9/11, and we have a whole new landscape. The terrorists brought the battle to us, making Pennsylvania a battle space."
In late 2007, Rendell signed an executive order placing the Office of Homeland Security - and by extension, its director - under the authority of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
According to the governor's order, the PEMA director would set the priorities for homeland security. Powers, in turn, would make recommendations on security issues and legislation, monitor funding opportunities, oversee "working groups and steering committees," and prepare an annual report on homeland security activities.
Maria Finn, a spokeswoman for PEMA, said Powers' office now runs one committee, a 12-member "Protection Steering Committee." Six salaried workers are on his payroll, but they answer to Emergency Management Director Robert French, according to Finn. Powers, she said, is "an office of one."
She also said he had not filed any annual reports because the Governor's Office told him he did not have to.
The Homeland Security Office's website includes biographies of Powers and two aides, a page outlining the national color-coded threat levels, and answers to six frequently asked questions, such as "What is Terrorism?"
Edward Atkins, who chairs the Southeastern Pennsylvania task force of emergency management officials, met Powers when he took office. Atkins said he found Powers "very personable" but had not had much reason to interact with him.
"Day-to-day, most of the stuff we do as a county and a region is with PEMA," Atkins said. "If I had an issue, I would go to PEMA first."
Part of Powers' role has been as a visible speaker for homeland security at state and national conferences.
Last month, he was slated to be in Philadelphia for the Hometown Crisis Management Exercise hosted by the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, the same firm he hired to compile the intelligence bulletins.
It is unclear whether he will speak Monday in the Senate.
Sen. Lisa Baker (R., Luzerne) asked Powers to testify, as well as State Police Commissioner Frank Pawlowski, Rendell chief of staff Steve Crawford, and French, from PEMA.
Baker's spokesman, Aaron Shenck, said that the witness list was not finalized but that senators hoped to get more details about the office and its director. "That is certainly one goal of the hearing," Shenck said.
Rendell's spokesman declined to discuss Powers' performance except to say the governor stood by his homeland security chief.
"He believes that Director Powers has carried out his responsibility well," Tuma said. "And he is going to judge him on his total job performance."