On the secret security briefing for state legislators

About a dozen lawmakers sat in on a closed door briefing with a private group purporting to know confidential information about the state’s homeland security and warning them of waning resources to local law enforcement, reports Andrea Zelinski.

One of the main messages legislators could take away from the briefing was that terrorists could be harboring in any state, including Tennessee, said Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, who attended the meeting.

Lawmakers said the group, the Tennessee Task Force on National and Homeland Security, did not ask legislators to pass or support specific legislation, but informed them of pent up concern by law enforcement who they say don’t have enough legal tools.

“When you’re in a bubble and you’re concerned about taxes and all sort of stuff like that, you tend not to hear things on a larger scale,” said Jeff Hartline, a spokesman for the group, which he said focuses on educating law enforcement and lawmakers.

Resumes of individuals associated with the group outlined experience in several areas, including Islamic terrorism and electromagnetic pulse weapons. When asked if the group was concerned specifically with Muslims — who have been targeted by state legislation in the past — Hartline said the group is interested with “anything that’s a threat to safety and security in Tennessee.”

The group is chaired by Jonna Z. Bianco, formerly the vice president and director of the congressional Electromagnetic Pulse Caucus. The “Task Force on National and Homeland Security” is a group one of its leaders explained as “easy to dismiss as something coming from people who might go around wearing tinfoil hats.”

Legislators said, off the record, after the closed meeting the information shared by the task force was interesting, but some details appeared taken out of context.

Hartline said aspects of the group’s message include organized crime, illegal weapons transferred in and out of the state, human trafficking, and electromagnetic pulse devices. “That’s a piece of it,” Hartline said about EMPs, “because that does present a clear and present danger to the ongoing of commerce in Tennessee.”