On December 22, the civil liberties organization Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) released a trove of documents revealing that the FBI worked closely with banks, Wall Street and other agencies to spy on the Occupy Movement. In countless emails and memoranda sent out by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement are scrutinized for their “criminal activity” and “domestic terrorism” threats, despite the fact that the social movement continuously encouraged nonviolent civil disobedience and resistance.
The FBI, DHS and JTTF worked closely with law enforcement agencies, local governments, military intelligence and the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), an Orwellian fusion of law enforcement, governmental and private sector interests. The Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) also worked closely with the DSAC and FBI to monitor Occupy groups organizing actions on the West Coast in support of the longshoreman union ILWU in its labor dispute. The mission of NCIS “is to investigate and defeat criminal, terrorist, and foreign intelligence threats” to the United States.
The message is clear: the federal government, FBI, JTTF, DHS, military and the big banks saw the Occupy Movement as a “criminal” and “terrorist” threat to national security and played a large part in attempting to undermine the movement. The PCJF obtained these documents through FOIA requests and is currently appealing to gather more documents the organization believes that the FBI is withholding from the public.
Local Occupy groups were also targeted in this mass surveillance. Occupy Oswego, Occupy Syracuse and Occupy Albany all come up in the documents as targets of the FBI. A SUNY Oswego official regularly sent updates to the FBI. The JTTF and the FBI’s “Campus Liaison Program” contacted numerous college officials in Syracuse and Albany regarding the Occupy groups in those two cities. It is unknown at this time whether or not Occupy Utica was spied on.
Although these documents are revealing, many participants of the Occupy movement are not surprising. There were widely held suspicions in the movement of a nationally-coordinated crackdown of Occupy. Activists’ suspicions were confirmed when Oakland’s mayor Jean Quinn told the BBC that she was involved in a conference call with 18 other cities over how to deal with the Occupy Movement. It was later discovered that the FBI and DHS were involved in nationally coordinated discussions with at least 40 cities in clamping down on Occupy.
Activists from Occupy Austin discovered that their group was infiltrated by local police officers that had connections with a Texas Fusion Center. Fusion Centers connect the US military with federal and local law enforcement agencies to monitor and spy on “threats to national security.” They have come under considerable fire for their role in spying on and infiltrating antiwar groups, Occupy groups, anarchists and various social justice organizations. This is all done under the pretext of fighting and preventing terrorism.
The most severe FBI action known to date is the entrapment of Occupy Cleveland activists by an FBI informant. In a tactic widely used to imprison Muslim Americans, the FBI created a terror plot by introducing a violent idea, creating the plan and providing materials to carry out an act of violence, entrapping and imprisoning people duped into participating in the plot. Five Cleveland Occcupiers were tricked by the FBI into carrying out a bomb plot that did not occur. The troubling issue with entrapment cases is that had the FBI never been involved, there would be no threat of violence. Also disconcerting in the released files was the revelation that someone was plotting to assassinate Occupy leaders in New York City, Seattle and Texas with a sniper rifle. Despite this very serious threat, the FBI focused their resources on targeting Occupy.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of PCJF, commented over the FOIA document release stating, “This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement.” The FBI has a long history of targeting social movements and organizations on the Left, including populists, socialists, anarchists, the radical union known as the “Wobblies,” the Black Panthers and the New Left of the 1960s-70s. Time will tell what the rest of the iceberg looks like, but judging the history of the FBI, it may not look so good.
To view the spy files, visit: http://www.justiceonline.org/commentary/fbi-files-ows.html
Brendan Maslauskas Dunn