Vol. 20, No. 4,898 - The American Reporter - January 22, 2014

by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
Dummerston, Vt.
January 17, 2013
On Native Ground

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DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It got buried under all the end-of-the-year hysteria over the so-called fiscal cliff, but the news that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) worked with local police departments to coordinate a violent crackdown on the activist movement known as Occupy in the fall of 2011 deserves a closer look before it slips down the national memory hole altogether.

Last month, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), a nonprofit public interest legal organization based in Washington, D.C., used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents from the FBI.

While much iof the information was blacked out, these documents still confirm what many suspected after the raids in cities around the nation that broke up the Occupy encampments - that not only did the FBI and DHS treat Occupy as a potential criminal and terrorist threat, but they were conducting surveillance on organizers weeks before the first tent was pitched in Zuccotti Park.

Even though the FBI acknowledged that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did "not condone the use of violence" at Occupy protests - they behaved otherwise. In the words of PCJF Executive Director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, "These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America."

The documents are available at the PCJF website, and they are quite damning. They show how how public- and private-sector security activities have effectively merged into one amorphous whole designed to work with, and work for, banks and financial institutions to - in the words of poetical activist and author Naomi Wolf - "target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens."

Here are some of the choice bits that the PCJF uncovered:

  • As early as Aug. 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn't start for another month. By September, prior to the start of the OWS, the FBI was notifying businesses that they might be the focus of an OWS protest.

  • The FBI's Indianapolis division released a "Potential Criminal Activity Alert" on Sept. 15, 2011, even though they acknowledged that no specific protest date had been scheduled in Indiana. The documents show that the Indianapolis division of the FBI was coordinating with "All Indiana State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies," as well as the "Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center," the FBI's "Directorate of Intelligence" and other national FBI coordinating mechanisms.

  • The documents show the spying abuses of the FBI's "Campus Liaison Program;" in which the FBI in Albany and the Syracuse Joint Terrorism Task Force disseminated information to "16 different campus police officials," and then "six additional campus police officials." Campus officials were in contact with the FBI for information on OWS. A representative of the State University of New York at Oswego contacted the FBI for information on the OWS protests and reported to the FBI on the SUNY-Oswego Occupy encampment, largely made up of its own students and professors.

  • FBI offices in Anchorage, Jacksonville and Tampa, Fla., Milwaukee, Richmond, Va., Memphis, Tenn., Birmingham, Ala., Denver, and Jackson, Miss., were all in contact with local law enforcement agencies and "domestic terrorism" units regarding surveillance of Occupy participants in the fall of 2011.

  • Documents released show coordination between the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and corporate America. They include a report by the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), described by the federal government as "a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector," discussing the OWS protests at the West Coast ports to "raise awareness concerning this type of criminal activity."

    The DSAC report shows the nature of secret collaboration between American intelligence agencies and their corporate clients - the document contains a "handling notice" that the information is "meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel."

  • Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) reported to the DSAC on the relationship between OWS and organized labor for the port actions. The NCIS describes itself as "an elite worldwide federal law enforcement organization" whose "mission is to investigate and defeat criminal, terrorist, and foreign intelligence threats to the United States Navy and Marine Corps ashore, afloat and in cyberspace." The NCIS also assists with the transport of Guantanamo prisoners.

  • DSAC issued several tips to its corporate clients on "civil unrest" which it defines as ranging from "small, organized rallies to large-scale demonstrations and rioting." It advised to dress conservatively, avoid political discussions and "avoid all large gatherings related to civil issues. Even seemingly peaceful rallies can spur violent activity or be met with resistance by security forces. Bystanders may be arrested or harmed by security forces using water cannons, tear gas or other measures to control crowds."

Given the FBI's long history of targeting political dissidents, these actions are not exactly shocking. From the civil rights workers in the 1950s and 1960s, to the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era, to the spying on peace movements in the 1980s and 1990s, the FBI has always been - in Verheyden-Hilliard's words - "the secret police of the establishment against the people."

The twist now is that given the amount of data collection and data warehousing that goes on in the United States in the name of "fighting terrorism," there is seamless sharing of this data between public and private entities, and that it can be used to monitor the activities of Americans who are peacefully exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of assembly.

In the online age, it becomes very easy to crush dissent. Today, if you are a political activist, you can be tracked on the slightest provocation, without a warrant or a hearing, and without recourse.

"As obviously disturbing as it is, none of this should be surprising," wrote Salon's Glenn Greenwald a couple of weeks ago. "Virtually every seized power justified over the last decade in the name of 'terrorism' has been applied to a wide range of domestic dissent. The most significant civil liberties trend of the last decade, in my view, is the importation of War on Terror tactics onto U.S. soil, applied to U.S. citizens - from the sprawling Surveillance State and powers of indefinite detention to the para-militarization of domestic police forces and the rapidly emerging fleet of drones now being deployed in countless ways. ... [and] the true purpose of this endless expansion of state power in the name of 'terrorism' is control over anticipated domestic protest and unrest."

As a new Congress gets to work and President Obama begins his second term, this is as good a time as any to demand an end to the systematic erosion of our civil liberties.

The militarization of police departments, the fusion of government and private intelligence agencies into a seamless and unaccountable force, and the criminalization of the exercise of constitutionally-protected dissent must be stopped.

AR Chief of Correspondents Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.

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