FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Evidence Homeland Security Coordinated Occupy Crackdown

by DAVE LINDORFF

If you want to know where the real government of the United States is located, just check out one of the documents received by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund in response to their Freedom of Information Act request to the Dept. of Homeland Security relating to surveillance of the Occupy Movement. That document, from the Secret Service, dated September 17, 2011, the day the Occupy movement began on Wall Street, from the US Secret Service Intelligence Division, titled Prism Demonstrations Abstract, list the location as “Wall Street Bull” — a reference to the bronze statue of a bull on Wall Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange, and the “protectee” as “The United States Government.”

As the National Lawyers Guild comments dryly, “American taxpayers might find it odd to learn that the Secret Service was on duty to protect the Wall Street Bull in the name of protecting the U.S. Government. But there it is.”

The trove of 398 documents (many of them heavily censored) received on behalf of thePCJF, the NLG and filmmaker Michael Moore, consists primarily of materials from top Homeland Security Officials, which PCJF Executive Director Mara Verhayden Hilliard says is a deliberate effort by Homeland Security officials to deflect attention from the workings of the mid-level intelligence staff of the various agencies within DHS who do the spying, and the so-called Fusion Centers around the country — all wholly funded by DHS–which link federal agencies like the FBI with local and state police agencies.

“It’s all a game of hide-the-ball” says Verhayden Hilliard, who adds that the National Lawyers Guild is challenging the effort by insisting on getting the records from all levels, including the Fusion centers.

Even so, she says that the documents obtained so far show the extraordinary attention that federal intelligence and police agencies from the Secret Service to the FBI to the Federal Protective Service and others devoted to the Occupy movement from its inception.

“The documents we received were only from the highest officials in DHS,” she stresses, “which shows that the government was highly concerned about Occupy at the highest levels of government.”

The National Lawyers Guild explains that documents show that the DHS, in responding to its FOIA request, looked only at records of the Intelligence & Analysis division and the Federal Protective Service, where any intelligence documents relating to the Occupy Movement had already been “purged, restricted and/or rescinded,” and avoided, in responding to the documents
request, looking for Occupy movement-related materials “where they are likely to be found, including in Fusion Centers and DHS sub-division such as the Operations Coordination & Planning sub-division which is responsible for DHS coordination with local and federal law enforcement partners.”

A good percentage of the documents recovered in the first trove are instructions on how to respond to media inquiries about the federal response to the Occupy movement sweeping the nation. For example, on November 16, as the violent nationwide crackdown on occupiers by local police was in full swing, DHS Press Secretary Matthew Chandler sent an email to top-ranking DHS officials, including the chief of staff to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, and to the chief of staff of the DHS general counsel, saying, “We’re getting inquiries from CBS, AP, Daily Caller and others on an un-sourced Examiner.com piece that says that DHS and FBI are collaborating with cities by providing tactics and information on removing Occupy protestors. A check of I & A [Intelligence and Analysis] and FPS [Federal Protective Services] shows that this type of outreach is not occurring in any wholesale manner.”

Of course, as the National Lawyers Guild notes, that last line, saying that such cooperation and direction was not occurring in a “wholesale manner,” pretty much implies that it was going on — just not in a less-than “wholesale manner,” whatever that means.

Also suspicious is an email exchange dated September 29, 2011, in which DHS officials are discussing a National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center alert, based apparently on monitoring of email, twitter and Facebook communications among Occupy organizers, of the coming Occupy actions. The exchange is about how to respond to inevitable media inquiries about the DHS’s role in monitoring and obstructing the Occupy movement. The whole discussion is redacted from the documents, though one participant is shown writing “Here it is. That answer works.”

That the Fusion Centers were actively involved around the country in planning responses to the demonstrations is clear. An October 52011 document from the DHS Philadelphia Megacenter, titled “Demonstration-Peaceful/Planned” reports on an assembly being planned for “peacefully protesting union solidarity issues.”

An October 30, 2011 document refers to the DHS’s Battle Creek Megacenter also reporting the beginning of a “peaceful/unplanned” “Occupy Wall Street demonstration” that is “taking place in Ilus W. Davis Park in Kansas City, MO.”

The megacenters are regional repositories on intelligence relating, supposedly, to major potential threats to national security. “Why they were looking into the Occupy movement is a really good question,” says Verhayden Hilliard.

Most references to the Fusion Center-related communications were reportedly withheld from the FOIA response, leading the National Lawyers Guild to conclude that what they are seeing “appears to be the tip of the iceberg, carefully submerged by the DHS.”

Explains Verhayden Hilliard, “The push-down of information to the level of the Fusion Centers by the DHS places improper domestic surveillance in an area that they hope will be off-limits to public access, and it gives them plausible deniability in the DHS, so that when they’re asked if they have information, they just inquire of discrete sections of DHS, and they claim they don’t have any.”

One interesting series of documents shows that while DHS was distributing a prepared statement to journalists inquiring about any federal role in coordinating the local police crackdowns on Occupy protesters, which claims no such coordination was taking place, a second paragraph initially included in the planned response, was deleted after considerable discussion at high levels and was not sent out to reporters. The deleted paragraph reads, “We have held standard coordination calls and face-to-face meeting with our partners to ensure that the proper resources are available for operations such as street closures, etc.”  No records concerning those “coordination calls” and “face-to-face meetings” have been provided.

Informed that he had only received incomplete and carefully limited information about DHS involvement in the crackdown on Occupy activists, CBS News reporter Bigad Shaban, said, “I’ll have to look at the FOIA documents, but that’s very interesting!”

There are a number of documents that in the NLG’s collection that are emails within DHS concerning how to respond to reporters’ inquiries, for example from CBS and Salon magazine, concerning any DHS involvement in coordinating police crackdowns on Occupiers. These refer to “Tripwire” messages and other messages which are reported to be in the process of being “removed” from email records or “taken down,” with one DHS official, Dawn Scalici, on Oct. 28, 2011, writing, “Please check on the content of the referenced DHS product on Occupy Wall Street. This could be quite unfortunate. I thought IP had withdrawn this piece. We may need DSAC [Domestic Security Alliance Council, a strategic partnership between DHS, the FBI and the private sector] to immediately withdraw their email and take it off DSAC’s portal if it is posted there.”

The documents also, while repeatedly noting that “most” of the Occupy actions are “peaceful” and “first amendment protected,” go on to note that under the principle of “congruence,” the DHS could initiate surveillance if there were some report of a possible threat or illegal action. As Verhayden Hilliard observes, “The congruence concept, which they discuss in the documents, is the idea that if it would be improper to overtly collect intelligence or to surveil people engaged in free speech activities, as long as you can link it to some allegation of criminal activity, then you can do it. In short, it’s a pretext. So an informant, a provocateur or anyone, credible or not, supported or not, even anonymous, can give them “some reason” to suspect possible criminal activity. Then they can engage in intelligence gathering.”

A DHS “product,” for the uninitiated, is an intelligence report or threat assessment.  This is a clear reference to DHS intelligence being provided to either local police and/or private security operatives, for example working for Wall Street firms.  (Most Americans probably didn’t even know that something like DSAC even existed.)

Verhayden Hilliard says the NLG is expecting to receive more documents from DHS and other agencies in response to its continuing FOIA requests, and vows to drill down to lower levels of the DHS, and to look more broadly at Fusion Centers and other locations for documents relating to any coordination of the surveillance of and crackdowns on the Occupy activists.

Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He lives in Philadelphia. 

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castille’s killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Sam Pizzigati
Companies Can Either Make Things or Make CEOs Rich
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail