New documents obtained from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security by the Partnership for Civil Justice and released this past week show that the FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies began a campaign of monitoring, spying and disrupting the Occupy Movement at least two months before the first occupation actions began in late September 2011.
As early as August, while acknowledging that the incipient Occupy Movement was “peaceful” in nature, federal, state and local officials from the FBI, the DHS and the many Fusion Centers and Joint Terrorism Task Force centers around the country were meeting with local financial institutions and their private security organizations to plot out a strategy for countering the Occupy Movement’s campaign.
Interestingly, one document obtained by PCJ from the Houston FBI office refers to what appears to have been a plan by some group, the name of which is blacked out in the released document, to determine who the leaders were of the Occupy Movement in Houston, and then to assassinate them with “suppressed” sniper rifles, meaning sniper rifles equipped with silencers.
The chilling document in question reads as follows:
“One identified BLANK as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas if deemed necessary. An identified BLANK had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. BLANK planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest group and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership by suppressed sniper rifles.”
The wording does not sound like it’s some crank Tea Party faction they’re talking about — especially the words “deemed necessary” and the reference to “gathering intelligence against the leaders of the protest group.” Fortunately, in any case, no such assassination campaign materialized in Houston or anywhere else during the wave of Occupy actions across the country, but at the same time, there were never any arrests of whatever organization or individuals that the FBI clearly knew to be planning such a terrorist action against the Occupy activists.
Commenting on this peculiar lack of action by the FBI and other national anti-terrorist organizations, Partnership for Civil Justice executive director Maya Verheyden-Hilliard says, “The documents we’ve obtained show that the FBI was acting as a private intelligence and protective agency for Wall Street and the banks against people who are engaged in First Amendment-protected free speech activities. Yet here you had a real terrorist threat, which, if the FBI were serious about combating and preventing terrorism it would have acted upon, and it did nothing!”
Indeed, since 9-11, there have been a number of prominent arrests and trials and even convictions of people who were alleged to have merely talked with FBI informants about some fanciful terror plot. These arrests are typically prominently publicized to the media, with the perps trotted out in front of cameras during the arrests. There was nothing like this done in the above case, though. No arrests, no publicity. The only reason we know about it at all was that the FBI was required to release its files on the bureau’s monitoring of the Occupy Movement, and this particular document surfaced among the pages that were released.
Could the FBI have been so close to the plotters, whoever they are, that it felt confident it could simply instruct them to call off their plan — or put it on hold? We can’t know from the heavily redacted documents that have thus far been pried loose from the bureau. But it would not be that surprising if it turns out there is some link between the would-be assassins and the government. It would just be Nixon’s COINTELPRO all over again, where local police were killing activists as part of a nationally organized campaign.
Verheyden-Hilliard says that the latest documents do show that “Well before Zuccotti Park was occupied and before the first protest began on Wall Street, you had the FBI meeting with leaders of the New York Stock Exchange and with the security organizations of the Wall Street banks to develop a coordinated strategy for dealing with the Occupy protests.”
“The other thing that is apparent from these latest documents is the scope of the FBI’s effort against the Occupy Movement. It’s not an anomaly at one or two FBI district offices. It’s how they’re doing business. And all through this period, they are commenting in their communications that the movement’s actions are peaceful. Yet the subject lines in the memos classify them as relating to counter-terrorism or anti-crime actions.”
“If you look at how the US government viewed the demonstrations of the Arab Spring, and particularly the demonstrations against Mubarak in Tahrir Square in Cairo, they were concerned about the government using police against the demonstrators, who were said to be exercising their democratic right to protest. Only in America is such protest considered to be terrorist activity.”
The contradiction between the US intelligence and law-enforcement response to the Occupy Movement and those same agencies‘ assessment of the actual threat posed by Occupy activists is evident in a publication by the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security. That document, published in October 2011, as the Occupy Movement was just taking off, refers to Occupy Wall Street as “a loose coalition of ongoing peaceful protests taking place in cities across the U.S.”
Yet it also states:
“Mass gatherings associates with public protest movements can have disruptive effects on transportation, commercial and government services, especially when staged in major metropolitan areas. Large scale demonstrations also carry the potential for violence, presenting a significant challenge for law-enforcement.”
In reality, the only violence at the hundreds of Occupy movement actions during late 2011 and early 2012 across the US, from New York to Boston to Los Angeles to Seattle, was perpetrated by heavily armed police. Occupy activists were the victims, not the perpetrators of this violence and criminal behavior.
Now it turns out that when some as yet unidentified group or organization — possibly even one affiliated with banking interests for all we know — actually plotted to assassinate Occupy activists and leaders, those same intelligence and national, state and local police agencies, instead of protecting the public, turned their backs and did nothing about it.
Perhaps the very “loose coalition” nature of the Occupy Movement, which has consciously avoided having or following leaders, in the end saved it from attack, as the plotters with their sniper rifles never were able to ascertain who their targets should be.
Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.