The FBI vs. Occupy: Secret Docs Reveal "Counterterrorism" Monitoring of OWS from Its Earliest Days
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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin with a look at newly revealed documents that show the FBI monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement from its earliest days last year. Internal government records show Occupy was treated as a potential terrorism threat when organizing first began in August of 2011. Counterterrorism agents were used to track Occupy activities despite the internal acknowledgment that the movement opposed violent tactics. The monitoring expanded across the country as Occupy grew into a national movement, with FBI agents sharing information with businesses, local police agencies and universities. One FBImemo warned that Occupy could prove to be an "outlet" through which activists could exploit "general government dissatisfaction." Although the documents provide no clear evidence of government infiltration, they do suggest the FBI used information from local law enforcement agencies gathered by someone observing Occupy activists on the ground.
AMY GOODMAN: The heavily redacted FBI records were obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund through a Freedom of Information Act request. We invited the FBI to join us on the program to discuss the latest revelations, but they declined. Instead, spokesperson Paul Bresson issued a written statement saying, quote, "The FBI cautions against drawing conclusions from redacted FOIAdocuments." He also said, quote, "It is law enforcement’s duty to use all lawful tools to protect their communities."
Well, for more, we’re joined by Mara Verheyden-Hilliard. She’s executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which obtained the documents showing how the FBI monitored Occupy Wall Street, joining us now from Washington, D.C.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Mara. Tell us what you found. We’ve got time. Tell us what you found in these documents.
MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD: Well, the documents, as you stated, show that the FBI and American intelligence agencies were monitoring and reporting on Occupy Wall Street before the first tent even went up in Zuccotti Park. The documents that we have been able to obtain show the FBI communicating with the New York Stock Exchange in August of 2011 about the upcoming Occupy demonstrations, about plans for the protests. It shows them meeting with or communicating with private businesses. And throughout the materials, there is repeated evidence of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, American intelligence agencies really working as a private intelligence arm for corporations, for Wall Street, for the banks, for the very entities that people were rising up to protest against.
AMY GOODMAN: Interesting that they came out on Friday before Christmas?
MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD: Well, we certainly thought so. We have been trying to get these documents for more than a year. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund filed original FOIA demands with federal agencies as well as municipalities and police departments all around the United States, and we did so in the fall of 2011, when there was evidence of a coordinated crackdown on Occupy all around the country. And we wanted to get the documents out to be able to show what the government was doing. And the FBI has stonewalled for a year, and we were finally able to get these documents. They came to us, you know, as you said, the Friday before the holiday weekend. And we wanted to get them out to people right away. We assumed the FBI was expecting that, you know, it would just get buried. And instead, I have to say, it was, you know, great to be able to get these up and have people around the United States be able to see what theFBI is doing.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Mara, what about the issue of actual infiltrators, either paid or sent in by law enforcement or the FBI into the Occupy groups?
MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD: Well, the documents are heavily redacted. There is a lot of material that, on the pages themselves, we cannot see. And the documents also, in terms of the breadth and scope of the production, we believe that there is a lot more that’s being withheld. Even when you go through the text of the documents, you can see that there’s a lot more in terms of meetings and memos that must exist. And we are filing an appeal to demand and fight for more material to be released.