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How America's National Security Apparatus -- in Partnership With Big Corporations -- Cracked Down on Dissent

A new report is an eye-opening look into how the U.S. counter-terror apparatus was used to track the Occupy movement.
 
 
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Occupy protests in New York on November 15, 2011, after the eviction of the protest encampment at Zucotti Park.
Photo Credit: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

 
 
 
 

Counter-terror police officers collaborated with corporate entities to combat protests. Undercover police officers monitored and tracked the Occupy movement. A right-wing corporate-backed group hired a police officer to help protect a conference. These are some of the details revealed in a new report published by the Center for Media and Democracy’s Beau Hodai, along with DBA Press. The revelations are based on government documents the group obtained.

The report, titled "Dissent or Terror: How the Nation's Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street,” is an eye-opening look into how the U.S. counter-terror apparatus was used to track the Occupy movement in 2011 and 2012 and also help protect the business entities targeted by the movement. The report specifically looks at the activities of “fusion centers,” or law enforcement entities created after 9/11 that transform local police forces into counter-terror units in partnership with federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. The fusion centers devoted a lot of time--to the point of “obsession,” the report notes--to monitoring the Occupy movement, particularly for any “threats” to public safety or health and to whether there were “extremists” involved in the movement.

The documents obtained for the report from government agencies reveal “a grim mosaic of ‘counter-terrorism’ agency operations and attitudes toward activists and other socially/politically-engaged citizens over the course of 2011 and 2012,” writes Hodai. He adds that these heavily-funded agencies indisputably view Occupy activists as “terrorist” threats. Additionally, Hodai writes that “this view of activists, and attendant activist monitoring/suppression, has been carried out on behalf of, and in cooperation with, some of the nation’s largest financial and corporate interests.”

Much of the report hones in on the Occupy Phoenix branch of the movement and Arizona counter-terrorism agents monitoring, tracking and cracking down on the protests.

For instance, when JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was planning on coming to Phoenix in October 2011, a “counter-terrorism” detective employed by the Phoenix Police Department’s Homeland Security Bureau exchanged information on potential protests with a JP Morgan Chase security manager. The detective, Jennifer O’Neill, received information on Dimon’s travel plans, and then shared information about Occupy Phoenix. O’Neill said that she and another officer had tracked the online activities of Occupy protesters to find out if they were planning to protest Dimon. No plans for protest were discovered by O’Neill, who also works with the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, otherwise known as the Arizona fusion center.

Another similar example of how corporate entities were helped by counter-terrorism units of police forces also occurred in October 2011. Then, businesses--including banks--received alerts authored by the Arizona fusion center about planned protest activities. Similar alerts to banks were given in the run-up to the November 5 day of action labeled “Bank Transfer Day,” which encouraged people to move their money from corporate banks to more local financial institutions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also engaged in similar activity, according to the report. “The bureau had been in the business of alerting banks (and related entities) tothe planned protest activity of OWS groups as early as August of 2011.”

The extent of law enforcement-corporate cooperation has also been taken a step further by the practice of corporations or right-wing corporate backed groups hiring officers for pay to police protests.

In late November-early December 2011, the largest Occupy Phoenix action took place outside of a conference held by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded group that brings together right-wing lobbyist groups and conservative politicians to push model legislation in state legislatures. The protest was marred by police violence, with officers deploying pepper spray and pepper ball projectiles on activists and arresting 5. While the police portrayed the action as the work of violent anarchists, Hodai writes that this narrative of events had little grounding in reality.

Hodai reveals that the “tactical response unit” of officers working at the action was under the direction of Phoenix Police Department Sgt. Eric Harkins. What makes this noteworthy is that Harkins was “actually off-duty, earning $35 per hour as a private security guard employed by ALEC.” ALEC also “hired 49 active duty and 9 retired PPD officers to act as private security during the conference.” ALEC also employed off-duty police officers from Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department during another ALEC summit in May 2012.

The Center for Media and Democracy report also provides details on how police officers tracked and went undercover to monitor the Occupy movement. The report focuses on an undercover police officer who went by the name of “Saul DeLara,” who presented himself as a homeless Mexican activist. “DeLara” went to Occupy meetings and then reported back on their contents to the police.

The revelations are confirmation that, as the Center for Media and Democracy noted in a press release,”the nation's post-September 11, 2001 counter terrorism apparatus has been applied to politically engaged citizens exercising their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.”




Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 
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