The FBI or DHS secretly meeting with Wall Street and bankers to discuss “anarchists” who were sometimes considered “terrorists”? Surely not, as the next thing you know Hollywood will be in control of ISPs and will be running a “pay up or disconnect” scheme. Oh, wait . . . that’s right, thanks to "Six Strikes" Copyright Alert System, “ISPs are obliged to hand over IP-addresses of repeat infringers to the MPAA and RIAA.” The feds acting as secret police for banks is also true, according to new documents that reveal “from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did ‘not condone the use of violence’ at occupy protests.”
A year after the Partnership For Civil Justice Fund filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, it received heavily redacted documents from the FBI regarding Occupy Wall Street (OWS) which prove that people worried about government surveillance, people previously labeled as “paranoid,” were right on target. Target in this case being exactly that for anyone involved in the Occupy movement, a target to be investigated, infiltrated, spied upon and labeled an anarchist, and in some cases, a terrorist.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said:
This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement. 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.
Although the FBI said, it “recognizes the rights of individuals and groups to engage in constitutionally protected activity,” and does not “open investigations based solely on First Amendment activity,” the documents seem to indicate that the FBI was once again acting “improperly by gathering information on Americans involved in lawful activities.” Verheyden-Hilliardalso said, “The collection of information on people’s free-speech actions is being entered into unregulated databases, a vast storehouse of information widely disseminated to a range of law-enforcement and, apparently, private entities. This is precisely the threat — people do not know when or how it may be used and in what manner.”
The ACLU’s Privacy SOS highlighted some other interesting tidbits from the FBI OWS files:
A communication between the Pittsburgh and Memphis FBI offices describes the deferred investigation and prosecution of someone who sent a fax to the Tennessee Governor’s office reading “it is wrong for the American government to aid the very wealthy by taking arms against the American people...law enforcement had drawn the first blood and to continue this will lead to violent revolution.” Even though there’s nothing illegal about that statement, the FBI considered it “suspicious activity,” investigated the sender and apparently wanted to prosecute. The US attorney’s office declined to prosecute because of a lack of any specific threat. (page 75).
Naked Capitalism also reported how banks were “deeply involved in the FBI-coordinated suppression of ‘terrorist’ Occupy Wall Street.” Additionally the documents “show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51).”
Whether or not you were involved or even cared about OWS, you should be concerned about this type of mass government surveillance abuse, another stake hammered into the heart of American citizens’ privacy. Occupy members were surveilled, First Amendment rights labeled as “suspicious activity,” their information handed over to domestic terrorism units or dumped into fusion center databases . . . where once you go in, you never come out. As Mike German, the ACLU’s Policy Counsel on National Security, Immigration and Privacy, warned, “When somebody gets snagged by these dragnets, it’s very difficult to clear the ‘cloud of suspicion’.”
In this case, the ACLU was talking about a story buried in the New York Times about open source intelligence and crime prevention. After the Sandy Hook shootings and the hateful Westboro Church warning it would protest the funerals, top intelligence officials in the New York City Police Department met to explore ways to identify “deranged” shooters before any attack. This may sound good on the surface, but “we have a First Amendment right to be free from government monitoring, even when engaged in public activity.” The ACLU wrote, “We’re talking about a computer at the NYPD automatically reading every post on a social networking site and flagging entries with certain words for police scrutiny.” This is in the same dangerous vein as spying on peaceful OWS protesters and labeling them as potential domestic terrorists.
Verheyden-Hilliard said on Democracy Now, “The data warehousing in the United States, the mass collection of data on the people of the United States, is of great concern. And you can see, through these documents, the FBI is collecting a lot of information on completely lawful activities, on the activities of people who are not alleged to have committed criminal acts, are not planning criminal acts, who actually are engaged in cherished, First Amendment-protected activities. And yet, it’s being collected under the imprimatur of domestic terrorism or criminal activity and being entered into these mass databases, which have a huge level of dissemination and access and which are virtually unregulated.”
If this is what the world is coming to, and such surveillance is indeed unconstitutional, then in a turn-about-is-fair-play, should the feds who conducted it also have their information labeled as suspicious and dumped into a database? It’s unlikely that would ever happen in the same way that it’s unlikely the Hollywood studios and the Department of Justice would be hammered with Six Strike notices even though they can’t stop their own employees from “openly pirating movies, games and other forms of entertainment while at work.” Just the same, the double standard is ludicrous.