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December 31, 2012

Non-Violent Protest or Terrorist Threat?
    by Robert Kropp

FBI documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund reveal that coordination between the Bureau, the Department of Homeland Security, and the financial sector began even before the first demonstrations by the Occupy movement.

SocialFunds.com -- The Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC) was formed in 2005, at a time when the nation's domestic security apparatus seemed intent upon prying into areas of private life previously considered sacrosanct. Some consider it a necessary response to potential domestic terrorism in the aftermath of 9-11; others condemn it as an unconstitutional overreach of government power.

"DSAC…will advance the FBI mission in preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal acts, particularly those affecting interstate commerce, while advancing the ability of the US private sector to protect its employees, assets, and proprietary information," the mission statement of the strategic partnership reads. DSAC's Leadership Board includes numerous representatives from the financial sector, including Bank of America, Citigroup, and Barclays.

Heavily redacted FBI documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) reveal the Bureau's acknowledgement that the organizers of Occupy Wall Street did not condone the use of violence. However, because the movement sought to prepare demonstrators for mass arrests and other police efforts to subdue its activities, the FBI concluded that "violence and/or illegal activity is expected by event organizers."

A federal lawsuit filed by PCJF in September "seeks to end the New York City police tactics of arresting people lawfully present on city sidewalks and the use of orange netting and police lines to conduct indiscriminate group arrests."

The documents further reveal that the FBI met with the New York Stock Exchange a month before the demonstrations even started, and subsequently notified businesses that they might be targeted by protestors. "Discussed was the planned Anarchist protest titled 'Occupy Wall Street'," the documents state.

In September, 2011, the FBI office in Indianapolis issued a Potential Criminal Activity Alert, even though no protests had been scheduled there. And, "Documents show the spying abuses of the FBI's 'Campus Liaison Program' in which the FBI in Albany and the Syracuse Joint Terrorism Task Force disseminated information to 'sixteen (16) different campus police officials,' and then 'six (6) additional campus police officials'," PCJF reported. "Campus officials were in contact with the FBI for information on OWS."

As for DSAC, the documents include its report discussing Occupy protests in Oakland CA. DSAC reminded recipients that its reports "contain sensitive information meant for use primarily within the corporate security community."

"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," Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of PCJF, said. "These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America."

As for the redactions, "It is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material," according to PCJF staff attorney Heather Benno. "We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation."

It's unclear if shareowner action is being contemplated to address the involvement of corporations in rapidly increasing surveillance of legal demonstrations. But it's either a most ironic coincidence, or an expression of the priorities of DSAC, that a representative of Barclays sits on its leadership board. Earlier this year, the bank agreed to pay $453 million in fines for manipulating the London InterBank Offered Rate (LIBOR), the global benchmark for $800 trillion in financial instruments.

In letters to media companies protesting the virtual news blackout of the rate-fixing scandal, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) stated, "The manipulation of these rates affects people across the income spectrum. As faith-based organizations we must stress that this corruption has severe repercussions for the poor and most vulnerable."

In an article in The Guardian, author Naomi Wolf noted that it was PCJF, and not media outlets, that forced the release of the FBI documents. "Why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?" she asked.

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