Report: FOIA'd FBI documents point to secret, nationwide Occupy surveillance

Update: I missed this NYT front-section story on the PCJF's document trove, published on Christmas Eve. The tl;dr: The FBI used counterterrorism agents to investigate Occupy Wall Street, "including its communications and planning," according to newly disclosed (and highly redacted) agency records. It's the best analysis I've seen, and mea culpa for having not seen it before this post was published.

Violent crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street in cities around the US may have been coordinated between local law enforcement, the federal government, and banks, even before protests began, according to a trove of documents requested by The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to the PCJF, the 112 pages of documents show the government communicated throughout the crackdown effort with financial institutions through the Domestic Security Alliance Council, an entity created by the FBI in 2005 that "enhances communications and promotes the timely and bidirectional effective exchange of information keeping the nation's critical infrastructure safe, secure and resilient."

The documents add to an increasing pile of evidence that the government treated OWS as a kind of domestic terrorist threat, and engaged in widespread surveillance and counter-intelligence gathering in an attempt to quell the popular movement.

According to the PCJF's analysis of the documents, they reveal "that 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."

"FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country."

Read them yourself. There's an awful lot of redaction, and as others have noted, thin proof to back up claims others have made that they prove "assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire" was planned by the DHS. During the OWS heyday, there was widespread speculation that DHS directly coordinated crackdown efforts, fueled in part by a statement from Oakland mayor Jean Quan.

“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material," PCFJ attorney Heather Benno says. “We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation.”

I realize it's New Year's Day, and that the documents are heavily redacted—so, there's a lot missing. The PCJF's analysis of what the documents mean is certainly open to debate. But it doesn't say much good about the mainstream US press that this story was broken by a small nonprofit, then amplified in a Guardian op-ed by Naomi Wolf (which I would argue contains distortions and misinterpretation), and a few blogs and websites, including this one. Correction: Nope, NYT covered it on Christmas Eve, when I and everyone else was unplugged from news. Mea culpa.

All the more reason, IMO, to support organizations like Freedom of the Press Foundation that fuel nonprofit transparency efforts, so more ignored stories like this one see sunlight.


  1. Do I have this right?

    If people want to protest the banks, the FBI shares their surveillance with the banks.

    If parties redacted want to assassinate the protesters, the FBI doesn’t share their information with the protesters.

    1. There’s “protect and serve” and “Protect and Serve Platinum Plus(tm)”…

      If I recall, team high finance managed to obtain a number of rather alarming access perks to the police and intelligence apparatus during the post-9/11 negotiations over whether to return to New York or just move to cheaper and less iconic real estate over in New Jersey. 

    2. “That information relates to an ongoing investigation, citizen. Disclosing it might pose a threat to public safety.” *draws a chalk outline around your body*


      “The Federal Reserve of Richmond, Virginia had its own private security surveilling Occupy Tampa and Tampa Veterans for Peace and passing privately-collected information on activists back to the Richmond FBI, which, in turn, categorized OWS activities under its “domestic terrorism” unit.”

      “Private security” surveillance doesn’t even have the (increasingly scant) limits that are placed upon government agencies and yet this information is freely shared with the feds, thus effectively bypassing any remaining limits on the government put in place after the Church Committee did its (obviously insufficient) post-COINTELPRO thing.

      And Total Information Awareness never went away either:

      ‘Total Information Awareness’ surveillance program returns, bigger than ever

      We now live in an “inverted totalitarianism” state:

      where one may be left alone to SAY pretty much whatever one wants until one actually threatens the status quo in some tangible way at which point one will be dealt with.

  2. Hey, they’re just defending the vulnerable Free Market™ from these dangerous individuals, which frankly needs all the help it can get – I mean, come on, it’s not like the financial institutions got bailed out with no strings attached in 2008 or something.

    1. Nope.  Not unless we are to admit that we live in a totalitarian state.  Are you happy with that?

      1. It’s been a while, Cowicide. ;)

        I think it’s our government’s job to be prepared for ANY situation, including the possibility of OWS going violent.  You’ll note that even if they examined the possibility, they didn’t actually assassinate the guy.  That part’s pretty important.  Being prepared to take action without actually taking action is pretty much ideal.  It means they’re ready to act if they need to, but they don’t need to, so they don’t act. 

        The alternative is a government that completely ignores the possibility of domestic terrorism, and since we’re playing this little game I have to ask, are YOU happy with that?

        1. The alternative is a government that completely ignores the possibility of domestic terrorism

          Classic black and white thinking that ignores reality and posits false arguments instead. Did you not READ the information?


          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.”

          With all the supporting evidence, it’s ludicrous to say the FBI was coordinating with banks for the safety of the American public. It’s very obviously a coordinated attack on free speech to protect the status quo of corporatists.

          Have you not looked at any of the FBI’s own documents before making your wild assumptions? And if you have, are you being purposefully obtuse or are you simply dense?

    2. You mean faking evidence against peaceful protesters for the sake of job security?  You’d sure think so based on their record.

      And I’ll be really fucking surprised if a “small government” advocate ever acknowledges that the FBI is one of the most corrupt make-work government bureaucracies out there.

      1. I have a spare key to my house.  That doesn’t mean I lock myself out just for the chance to use it. 

        There’s a difference between planning for contingencies and taking action.

        1. But then, you don’t have a record of falsely claiming you lost your key and billing your landlord to make a spare whereas the FBI does (metaphorically, obviously; the FBI does far more heinous things than falsely claim to lose keys).

  3. We know that “assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire” was planned by SOMEONE — it’s right on page 61 of the documents, with that someone’s name or organization redacted. Shouldn’t we all be demanding that the FBI release the name of the terrorist organization (FBI? DHS? DNC? John Birch Society?) that plotted murder?

    1. The Birchers have never been violent, so far as I know. And given that their founder described the US government as ‘… controlled by [a] furtive conspiratorial cabal of internationalists, greedy bankers, and corrupt politicians’ I’m not so sure that they would really have that big a beef with OWS anyway.

  4. As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression.  In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged.  And it is in such a twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air—however slight—lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.
                   JUSTICE WILLIAM O. DOUGLAS

    1. Yeah. We always get comments saying, “Stop being hysterical; it’s not that bad yet.” Well, that’s the point. Let’s stop it before it gets there.

      1. I wish there were a way to point out to people that their “not that bad yet” is a moving target. The person today who says, “Well, it’s not that bad, I mean, yeah, they’re detaining without charge and and pre-trial punishing an american citizen, but he was a terrorist.” was the same person who last year was saying, “well, it’s not that bad, I mean, that guy they’re detaining without charge, access to a lawyer, and are also torturing a little- it’s not like he’s an american citizen.” But they never, ever, ever seem to remember.

  5. This demonstrates why Jefferson said that banks are even more dangerous than standing armies, why he said that the “moneyed aristocracy” would destroy our nation and its laws.

    We are ruled by a plutocracy, centered on the financial industry.   When the state and the corporations merge their interests, we have what Mussolini called “fascism.”  When banks and the security state work together against free public speech and assembly, we have arrived at a fascist society.

    Read Mussolini’s 1932 Doctrine of Fascism, in which he was the first to use the term corporatocracy, which is another name for plutocracy, rule of the rich.

    It’s time to take our nation backed from the “moneyed aristocracy.”   You cannot have great concentrations of wealth and power AND democracy.

    Majority rule/minority rights is not perfect but the alternative is rule by the wealthy minorities, which is another way to say tyranny, the rule of the few over the many.

  6. Gee I wonder if Faux News and the other outlets will have a way to spin this as just more ramblings of crazy people who just want to steal your money and not work…

    In the cold hard light of FBI records it is time to look at how all of this was reported on.  I find it AMAZING that something this large with so many moving parts was able to be kept hidden from journalists who are supposed to investigate and report.  Oh that’s right they were busy reporting on the “stories” fed to them, that put the protestors in a bad light that were debunked but kept being reported as fact.

    Hopefully this will help explain to people in the future why American Spring happened.  How the system was torn down by the people it was crushing, and the lessons they should remember going forward to avoid it ever happening again.  That or it might not be as important as American Idol’s new season…

    1. Something that large was kept hidden or not reported on because the big media companies do not want to lose access.  The American Spring will never happen, because too many people have a vested interest in keeping things just as they are.

      1. Is that why we still have plantations and segregated lunch counters?
        The people with a vested interest in keeping everything the same are a small number of very rich people who profit from the misery they inflict on the masses… eventually there will be a moment when the majority wake up to reality and it is not going to be pretty.

      2. will never happen, because too many people have a vested interest in keeping things just as they are.

        You sound like the conditioning has gotten to you.  The 1% are the tiny minority.  Don’t let them trick you into thinking otherwise. This is why they are so terrified and running around like headless chickens trying to quell anything that resembles dissent from the “bewildered herd” that surrounds them.

        The big news story (that the mass media isn’t reporting) is that the corporatists truly fear harm to their evil status quo from the OWS movement (a.k.a. an informed populace).

        That last thing these motherfuckers want is an informed, free American public that can compete on a level playing field with their inbred, lazy trustafarian asses.

        They fear an informed populace.  And, educating fellow Americans is what we do and it’s what we’ll keep on doing.

        All these FBI documents show is that it’s working, thank goodness.

        We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not… fuck with us.

  7. Nothing has changed from the Vietnam War days.  The powerless can fight and die as mere pawns but cannot share power with the moneyed power brokers.  The oligarchy once shared some financial well-being with the middle class; they have taken that too. The only power the middle class had come from the unions and where they are today is pure reflection of the oligarchy’s will. Those who have the most, fear its loss the most, doing so irrationally.  Their paranoia results in irrational government actions like this. The larger the oligarchy, the more they will abuse their power negatively on the government and the people.  We do better as a nation when there is a better balance of power, when the oligarchy is proportionately smaller than today and shares its political and financial power with the rest of us.  The only change seems to be that the last election may be showing a resurgence of the under classes against the oligarchy.

    1. The only change seems to be that the last election may be showing a resurgence of the under classes against the oligarchy.

      That’s change I can believe in.

    2. “The only change seems to be that the last election may be showing a resurgence of the under classes against the oligarchy.”

      I’ll believe that when I see the party that won the election prosecuting some corrupt bankers.

      I’m not holding my breath.

  8. As an Occupier, this makes me proud. Proves we were for real that they were so on to us from the beginning. There is no higher honor.

    Still, my main beef is with the Austin PD and how they infiltrated Occupy Austin. Well, OK, dick move, but within their authority. What I really hate is that the undercover agents came to Houston with Occupy Austin members to participate in D12 Houston. The Austin Police no business coming to Houston and this has been a factor in the ongoing struggle in the Gulfport 7 federal felony cases. We were set up, by agents who had no business being here. Austin cops who had no business operating in Houston even paid for the materials to make the dragon chain. That’s entrapment. 

    And I gotta give my props to Occupy San Francisco for helping with the bail money

    And thank you Occupy. D12 Houston was the greatest day of my life. And thank you Houston Police. That red tent and those saws scared the hell out of us. Perfect psyops and in no way excessive force. Well played, HPD.

  9. “Violent crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street in cities around the US may have been coordinated between local law enforcement, the federal government, and banks, even before protests began…”

    Wait, what? 

    What was the banks’ role? Why are federal and local law enforcement collaborating with the banks?

    Oh no. This shit has got to stop right now!

  10. Is it even possible to have a protest in the US that’s not considered to be “terrorist”? Since the 60’s I’ve been seeing this happen.

    1. In the new definition of democracy, as long as it’s confined to the voting booth, it’s politics. As soon as you go off the ballot, it’s terrorism.

  11. Everybody in the NYC movement was fairly aware of gov’t infiltrators, tho not sure who was one. And that was the point, I assume. the night before the eviction from Zuccotti rumors and paranoia spread like wildfire, sowed, I suspected, by spies to create suspicion and distrust. That’s what i observed at least. Despite all this and this FOIA, I’m not sure that the FBI and domestic intelligence were the primary factor in the waning of the movement. Would be interesting to read something clinically researched to understand how the movement actually lost momentum and dissolved. How much of it was manufactured externally and how much of it was due to lack of leadership and those willing to enter politics on local and national levels.

    1. those willing to enter politics on local and national levels.

      What, so they can get shot in the head by sniper fire from a Blackwater thug hired by the banks?

      Don’t blame the American public for this shit.  The reason there’s less visible dissent in the public sphere is because of the very real violence, threats and intimidation launched against average Americans who DARE to voice dissent and inform each other.

      And despite what the media would have liked us all to believe from the very beginning, this isn’t over…

      Americans are in this for the long game.  This isn’t about camping…

Comments are closed.