In a recent release of restricted FBI files under the Freedom of Information Act, documents show that the FBI has had the Occupy Wall Street movement under close surveillance.
The documents were released late December through a Freedom of Information request made by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.
As shown in the documents, the FBI began as early as Aug. 19, 2011, one month before the movement emerged, to begin discussions of the Occupy movement and to notify big businesses that a large-scale movement was emerging to protest against corporations.
The FBI also contracted the help of many counterterrorist organizations in keeping an eye on the Occupy movement, despite the fact that most of the protestors were, in fact, engaging in legal peaceful demonstrations.
According to Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, the documents indicate that the FBI has been treating the Occupy Wall Street movement as a terrorist threat.
“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,” stated Verheyden-Hilliard to CNN.
In response to the allegations that the FBI wrongfully targeted the Occupy movement as a dangerous threat, FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said that the organization takes threats of violence very seriously, but does not open investigations based only on legal actions.
“While the F.B.I. is obligated to thoroughly investigate any serious allegations involving threats of violence, we do not open investigations based solely on First Amendment activity. In fact, the Department of Justice and the F.B.I.’s own internal guidelines on domestic operations strictly forbid that.”
Also released were documents showing that the FBI was aware of an assassination plot against key members of the movement but had failed to inform the potential victims.
From an FBI document labeled “Secret,” an identified assassination plot was detailed; however, the FBI had withheld the names of the organizations or individuals before they were turned over.
The report said, “An identified [withheld] of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary. An identified [withheld] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin, Texas. [Withheld] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.”
Also shown in the released documents was evidence of a cooperating partnership between the FBI and several large banks in the surveillance and strategies to halt the Occupy movement.
According to Verheyden-Hilliard, these documents prove that the FBI was acting in alliance with, and to the benefit of, the corporations.
“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 also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”
Also revealed in these documents was the existence of the Campus Liaison Project, which allowed the FBI to gain information about students’ activities regarding the movement. The project included 22 campuses across the United States; however, most of the campuses were located in New York.
In order to ensure that the FBI has disclosed all relevant information, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund will be filing an appeal.