Newly obtained documents confirm that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was monitoring peaceful protesters with the Occupy Wall Street movement before the first OWS demonstrations even began.
Files uncovered this week by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) through a Freedom of Information Act request reveals that the FBI was actively keeping an eye on activists across the United States since Occupy Wall Street was still in its preliminary planning stages.
Documents, only published over the weekend, show inner-office communiqué that confirms investigators were considering Occupy demonstrators in some instances as criminals and domestic terrorists.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the executive director of the PCJF, writes in a statement this week that the initial 100-plus pages obtained through the FOIA request are “just the tip of the iceberg” of what’s expected to be a substantial trove of data proving that the FBI was actively monitoring activists.
The list of documents, says Verheyden-Hilliard, “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,” she writes. “These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”
Canada’s Adbusters magazine first published a call-for-action in June 2011 address what would become known months later as Occupy Wall Street. On September 12 of that year, activists from around the United States began to descend on Zuccotti Square in Lower Manhattan, and soon the movement spread across the rest of the United States and the world. Even before the first occupiers erected tents and organized actions against corporate greed and criminal police activity, though, the FBI was well involved in investigating the group.
“As early as August 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn’t start for another month,” the PCJF writes. “By September, prior to the start of the OWS, the FBI was notifying businesses that they might be the focus of an OWS protest.”
In another document, the Indianapolis, Indiana division of the FBI released a “Potential Criminal Activity Alert” about the protests two days before they even started in New York, let alone spread to the Midwest.
In other locales across the country, the FBI alerted authorities to potential criminal and terrorism activity from the protesters and asked them to monitor the movement of the group.
The trove of information received through the FOIA requests is perhaps the most substantial proof so far that the FBI was thoroughly vested in treating Occupy Wall Street as a form of terrorism. It isn’t, however, the first evidence used to prove that peaceful protesters aligned with OWS were on the FBI’s radar: in September, the American Civil Liberties Union received documents obtained through their own FOIA request showing that Occupy activists in Northern California were routinely targeted by federal agents.
"Why does a political protest amount to a national security threat?" ACLU attorney Linda Lye asked at the time.