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WOOPS: Homeland Security Broke Rules With Occupy Wall Street

The first in a long series of Freedom of Information Act Requests (FOIA) was responded to by the Department of Homeland Security. Truthout was the first news organization to receive and post the information it received.

Contained within those initial FOIA documents are some interesting revelations. The first is that DHS “accidentally” broke it’s own rules regarding intelligence operations on political speech, from Business Insider:

But even as DHS leadership in Washington was careful to avoid top-down involvement in the Occupy protests, an apparently unauthorized memo regarding the potential threats of the movement was circulating through the department’s intelligence channels. The 5-page report, recently obtained by Wikileaks and published by Rolling Stone, states that the growth of the movement will make it difficult to “control protesters” and darkly urges security personnel to exercise “heightened situational awareness.”

According to the emails obtained by Business Insider, the memo was posted to the DHS’s Tripwire intelligence sharing database without being cleared, and was taken down soon after. A link to the report was also included in a email briefing from the Domestic Security Alliance Council, a strategic intelligence partnership between DHS and the FBI.

DHS officials appear to have immediately recognized the potential damaging impact of the report.

“This could be quite unfortunate,” one email reads. “I thought IP had withdrawn this piece. We may need DSAC to immediately withdraw their email and take it off DSAC’s portal if it is posted there.”

Yeah, that’s big no-no. The Department of Homeland Security is not supposed to be a Political Police Force. To their credit, some within DHS understood this.

The new documents show that senior DHS officials were acutely aware of the First Amendment issues surrounding any type of intelligence gathering on Occupy. In a series of emails dated in late October and early November, the agency adopts the position to avoid reporting on the movement, and leave it up to its local law enforcement partnerships, or Fusion Centers, to assess the Occupy threat.

From an email dated October 17, 2011:

“We maintain our longstanding position that DHS should not report on activities when the basis for reporting is political speech. We would also be loath to pass DHS requests for more information on the protests along to the appropriate fusion centers without strong guidance that the vast majority of activities occurring as part of these protests is protected. To do otherwise might give the appearance that DHS is attempting to circumvent existing restrictions, policies, and laws.”

But later emails show that the Fusion Centers created a political headache for DHS headquarters, as the agency’s senior leadership struggled to keep their local partners within Constitutional bounds. For example, one email obtained by BI raises concerns about an assessment of Occupy Pittsburgh that “might be advocating surveillance and other countermeasures to be employed against activities protected under the 1st Amendment.” A response to that email notes that those problems were also “an issue with other fusion centers.”

Surprise surprise. When you give people undeserved power they abuse it.

These requests for unconstitutional intelligence actions were not limited to Pittsburgh as DHS also denied Louisiana Fusion Center Request for Federal Intelligence on OWS.

The take away is clear, America has a fully functional police state that only requires the turn of the key for it to be unleashed on American citizens.

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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.