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Despite Prior Claims, FBI’s Own Records Show Agency Coordinated with Police & Spied on Occupy Movement

Occupy Chicago rally in Grant Park

The FBI spied on Occupy Chicago. It also coordinated with police departments, helping other law enforcement agencies keep tabs on Occupy protesters, according to documents obtained by independent journalist Yana Kunichoff.

The documents contradict a statement from the FBI in November 2011, where the agency declared, “Recent published blogs and news stories have reported the FBI has coordinated with local police departments on strategy and tactics to be employed in addressing Occupy Wall Street protestors.”

“These reports are false. At no time has the FBI engaged with local police in this capacity.”

But one document, published by In These Times, shows a special agent from the FBI’s Chicago Division interviewed a white male, who had hitchhiked from Atlanta to Rockford, Illinois, and then to Chicago, on November 3, 2011. He had attended multiple Occupy Chicago meetings.

FBI agents interviewed him at the Cook County Department of Corrections [PDF]. The interview was conducted for “Contact & Espionage.” In other words, this was part of a spying operation. Information gained was then shared with Chicago police.

Another document [PDF] dated March 16, 2012, shows FBI coordinating with police in Naperville after a man caused a “disturbance aboard an Amtrak train en route to Lincoln, Nebraska from Chicago, Illinois.” He told police that he was planning to “return to Chicago to participate in Occupy Chicago and for the NATO summit.” [Chicago hosted a NATO summit on May 20-21 that year.]

The man had apparently been involved in Occupy Wall Street and was headed to Lincoln to help activists save a family from being evicted from their home. Or, as the FBI agent put it, he was going to “meet up with other like minded anarchists and assist them with their struggle involving a home eviction there.” He “refused to elaborate about who he was meeting in Lincoln and if he was planning to be involved in criminal activity.”

When FBI agents interviewed him, he said he was not going to return to Chicago for the NATO summit. The FBI’s Omaha Division was notified that the man was traveling to Lincoln and was provided with “local investigation and interview results.”

The document notes that agents obtained “positive terrorism” intelligence from the man, which means what was shared with the Omaha Division may have been considered evidence that he would possibly engage in “terrorism.” This is alarming since all the agents knew was that he wanted to join others in protests against a home eviction.

Returning to the document on an interview conducted with a hitchhiker, a troubling yet fabulously Orwellian explanation for why the agency thought it was acceptable for FBI agents to target a person engaged in First Amendment-protected activities appears.

The FBI admits this hitchhiker was targeted while he was engaged in First Amendment-protected activities. They don’t want citizens to get the wrong idea. Exercising one’s First Amendment rights does not make one a “threat to national security.” But, “based on known intelligence and/or specific historical observation,” the hitchhiker may suffer retaliation for exercising his constitutional rights and so information must be gathered from that activity in case violence occurs.

One might recall that someone or some group plotted to use snipers to assassinate “leaders” of Occupy Houston. The FBI had been aware of that plan but did not contact anyone in Occupy Houston to warn them they were in danger.

Ryan Shapiro, a historian on the policing of dissent who has sued the FBI for documents on the assassination plot against Occupy Houston, provided some context for the documents based off his own experience.

“The FBI contradicted its own position,” Shapiro stated. “In an attempt to prevent the release of FBI documents about this sniper plot, the FBI asserted that the documents cannot be released because they were ‘compiled as a result of assistance FBI rendered to various state and local law enforcement agencies which were investigating potential criminal activity by protestors [sic] involved with the ‘Occupy’ movement in Houston.'”

“And now these newly released documents about the FBI’s intimate coordination with local law enforcement in investigating Occupy Chicago further reveal the FBI to have plainly lied about the nature and extent of the Bureau’s anti-Occupy efforts.”

It is odd that the FBI would claim someone would retaliate against the hitchhiker for engaging in First Amendment-protected activity. According to the FBI, he was “attracted to the ‘Occupy Chicago’ rally because of the excitement and people playing musical instruments.” He did not “agree with anarchy stating it was a sin, does not belong to any anarchist groups or organizations and does not associate with individuals in the anarchist movement.”

Or, as Shapiro suggested, “The FBI makes the preposterous claim that the Bureau’s investigations of Occupy protesters’ First Amendment protected speech was done for those protesters’ own good. This obvious self-serving fiction is especially egregious in light of the fact that the FBI”—in both this case and his lawsuit for Occupy Houston documents—”explicitly classified Occupy protesters as representing terrorist threats to American national security.”

A bunch of personal information was collected on this person’s life, and it went into multiple FBI databases. But there was never any suspicion of wrongdoing. The FBI used his presence at an Occupy Chicago protest to justify questioning him and keeping information about him on file.

Finally, in a third document [PDF], the FBI had a member of law enforcement who infiltrated Occupy Chicago or a snitch who was providing the agency with information on activists.

The “Potential Activity Alert,” dated October 26, 2011, was sent out under the headline, “Anarchist Advocates Adopting the St. Paul Principles for Occupy Chicago.”

The FBI spied on the assembly and took note of which groups agreed to adopt the “St. Paul Principles”: the RNC Welcoming Committee, the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, the Anti-War Committee, Students for a Democratic Society – University of Minnesota, Communities United Against Police Brutality, the Welfare Rights Committee and Unconventional Action – Chicago.

Ahead of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in 2008, the FBI targeted activists in the RNC Welcoming Committee, deploying an informant named Andrew Darst to spy on “anarchists.” He helped the FBI make arrests of the “RNC 8” days before the RNC. They were initially charged with criminal conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism. (Later, Darst faced charges of assault and burglary in a separate case after he allegedly broke into a house and attacked two men.)

The FBI also targeted activists in the Anti-War Committee and deployed an informant, who went by the name of “Karen Sullivan,” during the same time period. “Sullivan” infiltrated meetings and eventually helped provide the FBI with information to raid the office of the Anti-War Committee as well as the homes of activists, who had been involved in planning a march on the RNC. They were issued grand jury subpoenas and remain under a cloud of investigation by the Justice Department.

Anyone of the groups listed as approving the “St. Paul Principles” could have been infiltrated by the FBI during the run-up to the NATO summit simply because, as stated, the “Principles” were previously “adopted by individuals who were opposed to and attempted to use violence to disrupt the 2008 Republican National Convention.” Their adoption could very well have been a “signal” to the FBI that members would potentially engage in violence, especially because they were seen as “anarchist advocates.”

Whatever “anarchist advocates” happens to be is unclear. Yet, according to this document, one does not have to be an “anarchist” to be a target; one simply has to be seen as an “anarchist advocate,” and they open themselves and their group up to domestic spying. Plus, the FBI thought an “an individual involved in anarchist activity” was responsible for urging the groups to adopt the “Principles” in the first place.

What these documents collectively show is that there is much more to be learned in records, which the FBI is concealing on their coordination with police and Homeland Security fusion centers against activists or individuals who associated with the Occupy movement.

Shapiro stated, “Not only has the FBI been deceptive in its public pronouncements regarding Bureau investigations of Occupy, the FBI has been equally disingenuous in its responses to [Freedom of Information Act] requests about these investigations.”

“The FBI is notorious for collecting vast mountains of documentation about even the most minor subjects of its investigations. Yet the FBI first denied having any documents at all regarding Occupy. Then more recently, in response to FOIA lawsuits brought by Jason Leopold, Jeffrey Light, and myself, among others, the FBI has begrudgingly admitted to having a tiny handful of documents.”

He concluded, “With this latest release of FBI documents about Occupy Chicago, we are coming ever closer to finally forcing the FBI to concede it actually possesses a large volume of documents about this FBI-coordinated nationwide investigation of political protesters as supposed terroristic threats to national security.”

Creative Commons Licensed Photo by Michael Kappel

CommunityFDL Main BlogThe Dissenter

Despite Prior Claims, FBI’s Own Records Show Agency Coordinated with Police & Spied on Occupy Movement

Occupy Chicago rally in Grant Park

The FBI spied on Occupy Chicago. It also coordinated with police departments, helping other law enforcement agencies keep tabs on Occupy protesters, according to documents obtained by independent journalist Yana Kunichoff.

The documents contradict a statement from the FBI in November 2011, where the agency declared, “Recent published blogs and news stories have reported the FBI has coordinated with local police departments on strategy and tactics to be employed in addressing Occupy Wall Street protestors.”

“These reports are false. At no time has the FBI engaged with local police in this capacity.”

But one document, published by In These Times, shows a special agent from the FBI’s Chicago Division interviewed a white male, who had hitchhiked from Atlanta to Rockford, Illinois, and then to Chicago, on November 3, 2011. He had attended multiple Occupy Chicago meetings.

FBI agents interviewed him at the Cook County Department of Corrections [PDF]. The interview was conducted for “Contact & Espionage.” In other words, this was part of a spying operation. Information gained was then shared with Chicago police.

Another document [PDF] dated March 16, 2012, shows FBI coordinating with police in Naperville after a man caused a “disturbance aboard an Amtrak train en route to Lincoln, Nebraska from Chicago, Illinois.” He told police that he was planning to “return to Chicago to participate in Occupy Chicago and for the NATO summit.” [Chicago hosted a NATO summit on May 20-21 that year.]

The man had apparently been involved in Occupy Wall Street and was headed to Lincoln to help activists save a family from being evicted from their home. Or, as the FBI agent put it, he was going to “meet up with other like minded anarchists and assist them with their struggle involving a home eviction there.” He “refused to elaborate about who he was meeting in Lincoln and if he was planning to be involved in criminal activity.”

When FBI agents interviewed him, he said he was not going to return to Chicago for the NATO summit. The FBI’s Omaha Division was notified that the man was traveling to Lincoln and was provided with “local investigation and interview results.”

The document notes that agents obtained “positive terrorism” intelligence from the man, which means what was shared with the Omaha Division may have been considered evidence that he would possibly engage in “terrorism.” This is alarming since all the agents knew was that he wanted to join others in protests against a home eviction.

Returning to the document on an interview conducted with a hitchhiker, a troubling yet fabulously Orwellian explanation for why the agency thought it was acceptable for FBI agents to target a person engaged in First Amendment-protected activities appears.

The FBI admits this hitchhiker was targeted while he was engaged in First Amendment-protected activities. They don’t want citizens to get the wrong idea. Exercising one’s First Amendment rights does not make one a “threat to national security.” But, “based on known intelligence and/or specific historical observation,” the hitchhiker may suffer retaliation for exercising his constitutional rights and so information must be gathered from that activity in case violence occurs.

One might recall that someone or some group plotted to use snipers to assassinate “leaders” of Occupy Houston. The FBI had been aware of that plan but did not contact anyone in Occupy Houston to warn them they were in danger.

Ryan Shapiro, a historian on the policing of dissent who has sued the FBI for documents on the assassination plot against Occupy Houston, provided some context for the documents based off his own experience.

“The FBI contradicted its own position,” Shapiro stated. “In an attempt to prevent the release of FBI documents about this sniper plot, the FBI asserted that the documents cannot be released because they were ‘compiled as a result of assistance FBI rendered to various state and local law enforcement agencies which were investigating potential criminal activity by protestors [sic] involved with the ‘Occupy’ movement in Houston.'”

“And now these newly released documents about the FBI’s intimate coordination with local law enforcement in investigating Occupy Chicago further reveal the FBI to have plainly lied about the nature and extent of the Bureau’s anti-Occupy efforts.” (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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