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FBI Files: OWS
The FBI dispatched Azir to an Occupy Cleveland event on 21 October 2011, "based on an initial report of potential criminal activity and threats involving anarchists". Terry Gilbert, a defense attorney, questions why the feds would send "a plant into a peaceful demonstration with a very ambiguous claim of criminal behavior. Once you get an informant in there, they have every motive to get a case. They are trying to make money or are working off a criminal case."
A recent FBI document calls anarchists "criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities", warning they were engaged in "experimentation with new tactics, weapons … leading up to 2012 conventions".
In the lead-up to the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, federal agents teamed with local police to find and interrogate suspected anarchists.
Newly released documents give hard evidence of an amorphous FBI investigation into the political lives of Occupy participants, one apparently animated by a belief that adherents to the political philosophy of anarchism are prone to criminal activity.
Following the protests of the May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, rumors and reports abounded of local police and FBI agents raiding apartments, infiltrating meeting places, and questioning activists—particularly anarchists, or those appearing to identify as anarchists—in the months leading up to the summit. A number of the firsthand accounts of encounters with the FBI and Chicago police came from Occupy Chicago activists, who housed out-of-town protesters and planned many of the weekend’s actions. The existence, if not the full extent, of the Chicago Police Department investigation was confirmed during the trial of three young summit protesters dubbed the NATO 3. In testimony from the undercover police behind the arrests, it emerged that plainclothes officers with the CPD Intelligence Unit had visited coffee shops, restaurants and concerts to try to find anarchists discussing the summit.
But the FBI, which has long regarded anarchists as a domestic terror threat and monitored events like the G8 and World Trade Organization meetings, has never confirmed investigating anarchists in advance of the NATO Summit. And a document trove released in December 2012 about FBI monitoring of Occupy protests around the country didn’t include any mention of Chicago.
Now, threeFBIdocuments released in October 2014 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request—published here for the first time—indicate that the agency gathered intelligence about Occupy Chicago general assemblies, and coordinated with local police to find and interrogate suspected anarchists.
One of the documents, an October 2011 Potential Activity Alert titled “Anarchist Advocates Adopting the St. Paul Principles for Occupy Chicago,” suggests that law enforcement either electronically surveilled Occupy Chicago general assemblies (GAs) or had an informant there.
The third document, three unclassified pages of a 30-page report from March 2012, shows the level of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies—even outside the city of Chicago—and offers further evidence of the FBI’s obsession with finding anarchists amid Occupy activists.
After the suburban Naperville Police arrested a man for “causing a disturbance” on an Amtrak train out of Chicago, they tipped off the FBI that the subject “was involved in Occupy Wall Street,” was heading to Nebraska “to meet up with other like minded anarchists,” and planned to return for the NATO Summit. Under later joint questioning by FBI agents and Amtrak investigators, the subject “refused to elaborate” on his plans and said he would not return for the summit.
As a whole, the documents also bring up issues around the FBI’s cooperation with FOIA requests. Open records advocates routinely criticize the FBI for its lengthy delays and outright denials in responding to FOIA requests. When investigative journalist Jason Leopold filed a FOIA request with the FBI in 2011 seeking documents about Occupy Wall Street, the agency said that none existed. In response to a FOIA request by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund later that year, the FBI released 112 pages of documents.
The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued a bulletin to law enforcement warning that “anarchist extremists” may use IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices, at the Republican and Democrat national conventions.
“FBI and DHS assess with high confidence anarchist extremists will target… infrastructure with potentially significant impacts on public safety and transportation,” CNN reports.
“During past national and international political and economic events, anarchist extremists have blocked streets, intersections, and bridges to disrupt or impede local business operations and public transportation access and, in some instances have initiated violent confrontations with police,” the document states, according to CNN.
According to a recent report by The Intercept, Black Lives Matter has been under federal surveillance following Ferguson’s rash of riots and violent protests.
Utilizing the Freedom of Information Act, The Intercept was able to obtain documents detailing the months-long surveillance by the Department of Homeland Security. The Black Lives Matter surveillance documents were reminiscent of the FBI’s COINTELPRO days of Black Panther Party surveillance, producing “minute-by-minute reports on protestors’ movements in demonstrations.” Read more: FBI Files: BLM
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