What the FBI’s Occupy Docs Do—and Don’t—Reveal
From Gavin Aronsen, writing fellow at Mother Jones:
Just before Christmas, Truthout’s Jason Leopold and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund separately published a collection of about 100 pages of Federal Bureau of Investigation documents on Occupy Wall Street. The release shed some new light on how the FBI collaborated with other federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and Naval Investigative Criminal Services, to keep tabs on the movement, which it considered a potential criminal and domestic terrorism threat. Yet the documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, are also heavily redacted—including a curious report about a plot to identify and assassinate Occupy leaders with a sniper rifle—and leave much to the imagination.
That has provided plenty of fodder for speculation. Take the Guardian’s Naomi Wolf, who in November 2011 advanced the unfounded theory that federal officials had coordinated the raids on Occupy encampments across the country with local authorities, and with congressional blessing (a conclusion quickly debunked by Alternet’s Joshua Holland). The new FBI documents, Wolf wrote last month, “show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world” and a “terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council.”
In fact, the DSAC, “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector,” is mentioned in just one unredacted document, an unremarkable report compiled by the FBI and DHS about Occupy’s West Coast port shutdown plans in December 2011. Most of the other documents are routine FBI memos focusing on the potential for criminal activity during protests, cyberattacks from Anonymous, reports of suspicious mail, and a threat to shoot a police officer allegedly made by Occupy protesters.
Last week, Salon’s Natasha Lennard approvingly cited Wolf’s column, adding that DSAC’s involvement was not only Orwellian but “even verges on the Kafkaesque.” But Lennard’s assertion that the FBI documents highlighted the “coordination between federal agencies, local police departments, fusion centers and hired corporate security firms in surveying, policing and ultimately cracking down on Occupy encampments and days of action” is also speculative. While the documents show that the FBI communicated with these groups, none of the documents reveal efforts by federal law enforcement to disband the camps.