The Obama administration and its “fusion centers” were working with the privately owned Federal Reserve as well as state and local law enforcement to spy on “Occupy Wall Street,” according to heavily redacted Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documents recently released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). While the controversial “Occupy” movement sparked serious concerns, the actions and lies of authorities detailed in the files have also raised fears over an out-of-control federal government and its central bank partner.
According to analysts, in addition to exposing numerous violations of the Constitution, the newly released documents also offer a great deal of insight into the emerging “police state” apparatus. Created under the guise of fighting “terror,” the quickly-expanding surveillance machinery is increasingly shifting its focus toward American critics of the establishment all across the political spectrum. The latest revelations, exposed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), only served to confirm that trend.
“This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” explained PCJF Executive Director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard in a statement. “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. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”
Among the greatest concerns sparked by the revelations is simply the massive scope of government spying on American citizens, even when there was little to no credible evidence indicating that the targeted individuals were involved in criminal activity — let alone terrorism. FBI field offices all across the country, for example, are exposed in the documents conspiring with local law enforcement and the “private sector” to infiltrate and spy on demonstrators, despite their own claims that the movement is actually non-violent. Even university police departments were working with the feds to spy on students.
One of the documents highlighted by critics of the surveillance state is a “Potential Criminal Activity Alert” released by the FBI’s Indianapolis division to “All Indiana State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies” on September 15, 2011. Much of the error-filled “alert” covers mundane so-called “intelligence” gathered from websites associated with the protests, which had not even been scheduled in the area yet. However, it also confirms once more that the federal government has become increasingly intertwined with state and local law enforcement agencies, which are supposed to be independent of Washington, D.C., through relatively new institutions known as “fusion centers.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s unconstitutional so-called fusion centers were created over the last decade in an effort to completely integrate state and local law enforcement into the domestic surveillance regime. There are currently more than 75 of the out-of-control “centers” operating across the country. And like virtually all lawless federal schemes, the institutions have been involved in countless scandals in recent years.
In 2009, for example, a “fusion center” in Missouri sparked a firestorm of controversy after a leaked document showed it was targeting supporters of GOP presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and the Constitution Party’s Chuck Baldwin as potential “domestic terrorists.” As with the “Homeland Security” bureaucracy itself, which is supposedly in charge of the institutions, a congressional report showed the “fusion centers” have not only been wasting gargantuan sums of taxpayer money, they’ve been squandering it unlawfully spying on peaceful Americans engaged in political activism.
Another player involved in the controversial scheme to federalize state and local law enforcement while engaging in lawless espionage activities is the Department of Justice, which is currently under fire for arming Mexican drug cartels as part of operation “Fast and Furious.” As The New American reported recently, leaked documents show the Justice Department was also training state and local police to equate political bumper stickers with “domestic terrorism” — even innocuous ones advocating a U.S. government withdrawal from the scandal-plagued United Nations, for example.
“Why the huge push for counterterrorism ‘fusion centers,’ the DHS militarizing of police departments, and so on? It was never really about ‘the terrorists.’ It was not even about civil unrest,” wrote author and activist Naomi Wolf in a column for the U.K. Guardian. “It was always about this moment, when vast crimes might be uncovered by citizens — it was always, that is to say, meant to be about you.” The FBI documents, she added, “show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world.”
Even more troubling than the feds’ own lawless espionage machine, according to some critics, is the involvement of the Federal Reserve System, a shadowy, highly controversial, privately owned institution with a government-enforced monopoly on American currency. The banker-owned “Fed,” as the central bank is known, has attracted increasing scrutiny and outrage from Americans of all political stripes in recent years — especially after it got caught handing out literally trillions of dollars to its cronies and foreign banks.
Despite being largely anti-capitalist in nature, certain segments of the “Occupy” movement began correctly zeroing in on the central bank as the primary culprit responsible for America’s current financial turmoil. And that had the Fed’s owners — primarily banks, more than a few of which helped keep tabs on protesters — very nervous, as the recently released FBI documents on Occupy Wall Street illustrate yet again.
“The Federal Reserve in Richmond appears to have had personnel surveilling OWS planning,” stated a press release by the PCJF, which first obtained the FBI documents and released them online. “They were in contact with the FBI in Richmond to ‘pass on information regarding the movement known as occupy Wall Street.’ There were repeated communications ‘to pass on updates of the events and decisions made during the small rallies and the following information received from the Capital Police Intelligence Unit through JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force).’”
Of course, this is not the first time that the Fed has been implicated in espionage against its critics. As The New American reported in 2011, the U.S. central bank was caught seeking contractors to help it monitor and analyze blogs, news reports, and social-media chatter about itself and its policies, with a supposed goal of being able to better use “public relations” strategies — also known as propaganda — to counter the growing barrage of negative publicity. Critics, however, blasted the scheme as “Orwellian” spying and “intimidation,” sparking further PR problems for the embattled central bank.
Unsurprisingly, much of the material released by the FBI about its Occupy Wall Street programs was blanked out, sparking even more concerns over what else might have been going on. PCJF, however, promised to keep seeking more information. “The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material,” said Heather Benno, a staff attorney with the non-profit organization. “We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation.”
Another troubling matter raised by the documents is the exposure of past FBI lies. In November of 2011, the FBI issued a statement to the Huffington Post claiming that it had not been working with local police regarding the “Occupy” movement. "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," the FBI claimed. "These reports are false. At no time has the FBI engaged with local police in this capacity." Those lies have now been officially exposed by the bureau itself.
After the most recent release of documents, which some analysts suggested may have been strategically disseminated to intimidate would-be discontents out of getting involved in the political process, the FBI released yet another dubious statement urging Americans not to read too much into the information. "The FBI cautions against drawing conclusions from redacted FOIA documents," bureau spokesman Paul Bresson was quoted as saying in a statement provided to Democracy Now. "It is law enforcement's duty to use all lawful tools to protect their communities."
It is not clear from the documents that there ever were any real threats identified. The closest the FBI ever got to “uncovering” any “terrorism” was when it used a convicted felon-turned informant to prod five young, naïve dupes into planting fake explosives on a bridge near Cleveland. Like virtually all of the bureau’s recent “busts,” the supposed “foiled plot” was actually run from start to finish by the feds, who even provided fake explosives.
The Occupy movement, meanwhile, was also largely a creation of the establishment itself — ironically, billionaire financier and top Obama backer George Soros' money was key to getting it off the ground, as The New American documented and exposed in the early stages. If the FBI is willing to squander so much money lawlessly spying on big government-supporting protesters so closely linked to the establishment, one can only wonder how it would treat a true grass-roots movement that represented a real threat to the “powers that be.”
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, politics, and more. He can be reached at