On September 24, the ACLU of Northern California obtained 13 pages of documents detailing the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s surveillance of Occupy protesters leading up to planned direct action at the Oakland docks last December. Contained in the documents was the unsettling admission that the FBI consorted with private corporate security officials before the demonstrations in an effort to mitigate their effectiveness.
The documents represent a small part of what is likely a trove of dossiers created by federal law enforcement officials since the rise of the Occupy movement last fall. But even more troubling to proponents of civil liberties is the two-thirds of the documents that remain classified.
For its part, the FBI denied any “unnecessary intrusions into the lives of law-abiding people” but cited “the interest of national defense or foreign policy” in keeping the remaining documents secret. Exactly why a political protest amounts to a national security threat remains dubious.
Collusion between governmeand agencies and the corporate sector
While scrutiny of domestic political organizations by the FBI is nothing new, the collusion of domestic law enforcement with the private sector, the military, and other government agencies whose missions, on paper at least, are strictly foreign, to suppress civil disobedience is a particularly disturbing trend.
In April, the Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the NYPD’s collusion with the Central Intelligence Agency to establish an all-powerful intelligence unit (Intel) within the department aimed at infiltrating the city’s ethic communities. The very same unit was instrumental in gathering ‘intelligence’ on Occupiers at the movement’s symbolic headquarters, Zuchotti Park.
Disturbing techniques to limit dissent
In their efforts to squelch political dissent, government agencies are increasingly relying on questionable tactics and specious justifications to neutralize what it perceives as threats to governmental, and in cases such as above, private interests. These include widespread surveillance, group infiltration, and the use of federal grand juries as tools for political repression.
Above all, the frequent application of the label (potential) ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’ to activist groups and political activity provides the pretext for law enforcement to employ pervasive, intrusive, and often unconstitutional measures.
On October 10, 24-year-old Portland activist Leah Lynn Plante was the last of three Occupy activists sentenced to 18-months in federal prison for her refusal to provide a grand jury testimony regarding fellow activists in the region. Plante was never accused of a crime but was active in the Northwest anarchist scene. During their July 25 raid, 40 agents from the FBI and the Joint Terrorist Task Force held her and her roommates at gunpoint while they seized black clothing, books, artwork and other various literature as “evidence”.