Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Feds + Corporate America versus the Occupy movement

This post was originally titled "FBI versus the Occupy movement" but has been retitled based on a reader's comment below.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) recently released federal documents showing that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) coordinated not only with local police but also with universities, banks, private security firms, and other corporate bodies to monitor, disrupt, and suppress the Occupy movement. The PCJF obtained these documents through Freedom of Information Act requests and has made them available online together with commentary. Many mainstream and leftist media outlets have picked up the story, for example Naomi Wolf at the Guardian, Dennis Bernstein at Consortium News, and David Lindorff at Counterpunch.

PCJF Executive Director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard declared, "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."

The PCJF notes that "FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country," and that the FBI "treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did 'not condone the use of violence' at occupy protests." At the same time, the FBI learned of a plan to assassinate Occupy movement leaders in Houston (which fortunately was not carried out), but the agency arrested nobody for this and did not warn those targeted.

In an interview with reporter Dennis Bernstein, Verheyden-Hilliard also highlighted the fact that this operation took place under President Obama. "People think if you shift the Democratic, Republican administration that somehow these abuses are not going to occur. But, of course, this is full license to have this type of activity going on under the Obama administration."

The operation involved FBI offices in at least ten states, from New York to Colorado and from Alaska to Florida, as well as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the DHS's fusion centers, and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and Campus Liaison Program. PCJF reports, "The Memphis FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force met to discuss 'domestic terrorism' threats, including 'Aryan Nations, Occupy Wall Street, and Anonymous.'"

The released federal documents include a report by the little-known Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), which describes itself as "a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector." A "handling notice" in the report warns that its contents are "meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel…"

The DSAC, according to its website, was formed in 2005 and includes more than 200 companies, accounting for over one-third of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. The DSAC's Leadership Board represents 29 major companies such as Walmart, General Electric, Walt Disney, Merck, United Airlines, and ConocoPhillips.  Over one-third of the board's members are from firms in banking and financial services -- the capitalist sector most directly targeted by the Occupy movement -- such as Citigroup, Barclays, and Ernst & Young.

In my previous post, I warned that counterinsurgency operations against the paramilitary far right can and will be used to bolster ruling-class power against the rest of us. The federal government's campaign against the Occupy movement underscores this point. Like the anti-rightist operations envisioned by the New America Foundation and other liberal think tanks, the anti-Occupy operation involved the same network of security agencies, the same framework of "fighting terrorism," and the same preemptive, interventionist approach. Above all, the campaign makes clear that -- whether directed against the left or the right -- the security services' fundamental role is to protect the capitalist elite.

2 comments:

Decolonizer said...

The importance of this report somewhat disguised by the reference to the FBI in the title. The public-private partnership is very important, as is the involvement of numerous other federal agencies, obviously Homeland Security, but also NCIS which now identifies itself (and propagandizes itself on TV) as an anti-terrorist security outfit as opposed to just the Navy equivalent of MPs. They were apparently all over Occupy the Ports and the later Occupy port actions.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Good point, Decolonizer. I wrote that title in a hurry, and it was not the best. I've changed it based on your criticism.