Sunday, December 23, 2012

FBI Investigated 'Occupy' As Possible 'Terrorism' Threat, Internal Documents Show

According to internal documents newly released by the FBI, the agency spearheaded a nationwide law enforcement effort to investigate and monitor the Occupy Wall Street movement. In certain documents, divisions of the FBI refer to the Occupy Wall Street protests as a "criminal activity" or even "domestic terrorism."

The internal papers were obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice fund via a Freedom of Information Act Request. The fund, a legal nonprofit that focuses on civil rights, says it believes the 112 pages of documents, available for public viewing on its website, are only "the tip of the iceberg."

"This production ... is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement," wrote Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the fund's executive director, in a press release Saturday.

According to the documents, the FBI coordinated extensively with private companies, including banks, that feared they could be affected by Occupy protests. Occupy, which took root in New York City's Zuccotti Park in September 2011 and spread to cities across the country, targeted corporations and other forces it believed to perpetuate social inequality. The FBI's investigation included the movement's manifestations in New York; Milwaukee; Indianapolis; Anchorage, Alaska; Jacksonville, Fla.; Richmond, Va.; and Memphis, Tenn., among others.

Real Issues Highlighted By Occupy Movement:

Income Inequality

A central tenet to the Occupy Wall Street movement, a call for economic justice has brought increased exposure  to the widening gap between the United States' wealthiest and poorest citizens.

Robin Hood Tax

One of Occupy's more specific demands is the Robin Hood Tax, otherwise known as the financial transaction tax. It has gained greater prominence thanks to Occupy-sponsored demonstrations as well as a campaign during a G20 summit last year.

Student Loan Debt

When the total value of student loan debt reached $1 trillion in April, Occupy brought attention to the issue by sponsoring protests asking for loan forgiveness across the country.

The Volcker Rule-In

line with its protest against Wall Street and big banks, Occupy brought attention to the Volcker rule, a largely unenforced Dodd-Frank provision that limits a bank's ability to make speculative trades with its own accounts, otherwise known as proprietary trading. Some protestors even went so far as to draft a 325-page letter to the SEC supporting the rule.

Foreclosure Crisis

On several occasions, Occupy Wall Street has sparked national interest in individual cases of foreclosure. Among them is the successful campaign to save the home of 78-year-old former civil rights activist Helen Bailey.

Political Favoring Of The Rich

Very much the movement of the underdog, Occupy has been an outspoken critic of policies that favor corporations or the rich, including the Bush-era tax cuts and Wall Street bailouts.

Corporate Person-hood

The issue of corporate personhood, including the ability of corporations to donate to outside political spending, has gained increased attention thanks to Occupy protests.

The FBI did not immediately respond to

The Huffington Post's requests for comment Sunday.

In September, the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents that detailed the FBI's surveillance of the Occupy movement in that region. At the time, the FBI told the San Francisco Chronicle that its investigations were being performed in a way that "respects liberty and privacy and avoids unnecessary intrusions into the lives of law-abiding people."

According to the new documents, the FBI began meeting with representatives of the New York Stock Exchange and other businesses as early as August 2011, a month before the Zuccotti Park protests.

In Jackson, Miss., the local FBI office attended a meeting with private banks and the police to discuss a "National Bad Bank Sit-In-Day" protest in December 2011.

The documents are heavily redacted, a point that the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund considers to be evidence of the FBI's attempt to withhold relevant information. The fund is filing an appeal to obtain further details of the FBI's investigation, according to the release.

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