The American Bear


Spying on Occupy Activists | The Progressive

OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement officers have engaged in widespread domestic spying on Occupy Wall Street activists, among others, on the shaky premise that these activists pose a terrorist threat. Often, Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies have coordinated with the private sector, working on behalf of, or in cooperation with, Wall Street firms and other companies the protesters have criticized.

Thousands of public documents recently obtained by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy add new evidence to an increasingly powerful case that law enforcement has been overstepping its bounds. The documents, obtained through state and federal open records searches and Freedom of Information Act requests, demonstrate that law enforcement agencies may be attempting to criminalize thousands of American citizens for simply voicing their disapproval of corporate dominance over our economic and political system.

Statement: Why We Got Arrested at the University of Chicago | Occupied Chicago Tribune

Four protesters demanding an expansion of trauma care services on the South Side were arrested during a sit-in at the University of Chicago Medical Center Sunday afternoon. The lack of trauma care services on the South Side is costing lives, and the University of Chicago should have a responsibility to its neighboring communities, demonstrators said.

Sheila Rush, whose 18-year-old son, Damian Turner, died while awaiting treatment for a gunshot wound, was among those participating. Turner was shot in August 2010 in a drive-by shooting four blocks from the Hyde Park hospital and died after being taken to the nearest Level-1 trauma center, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, nearly ten miles away.

The demonstrators sought a commitment by the university to raise the age limit of patients treated from 16 to 21 “as an initial step towards providing trauma care” on the South Side. Campus police were called shortly after the start of the sit-in and made arrests [see video] within an hour. The lesson: If you’re on the South Side of Chicago and over the age of 16, it may take less time to be arrested for demanding a trauma center than it would to actually get to a trauma center. [++]

New Documents on Activist Surveillance May Be "Just the Tip of the Iceberg" | Chris Hedges

The FBI documents [on Occupy] are not only a chilling example of how widespread this surveillance and obstruction has become, they are an explicit warning by the security services to all who consider dissent. Anyone who defies corporate power, even if he or she is nonviolent and acting within constitutional rights, is a suspect. These documents are part of the plan to make us fearful, compliant and disempowered. They mark, I suspect, a government attempt to end peaceful mass protests by responding with repression to the grievances of Americans. When the corporate-financed group FreedomWorks bused in goons to disrupt Democratic candidates’ town hall meetings about the federal health care legislation in August 2009, Eric Zuesse of the Business Insider notes, “there was no FBI surveillance of those corporate-organized disruptions of legitimate democratic processes. There also were no subsequent FreedomWorks applications for Freedom of Information Act releases of FBI files regarding such surveillance being used against them—because there was no such FBI campaign against them.”

The combination of intimidation tactics by right-wing fringe groups, which speak in the language of violence and hate, with the state’s massive intrusion into the personal affairs of the citizen is corporate fascism. And we are much farther down that road than many of us care to admit. [++]

As Bloomberg News reported Wednesday, Goldman finished the year with a flurry of regulatory filings revealing that 10 top executives, including CEO and Chairman Lloyd Blankfein and President and COO Gary Cohn would be paid a total of $65 million in restricted stock award 2012—ahead of schedule—enabling them to avoid higher tax rates in 2013. Goldman spokesman Michael DuVally declined to comment. And remember the eleventh hour deal struck by Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff? Goldman will indirectly get a piece of that as well. Section 328 of the bill extends tax-exempt financing for the ‘New York Liberty Zone,’ which includes the area around Goldman’ shiny new headquarters at 200 West St. Goldman already got $1.5 billion in ‘Liberty Bonds’ to help pay for the construction of its headquarters, according to this Bloomberg News investigation, and now it can be sure developers will have every incentive to build more fancy high rises to house Goldman’s workaholics as close to the office as possible. Not that they needed such incentives. Meanwhile, Congress couldn’t find the time to approve a $60.4 billion package to help genuinely distressed coastal neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey that have been wiped out by Hurricane Sandy.

Goldman Weasels Its Way Into 2013

Still doing “God’s work" at Goldman Sachs.

Should Auld Civil Liberties Be Forgot | Charles Pierce

Of course, while everyone in Washington, and the courtier press that serves them, were endlessly droning on and on about the Gentle Fiscal Incline, the Bill Of Rights closed out 2012 by having one of the worst weeks it’s had in the two centuries of its existence. But the courtier press paid that little mind, possibly because selling out the Bill Of Rights was done on a “bipartisan” basis, and the denizens of the various Green Rooms would endorse cannibal murder if both parties agreed to subsidize it.

First came the revolting vote on the reauthorization of FISA. Time was, and not that long ago, that the whole idea of a secret court issuing secret warrants was enough to raise hackles all on its own. (There even was an episode of Law And Order from 2004 that centered on the execution of a FISA warrant that sent liberal defense attorney Danielle Melnick, and assistant DA Serena Southerland, up the wall.) Now the old FISA regulations seem like they were drafted by George Mason, compared to what keeps getting reauthorized in the Senate.

This latest thing was to reauthorize the truly spooky FISA Amendments that were passed in 2008 when the president, in one of the actions he’s taken that really was a naked sellout of his previously enunciated principles, joined with a Senate majority to immunize the telecommunications companies that had participated in the Bush Administration’s lawlessness regarding wiretapping, as well as to authorize sweeping new wiretapping powers far beyond those against which the companies were being immunized. What the president did is not excused by the fact that he was running for president at the time. This wasn’t a flip-flop he took because he wanted to be elected. This was a flip-flop he took because he wanted to do some things once he was elected.

This year, as those amendments came up for reauthorization, what we had was a genuine horror show, and it was made worse by the awful debate that preceded the vote. There was enough boogedy-boogedy coming from the Democratic side to embarrass John Bolton. Glenn Greenwald already has written at length on this, but one comment from the now-inexcusable Dianne Feinstein is worthy of further comment.

“This is an effort to make that material public, and I think it’s a mistake at this particular time because it will chill the program, it will make us less secure, not more secure…I know where this goes, it goes to destroy the program. I don’t want to see it destroyed.”

In other words…no, wait, there are no other words. This is the argument of a totalitarian. You can’t know what we’re doing to protect you, even if we’re doing it to you, because then we can’t protect you and you will be killed by bad people and it will be your own fault. Somewhere in East Germany, an elderly ex-bureaucrat is getting a thrill up his leg and doesn’t know why.

Later, came the release of some FBI documents in which it seemed to indicate at least an unacceptable level of involvement by federal law enforcement in the crackdowns by local authorities on the various outposts of the Occupy movement. The hooley on the Left, which is going on vigorously over in the LG&M saloon, seems to center on whether or not federal authorities directed the activities of the local cops, or whether they simply provided logistical and intelligence support. (There’s also a great deal of swatting at Naomi Wolf, on which I will pass, thanks a lot.) To me, this is a distinction without a difference. You don’t have to go back too far — COINTELPRO, which began in 1956, and the CISPES busts in the 1980’s — to see how local and federal law enforcement can work together, at arms-length or closer, if necessary, to crack down on inconvenient political movements. The FBI opened a file on Fred Hampton in 1967. Through COINTELPRO, it sowed disinformation in Chicago, and it placed a mole named William O’Neal in the Black Panther Party hierarchy. (O’Neal eventually became Hampton’s bodyguard and, it is claimed, dosed Hampton with a barbituate on the night of his death.) On December 4, 1969, Hampton was murdered in his bed by officers of the Chicago Police Department. Eventually, his family sued, and won a settlement, from both the local and federal governments.

Did it ultimately matter whether or not the FBI was “directing” operations here, or whether it was merely part of an overall program?

Not to Fred Hampton.

… There is no question that the coordination between federal and local law-enforcement has grown tighter over the past 11 years. Anyone who’s been to a political convention since 2004 knows that. There are federal programs by which hayshaker police chiefs can get their hands on a ludicrous level of weaponry, and the federal government in general has played a significant role in the militarization of local police departments. It is hardly a conspiracy theory at this point to say that, if the local gentry wanted the local police to clear out the drum circles, then the feds would be more than happy to help out. The difference between local and federal law enforcement is passing thin right now.

And the most important point is that, say, the Oakland police work for the people of the city of Oakland. The feds work for me, and for every other citizen in the country. If the Oakland PD goes out and busts heads on its own, then that’s a matter for the citizens of Oakland. If, however, the FBI helps them do it, and helps them in any way, they’re doing it on my nickel, and I get to tell them they should knock it off. Suppose some of the Occupy people who got their heads busted want to take the local police who did it into federal court. Wouldn’t the involvement, at whatever level, of the FBI compromise the administration of justice in that case? (That’s a real question. I don’t know nearly enough law to answer it.) There’s enough in those documents to warrant a serious congressional investigation. There’s enough still left in the Bill Of Rights to demand one. [++]

Just act normal

The following is a post I found in the bottom of my “drafts”. I started writing it, but didn’t finish it, before the anniversary of Occupy - just notes and links.

A tiny slice of the United States’ trek towards precogs and precrime units:

Occupy Austin and other Occupy related groups have fallen victim to infiltration and entrapment including through the use of a system called “Fusion”. Investigating “Fusion”, Greg Gladden of the Texas ACLU found, “their goal, their purpose, through federal grants, is to monitor potential domestic terrorism.” He continues, “I guess it’s a lot easier to solve crimes you create yourself than to actually ferret out actual crimes and actual criminals.”

That should sound similar to the systematic entrapment of Muslims in the United States by the FBI and the NYPD.

The NYPD recently partnered up with Microsoft to add the Domain Awareness System to their already formidable surveillance arsenal. And they’re adding checkpoints, apparently, to check id’s on the anniversary of Occupy.

Orlando has added iris scanners to their surveillance net.

Something called TrapWire is being used to identify “suspicious behavior” - defined however it needs to be - and is thought to have been used to track the Occupy movement.

Rahm Emanuel put the city of Chicago on lockdown for the NATO Summit.

And of course we now know that the corporate-state collusion to repress OWS was as bad or worse than many thought.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61). As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI – though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a ‘terrorist threat’.

Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy

New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent

(via spittingonhegel)

(via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)

FBI monitoring of dissent | Glenn Greenwald

In response to the FOIA documents outlining FBI surveillance of the Occupy protests:

[…] Virtually every seized power justified over the last decade in the name of “terrorism” has been applied to a wide range of domestic dissent. The most significant civil liberties trend of the last decade, in my view, is the importation of War on Terror tactics onto US soil, applied to US citizens - from the sprawling Surveillance State and powers of indefinite detention to the para-militarization of domestic police forces and the rapidly emerging fleet of drones now being deployed in countless ways. As I’ve argued previously, the true purpose of this endless expansion of state power in the name of “terrorism” is control over anticipated domestic protest and unrest.

It should be anything but surprising that the FBI - drowning in counter-terrorism money, power and other resources - will apply the term “terrorism” to any group it dislikes and wants to control and suppress (thus ushering in all of the powers institutionalized against “terrorists”). Those who supported (or acquiesced to) this expansion of unaccountable government power because they assumed it would only be used against Those Muslims not only embraced a morally warped premise (I care about injustices only if they directly affect me), but also a factually false one, since abuses of power always - always - expand beyond their original application.

Dear FBI: Show Your Work | emptywheel

While we’ve been celebrating with our families, the Partnership for Civil Justice and the NYT have been reading through a set of documents showing the nationwide surveillance of Occupy Wall Street.

The documents and the FBI’s defense of them exposes several long term claims by the FBI to be false. First, that their domestic mapping program, the Domain Management Program, is not inappropriate surveillance directed at domestic politics.

An October 2011 memo from the bureau’s Jacksonville, Fla., field office was titled Domain Program Management Domestic Terrorist.

The memo said agents discussed “past and upcoming meetings” of the movement, and its spread. It said agents should contact Occupy Wall Street activists to ascertain whether people who attended their events had “violent tendencies.”

Domain Management also gets directed at Muslims and Latinos in the name of preparing to investigate terrorism and drugs. If it weren’t already clear this is about domestic spying, the inclusion of Occupy should now make that clear.

Then there’s FBI’s claim that it can’t investigate solely on the basis of speech or religion.

“The F.B.I. recognizes the rights of individuals and groups to engage in constitutionally protected activity,” said the spokesman, Paul Bresson. “While the F.B.I. is obligated to thoroughly investigate any serious allegations involving threats of violence, we do not open investigations based solely on First Amendment activity. In fact, the Department of Justice and the F.B.I.’s own internal guidelines on domestic operations strictly forbid that.”

Bresson overstates this, of course. The Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide prohibits opening an investigation solely on the basis of First Amendment activity. But it permits using such activity as part of the predicate for an investigation. [more]

Released FBI Documents Reveal Plans By Unknown Parties to Assassinate Occupy Wall Street Activists | Raging Chicken Press


Editors Note: As the editor of Raging Chicken Press, I want to make clear that no one should assume from these documents that the FBI was planning assassinations. A careful read of the documents seem to suggest that the FBI was tracking some kind of plot to shoot Occupy “leaders.” The documents do not suggest that the FBI was behind this organization as a previous comment pointed out. We do not know definitively who was behind this plot, but principled action from this point should be for the FBI to make public its findings and its investigation. I am sorry that the headline for this article was ambiguous. It is not the intent of Raging Chicken Press to sensationalize reports. I would like to point out, however, that Jason Leopold deserves major props for getting access to these documents and making them public.

- Kevin Mahoney, Editor, Raging Chicken Press

Jason Leopold, an investigative journalist for Truth-Out, has obtained FBI documents – through the Freedom of Information Act – relating to Occupy Wall Street. Most of the pages in the documents are redacted, and show concerns of cyber threats against the financial sector. However, there are questions of assassination plots against Occupy activists in Houston, Texas. Because the documents have redactions, it is not clear who or what group was planning the assassinations.

On page 61, the sections reads:

An identified [redacted] of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary. An identified [redacted] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [Redacted] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.

The bottom of page 68 and the top of page 69 reads:

On October 13, 2011, writer sent via email an excerpt [redacted] regarding FBI Houston’s [redacted] to all IA’s, SSRA’s and SSA [redacted]. This [redacted] identified the exploitation of the Occupy Movement by [redacted] interested in developing a long-term plan to kill local Occupy leaders via sniper fire.

The full document can be found here.

Excerpt from P. 61

Excerpt from P. 61

Excerpt from P 68-69

Excerpt from P 68-69

An Interview with Cornel West on Occupy, Obama and Marx (2)

"He’s had four years and he’s proved himself to be a Wall St. President, he’s proved himself to be imperial to the core, he’s proved himself to be a war criminal."

Parmbir Gill: Cornel, you campaigned for Obama in 2008 but unlike many other critical supporters of the President, your critique of his policies eventually eclipsed your support as his first term unfolded. And as a result you’ve found yourself in confrontation with former comrades – but still brother – like Michael Eric Dyson, Al Sharpton and others, who remain allied to the Obama regime while purporting to be critical of it from within.

CW: You don’t see too much criticism coming from either one of them though! (laughs). I think they’ve sold their soul for a mess of Obama pottage!

PG: Right, and it’s obvious that these confrontations have led many in the mainstream American press to denounce you, but even then your popularity among poor and working people in America and across the world continues to grow. How do you account for that?

CW: Well, one important thing to keep in mind is that in the 65 events that I did, at each stop I would tell them that we must bring Reaganism to a close – McCain and Palin were the last moments of Reaganite policy (unregulated markets, indifference towards the poor, stagnating wages) – and that if Obama won, I would break dance in the afternoon and be his major critic the next morning. That’s how I ended every speech. And so I broke dance in the afternoon [when Obama won in 2008] because we did stop McCain and Palin. But the next morning I knew the social forces behind him (Wall Street and so forth) needed to be called into question. So when I went after Larry Summers, went after Tim Geithner, went after Gary Gensler and all the Wall St. folk who inhabited his space, his cabinet, Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, and so forth, they [his supporters] said ‘you’re turning on the President!’. I said ‘no, I’m just being consistent. I’m being true to what I said’. But then that’s where the demonization set in. But, you know, that goes with the territory.

Read whole

An Interview with Cornel West on Occupy, Obama and Marx (1)

SHOZAB RAZA: There have been some critiques of Occupy Wall Street from the Left: for example, that it failed to significantly engage with the labour movement and trade unions in the US or that its radically decentralized structure made it very difficult to arrive at decisions to accomplish particular objectives. And so moving forward, what are the lessons that we, as participants in Occupy and supporters of it, can learn from the movement?

CORNEL WEST: I think we have to draw a distinction between social motion and social movements. Social movements are very rare because they require a sophisticated level of organization, of leadership, of persons who are highly courageous and willing to actually pay a price. Social motion is very important because it helps shape the climate of opinion and that’s exactly what the Occupy motion has been all about – it helps shape the climate of opinion. But it was in many ways so heterogeneous, so diverse in all of its various voices and perspectives. What I loved about it was that there was a lot of respect. It wasn’t dogmatic, imposed from above, professional revolutionaries coming in with Truth (with a capital ‘T’) and imposing it on everybody. That’s what we were wrestling with in the 60’s and 70’s. You didn’t have that kind of thing this time around – and that was very important.

On the other hand, it was difficult to sustain it. But I think that the next wave of social activism will be among young people and it’s going to take a variety of different forms. I’m old school so I have to learn from young people – for example, about social networking to forms of democratic expression that I haven’t even thought of in that regard. I have a respect for the anarchists precisely because – though I’m not one – they have a powerful critique of concentration of power in the nation-state. And as a black man in America dealing with the repressive apparatus, you live under death threat every day from your own government. You know governments can be vicious – and that’s the history of black people in America. So then the anarchists say ‘we want democratic accountability, not just of the corporations (which, coming out of the socialist tradition, I accept) but we want to make sure that the government doesn’t have a concentration of power, especially instrumentalities of violence which can be brought to bear on dissidents, who are then criminalized and assassinated.’ And that’s very important. Yet at the same time, as a radical democrat or a deep democrat, in the end I’m not an anarchist but anarchism has some deep truths that one has to take into consideration.

Cleveland anarchist bomb plot aided and abetted by the FBI | Arun Gupta

… Pardiss Kebriaei, a senior attorney specializing in national security at the Center for Constitutional Rights, claims standard operating procedure in terror cases “starts with surveillance and profiling on the basis of religion, politics and national origin”. She notes parallels between the Cleveland anarchists and the “Newburgh Four”, named for the upstate New York town in which the plot was hatched. The Guardian reported they were convicted in 2010 “of an Islamic terrorist plot to blow up Jewish synagogues and shoot down military jets with missiles”, and described them as “beset by drug, criminal and mental health issues”. Kebriaei says the four men “are from the poorest community in New York, and the government was exploiting their needs”.

The Cleveland anarchists are cut from the same cloth. Lea Tolls, 47, a self-described “Occu-mom”, says, “Except for [Stevens] they were destitute. They are angry, some have mental illnesses, and there is alcoholism and abuse in their families.” The FBI dispatched Azir to an Occupy Cleveland event on 21 October 2011, “based on an initial report of potential criminal activity and threats involving anarchists”. Terry Gilbert, Stevens’ defense attorney, questions why the feds would send “a plant into a peaceful demonstration with a very ambiguous claim of criminal behavior. Once you get an informant in there, they have every motive to get a case. They are trying to make money or are working off a criminal case.” [++]