NEW YORK -- The FBI extensively monitored the
Occupy Wall Street movement around the United States, using
counterterrorism agents and other resources, according to recently
released FBI internal documents.
The heavily redacted
documents indicate that FBI counterterrorism agents were in close
communication with law enforcement agencies, businesses, universities
and other organizations across the country about the Occupy Wall Street
movement, even before Occupy Wall Street set up a camp in New York's
Zuccotti Park in September 2011.
In August 2011 the FBI
informed New York Stock Exchange officials of a "planned Anarchist
protest titled Occupy Wall Street" scheduled for September 17, 2011. The
FBI also notified several New York businesses of the impending
protests, according to the documents.
The documents, released
under a Freedom of Information Act request, contain references to an
October 2011 FBI domestic terrorism briefing in Jacksonville, Florida,
regarding the spread of the Occupy Wall Street movement and "the
emergence of Occupy chapters in and around the North Florida area." FBI
officials also recommended setting up tripwires with Occupy event
The FBI was concerned
that the Occupy venues could provide "an outlet for a lone offender
exploiting the movement for reasons associated with general government
dissatisfaction," according to the documents.
At a Joint Terrorism Task
Force meeting in November 2011, FBI agents reported about Occupy Wall
Street activities in Anchorage, Alaska, according to the documents.
The documents also
described instances from California, Colorado Mississippi, Virginia, and
other states involving cooperation between the FBI and other agencies.
agents are traditionally tasked with investigating and curtailing both
domestic and foreign terrorism threats.
The agency prepared
surveillance and precautionary measures despite acknowledging that
Occupy Wall Street organizers "did not condone the use of violence
during their events" and, and that the organizers had called for
peaceful protest, according to the documents.
The Partnership for
Civil Justice Fund, which describes itself on its website as a
Washington-based organization "dedicated to the defense of human and
civil rights secured by law, the protection of free speech and dissent,
and the elimination of prejudice and discrimination," obtained the
documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
"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," stated Mara
Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the organization.
"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."
The FBI, responding to
the release of the documents regarding Occupy, said it recognizes the
rights of individuals and groups to engage in constitutionally protected
activity but must take precautions to deal with any potential threats
"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," FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said in a statement to
CNN. "In fact, the Department of Justice and the F.B.I.'s own internal
guidelines on domestic operations strictly forbid that."
The Partnership for
Civil Justice Fund said it believes the FBI is withholding more
information regarding its surveillance of the Occupy movement, and will
be filing an appeal demanding full disclosure of its operations,
according to Verheyden-Hilliard.