The FBI and Occupy: A few thoughts

I’m always slightly cautious about comment articles, particularly in newspapers. More often than not they put forward a compelling argument for a particular point of view, but frequently serve to confirm the views of the readership. There tends to be very little strict news reporting or new information in them, so I tend to try and separate my reading of the news and reading comment pieces.

So it’s always interesting when a comment article purports to reveal something new. I recently spotted on Facebook a link to a Guardian Comment Is Free article entitled “Revealed: How the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy” by Naomi Wolf. The subtitle reads:

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

As the person posting on Facebook commented: “Bloody hell”.

I’ve clicked through the links and read the FBI documents, which were released as part of a Freedom of Information request by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. I’m a little confused by the interpretation of it.

Maybe I need a second read-through, but every reference I found to a meeting with a bank (or more often, a security firm employed by the bank) was regarding a protest which might affect the bank, or was with reference to information the bank passed to law enforcement officials. In one instance (p62), there was concern that someone intended to take advantage of a bank being shut down to commit fraud.

A fraud alert was revealed by Hancock Bank Security [REDACTED] regarding an “occupy Wall Street” type protest to lock down banks.

I also cannot find any reference to the banks “coordinating” with the FBI in any other capacity other than passing on information, and am unable to find evidence that it was a coordinated “crackdown” rather than monitoring.

There are two references (p61, identified in the Guardian comment piece, and also p69) to planned sniper attacks against Occupy leaders.

[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.

Naomi Wolf’s article comments on this:

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

I assume Ms Wolf has spoken with the otherwise unidentified Occupy leaders, as I have no way of confirming whether or not they were spoken to by the FBI. I am curious as to why she asks “by whom? Where?” as I would expect this sort of information to remain publicly redacted until any sort of criminal trial is underway, but she may be privy to more information than me on this particular matter.

I was hoping someone in the comments might be able to enlighten me a little here. The banks targeted by Occupy were national and international banks, and Occupy became a global movement. Although protests were largely peaceful, law enforcement organisations are often involved, particularly when there are concerns over the protests being hijacked by other groups. When the bank as an organisation (or for that matter the physical building of a bank) is targeted or has relevant information, it is bound to pass on that information to law enforcement organisations. Law enforcement officials are bound to keep in touch with the bank, in the same way that if a minor celebrity was to be subject to some protest, they would be likely to be contacted by or in touch with the police. So my questions are as follows:

  1. Should we be surprised or outraged that the FBI was involved given law enforcement was an issue at a federal level?
  2. Should we be surprised or outraged that the banks had meetings with the FBI given they were the target of the protests?