VIDEO: Mara Verheyden-Hilliard: FBI Used Counterterrorism Resources To Monitor Occupy Group It Deemed NonViolent
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund recently released newly obtained Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents which reveal that the FBI has been spying on Occupy Wall Street activists well before their very first protest.
In spite of the agency having acknowledged repeatedly in their internal documents that the movement opposes violence, and thus poses no threat, it still used counterterrorism resources and counterterrorism authorities to monitor them.
This may indicate that the movement’s political views in themselves are somehow being construed by officials as a ‘threat’.
The FBI stonewalled The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund’s FOIA request for over a year, and chose to release the highly redacted documents on the Friday going into the weekend preceding Christmas — a common tactic used by Federal agencies when releasing potentially embarrassing information, to ensure minimal press coverage and minimal public attention.
Today, Amy Goodman invited Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, to appear on DemocracyNow to discuss the group’s FOIA request and findings.
Verheyden-Hilliard tells about the FBI’s “intense coordination both with private businesses, with Wall Street, with the banks, and with state police departments and local police departments around the country.” The documents show the FBI going as far as using private groups as “proxy forces” to conduct undercover infiltration against the peaceful protesters to then report their findings back to the agency.
ACLU’s Adam Schwartz: Law Enforcement Uses Fusion Centers To Scrutinize Innocent Americans (video)
Reason TV interviewed Adam Schwartz of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois where he discussed how law enforcement’s pervasive surveillance and data gathering efforts pose a threat to Americans’ constitutionally protected privacy and First Amendment rights.
Schwartz describes the significance of fusion centers and the role they play:
“In the wake of the 9-11 terror attacks, the U.S. government has spent billions of dollars to have the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security fund state and local fusion centers. These are state organizations that fuse under one roof, as much information as possible about people who are suspected of criminal or terror activity and then they funnel this information towards the Department of Homeland Security.”
Fusion centers maintain a large number of databases on each person, including gov’t criminal databases, gov’t noncriminal ones, and private ones.
A recently published U.S. Senate investigative report concluded that the information coming from the fusion centers was unrelated to terrorism, and instead threatened citizens’ Privacy Act protections and civil liberties:
The investigation found that DHS intelligence officers assigned to state and local fusion centers produced intelligence of “uneven quality – oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.”