Monday, December 31, 2012

The Occupy Surveillance Doc Dump

I've been reading through some of the Occupy Surveillance Doc Dump during the past few days when I get a chance. It's not surprising, and it's not pretty.

What's been released are what look to be some -- by no means all -- the raw field reports from the FBI on their monitoring of OWS and related encampments from prior to the Zuccotti/Liberty encampment until the early spring 2012 break up of remaining Occupy outposts.

There have been plenty of expressions of shock and outrage that Teh Gubmint was actually spying on Occupy back in the day -- as if it wasn't obvious from the get. It was taken for granted that something like COINTELPRO would be launched against the Occupy Movement, and so it would be -- as these and many other documents reveal. Yes, and...?

Raw field reports are not typically very useful for civilians because of their nature. They are "raw," produced in abundance, and not intended as actionable items. They need to be analyzed and put into some kind of coherent form to be useful; further, the noise they contain needs to be suppressed as much as possible.

It's obvious to me at any rate that these documents represent only a fraction of what was produced during the hey-day of Occupy. They skim the surface of what was/is going on regarding the surveillance and eventual suppression of the Occupy Movement. It is the picture of an American Stasi operation, and it's one that most Americans seem to be inured to and to accept.

Those of us involved in Occupy -- even as peripherally as I was -- sensed that this sort of thing was going on, expected it to be, and mostly really did not fear it. As I've written elsewhere, some of the "spies" actually introduced themselves and attempted to make nice with the demonstrators. We knew they were reporting back to some HQ somewhere (police departments and fusion centers), and we expected there would be consequences. Legal tended to assure us that whatever those consequences were, they would be "mild" -- based on assurances Legal seemed to be getting from the Authorities.

On the other hand, there was a lot of paranoia about what could  happen, and these documents provide a clue to the source of the paranoia. Occupy was officially classified as "Domestic Terrorism" and much of the effort to surveil, control and suppress it came from that particular nexus. Occupy was considered to be "Domestic Terrorism" not because it was engaged in any sort of domestic terror activities or armed insurrection of any kind (please), but because its impetus was overtly revolutionary, even if the "revolution" was more of spirit and mind than of physical rebellion and overthrow.

Most of what I've read so far indicates there was little official interest in suppressing Occupy until there were disruptive actions, primarily port shut downs and general strikes. But this image of official indifference doesn't jibe with what was actually happening in the streets, particularly in New York, Oakland, and elsewhere as early as mid September, 2011, soon after the advent of the Occupy Movement. Official efforts at intimidation and police violence against Occupy demonstrators were almost immediate, despite the fact that there was no violence from Occupy.

It didn't matter how non-violent Occupy was in other words. Police suppression, often violent, would become routine, coordinated, destructive, arbitrary and vicious. The whole question of "nonviolence" with regard to Occupy was absurd on its face and a distraction from what was really going on. The brou-ha-ha over the issue (infamously via Chris Hedges' meltdown over Black Block)  highlighted how easily a movement which was nonviolent by definition (regardless of Black Block) could be paralyzed by the fear of violence.

The whole point of the official response, at least from what I gather, was to paralyze the Movement before it could become a serious threat to the existing power structure. The primary weapon would be fear. Fear of violence, whether internal or external. There were plenty of willing tools within and outside the Movement who were more than capable of spreading dissension, fear, uncertainty and doubt, and the periodic application of police violence on top of it was sufficient to paralyze and eventually disperse the Movement -- to the extent that now it hardly seems to exist any more.

The strategy may have been ad hoc, but it worked. On the surface, at least, it worked.

Interestingly, there are a number of documents in the dump that indicate what looks to be official sympathy with the Movement and its aims and goals -- such as they were. One, starting on page 90, goes to great length stating the Movement's interests objections and principles as if they were perfectly legitimate in the eyes of Authority. Another, beginning on page 88, deals with "protester safety" and "first amendment rights." Of course given events, much of this is probably eyewash, but nevertheless, it's surprising how comprehensive and apparently sympathetic some of the official interest was.

Possible assassination of Occupy leaders has received a good deal of attention, thanks to some documents out of Charlotte and Jacksonville (regarding Houston) (pg 61 and 68-69) that indicate someone had a bright idea to deploy snipers against protesters. Exactly who that might have been is impossible to determine from what's been released, but the implication is or was that there was some sort of official interest in exploring/exploiting the "assassination" option. The documents themselves are murky on this issue (deliberately so, given the redactions) but it's not surprising that "assassination" might be factored in as a tool of suppression.

If the official view is or was that Occupy is or was a Domestic Terrorist operation, then any tool to suppress it could be and no doubt was considered. Again, this is not terribly surprising... and there is no way to tell from the documents who was considering deploying snipers in Houston (and elsewhere?) to take out Occupy "leaders." Some of those who have taken a look at this part of the doc dump suspect its release is strategic, in an effort to maintain an atmosphere of fear and dread at what could happen should Occupy return to public prominence. Yes, well...

Yves Smith highlights how intimately banks were involved in the official surveillance and suppression actions against Occupy. Again, there's no real surprise here, but merely confirmation.

Naomi Wolf gets into some of the real sophistication of the surveillance and suppression actions.

As I've said many times, we live in an increasingly regimented and restrictive police state. There's still a lot of denial about that fact, much of it within what passes for the "progressive" community, in part based on the premise that "it's not as bad" as the Soviet or Nazi examples -- not yet. But I would go somewhat further and say that in the physical sense it's not as bad as it used to be in this country. Instead, Our Rulers learned many lessons from previous Movements and the often failed efforts to suppress them. They don't intend to let any Movement ever again overcome their authority and rule. Period.

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