Homeland Security Keeping Tabs on Occupy



Brace yourselves! This news may be shocking. The Department of Homeland Security has its eye on Occupy.

As part of the recent Wikileaks email dump, a rather benign-sounding newsletter from October 2011 from the department, entitled “SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street,” explores the movement that has proliferated across the country at an astonishing rate. It recognizes that the “leaderless resistance movement” had managed to create an elaborate communications infrastructure, mainly thanks to social media and online communities, that have allowed the original Occupy Wall Street camp to spread its message, organize events, and sustain its operations.

In the memo, DHS expresses concerns over “critical infrastructure,” particularly the financial and commercial infrastructure that has so obviously been the target of ridicule and protest. The memo cites a number of incidents in which protesters impacted critical infrastructure sectors, and the memo goes on to state that, for the most part, the movement has been peaceful. Enter the ominous music.

“The growing support for the OWS movement has expanded the protests’ impact and increased the potential for violence. While the peaceful nature of the protests has served so far to mitigate their impact, larger numbers and support from groups such as Anonymous substantially increase the risk for potential incidents and enhance the potential security risk to critical infrastructure (CI). The continued expansion of these protests also places an increasingly heavy burden on law enforcement and movement organizers to control protesters. As the primary target of the demonstrations, financial services stands the sector most impacted by the OWS protests. Due to the location of the protests in major metropolitan areas, heightened and continuous situational awareness for security personnel across all CI sectors is encouraged.”

As you may know, Anonymous has been a thorn in the sides of federal and local police. It took down the Central Intelligence Agency website. It’s leaked information about Oakland officials. And it does it for the lulz. And I wonder what “heightened and continuous situational awareness” stands for.

Although most of the material collected to compose this newsletter is culled from media sources, it’s difficult to not think back to the dirty days of COINTELPRO. There’s been plenty of concern — perhaps valid — that federal agencies had coordinated with local police to suppress the Occupy movement before it got any larger, specifically by targeting the camps. Certainly, the civil libertarians may be sadly correct that this post-9/11, supposedly anti-terrorist department is in fact devoting a portion of time and energy on watching American citizens engaged in legal and constitutionally protected activity. But to what end?

(h/t Rolling Stone)