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FBI monitored Occupy Wall Street like a potential terrorist threat

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Recently released government documents show that last year's violent breakup of Occupy Wall Street protests followed a coordinated effort between the FBI, DHS, and local police, working in collaboration with the big banks themselves. Despite the FBI’s own admission that Occupy was essentially peaceful, local branches of the intelligence agency routinely treated the group as a potential terrorist organization, beginning a campaign of surveillance a month before OWS set up camp at Zuccotti Park. The material is the result of a Freedom of Information Act request by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), a non profit civil rights organization.

"Treating protests against the corporate and banking structure as potential criminal and terrorist activity"

As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF puts it, the heavily redacted 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.” For instance, the Jacksonville, Florida FBI produced a Domestic Terrorism briefing on the “spread of the Occupy Wall Street Movement” in October, 2011. At the same time, the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), a “strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector,” was advising its corporate clients on how to deal with the civil unrest the protests were expected to generate.

The FBI told CNN that while it’s “obligated to thoroughly investigate any serious allegations involving threats of violence,” the organization does not open investigations based solely on political protests, which are constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. “The Department of Justice and the F.B.I.’s own internal guidelines on domestic operations strictly forbid that.”