Obama Administration Spent a Fortune Monitoring Occupy Protests, including Flash Mobs and Yoga Classes
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the federal government created “fusion centers,” so that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies would have a way to share information and perhaps prevent more terrorist attacks. A Senate subcommittee report found the centers had little utility in that role, but an investigation shows the centers turned to monitoring Occupy activities, spending millions of dollars to keep track of benign activities authorities linked to the protests.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which represents Occupy protesters, requested thousands of emails and reports by participants in the fusion centers, according to The New York Times. The documents show monitoring in 2011 and 2012 by law enforcement agencies around the country, reporting on religious meetings, Christmas caroling and other events.
The Boston fusion center was among the most active. It passed along information about a lecture by Noam Chomsky, flash mobs protesting a bank’s lending practices and notably, a yoga class. Much of the information was acquired through social media channels.
Centers took varying approaches to the protests. In contrast to the Boston center’s activities, the Delaware center took a hands-off approach. “Our fusion center has distanced itself from the movement because of 1st Amendment rights and because we have not seen any criminal activity to date,” they told the Times in an email.
Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron told the Times that the centers must follow guidelines that forbid activity “solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the U.S. Constitution, such as the First Amendment-protected freedoms of religion, speech, press, and peaceful assembly and protest.”
But some are concerned the centers’ monitoring went too far. “People must have the ability to speak out freely to express a dissenting view without the fear that the government will treat them as enemies of the state,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund said.
To Learn More:
Officials Cast Wide Net in Monitoring Occupy Protests (by Colin Moynihan, New York Times)
Government Surveillance of the Occupy Protests (New York Times)
U.S. Counter-Terrorism Apparatus is used to Quell Dissent among Americans (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Occupy Wall Street Was Target of FBI Counterterrorism Operation (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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