‘FBI agents monitored Occupy movement’

International

MICHAEL S SCHMIDT & COLIN MOYNIHAN

The Federal Bureau of Investigation used counter-terrorism agents to investigate the Occupy Wall Street movement, including its communications and planning, according to newly-disclosed agency records.

The FBI records show that as early as September 2011, an agent from a counter-terrorism task force in New York notified officials of two landmarks in Lower Manhattan - Federal Hall and the Museum of American Finance - "that their building was identified as a point of interest for the Occupy Wall Street."

That was around the time that Occupy Wall Street activists set up a camp in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, spawning a protest movement across the United States that focussed the nation's attention on issues of income inequality.

In the following months, the FBI personnel around the country were routinely involved in exchanging information about the movement with businesses, local law-enforcement agencies and universities.

An October 2011 memo from the bureau's Jacksonville, Fla., field office was titled Domain Programme Management Domestic Terrorist.

The memo said agents discussed "past and forthcoming meetings" of the movement, and its spread. It said agents should contact Occupy Wall Street activists to ascertain whether people who attended their events had "violent tendencies."

The memo said because of high rates of unemployment, "the movement was spreading throughout Florida and there were several Facebook pages dedicated to specific chapters based on geographical areas."

The FBI was concerned that the movement would provide "an outlet for a lone offender exploiting the movement for reasons associated with general government dissatisfaction".

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the FBI has come under criticism for deploying counter-terrorism agents to conduct surveillance and gather intelligence on organizations active in environmental, animal-cruelty and poverty issues.

The disclosure of the FBI records comes a little more than a year after the police ousted protesters from Zuccotti Park in November 2011. Law-enforcement agencies undertook similar actions around the country against Occupy Wall Street groups.

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