Homeland Security homes in on Occupy Protesters
The Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring Occupy Seattle and other Occupy groups since the movement’s inception, according to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (pcjf), a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights organization.
Hundreds of emails collected by the group through public records requests show that Homeland Security officials requested information on Occupy protests and the December 12 protests at West Coast ports from regional Homeland Security officials and local law enforcement.
The information was collected at fusion offices, which pcjf Staff Attorney Heather Benno described as a clearinghouse for local law enforcement, fbi and the Department of Homeland Security.
In most of the cases, information collected came from local law enforcement, Benno said.
Homeland Security received a surprising level of detail on individual protesters, particularly at Occupy Dallas, attorneys for the civil rights watchdog group said. Federal agents collected biographical information on several protesters who were arrested outside of a Bank of America in Dallas.
The request for emails shows how far the federal government is willing to go to track u.s. citizens engaging in protected speech, Benno said.
“This is not a local issue,” Benno said. “It’s not only a problem with your mayor, it’s not only a problem with your police force.”
Occupy Seattle protesters say they’re not surprised by the findings.
“We’ve always assumed Big Brother is watching,” said Ian Finkenbinder of Occupy Seattle.
Finkenbinder said that Occupy Seattle protesters already take precautions about online communications and at public actions, but he added that the feds’ efforts are a waste of time.
“This level of scrutiny is unnecessary,” Finkenbinder said. “None of us are terrorists. None of us want to hurt people. We’re in these types of groups so we can help people.”
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