Mountain Sun

Mountain Sun

Friday, November 18, 2011

Democracy Now Swings and Misses on Federal Involvement in Occupy Raids

Democracy Now broadcast, yesterday:

JUAN GONZALEZ: And I’d like to ask Chuck Wexler, this whole issue of the police chiefs trying to exchange information, was there any involvement of the Department of Homeland Security or the federal officials in the discussions with the various police chiefs?

CHUCK WEXLER: Not on our conference call at all.
AMY GOODMAN: ... But I did want to ask you, how involved is FBI and Homeland Security in these discussions, Chuck Wexler?

CHUCK WEXLER: We haven’t had—they haven’t been involved—maybe they’re involved at the local level, but nationally, at least on our conference calls, I don’t think—they didn’t have a role.

JUAN GONZALEZ: There were some press reports that there were Homeland Security presentations urging that these arrests be conducted late at night.

CHUCK WEXLER: That may have been done at the city level. It wasn’t on our conference calls. We had that—no one from, you know, Homeland Security made that kind of presentation, nor—you know, we were really—we were just comparing notes.
As I wrote recently, and as Democracy Now should have known and reported, Chuck Wexler serves on the DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council.  According to DHS, "The Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary on matters related to homeland security."

So what DN did was ask a sitting member of a highly-placed DHS advisory group, Wexler, who had coordinated at least two conference calls between a reported 40 different local law enforcement agencies across the country, if DHS had any involvement in those calls.  And when he said "no", Democracy Now let it go.

At the very least, DN should have known and established Wexler's very public, formal, and clear connection to DHS.  For Wexler's part, he should have disclosed at some point that, "oh by the way, I myself am affiliated with the agency you're asking me about."  He also left open the door that there could have been federal involvement at the local level (which seems reasonably likely, given the role of DHS-affiliated "fusion centers"), but this was not pursued by Democracy Now.

These aren't trivial considerations.  There have been blatant and highly questionable examples of abuse against peaceful demonstrators. A total of 27 members of the "free" press have been arrested on very questionable grounds.  The public has a right to know the nature of any federal involvement here for many reasons, not the least of them stated by Wexler himself during the DN segment:
And I think the police are far more careful about not wanting to be drawn into something that really has nothing to do with them, and really trying as much as they can to exercise restraint, to use intermediaries, to reach out to the leaders of these Occupy movements. The challenge is, there aren’t really any leaders, or if there are leaders, they don’t want to be leaders. So it’s difficult to know who’s responsible, who’s in charge.
It that is true for the Occupy Movement, it applies equally to the law enforcement side.  The public has a right to know "who's in charge" of law enforcement when it comes to how constitutionally-protected Occupy protests are being handled (or manhandled) across the country.  And Wexler's non-disclosure of his own link to DHS doesn't provide much confidence that we're sorting this out very well, at least so far.

Update 2:45

National Lawyers Guild and Partnership for Civil Justice Fund have jointly FOIAed DOJ on this exact issue.  We'll see what the response is.  I'm not familiar with the PCJF, but the NLG has been an irreplaceable asset throughout the course of these protests.  Credit to both organizations for doing this.


  1. Sounded like a non-denial denial to me; how unsurprising NPR would have let it slide. I haven't seen any further info, have you?

  2. Oops. Wait a minute, that was Democracy Now? That's even worse.

  3. Not NPR, but Democracy Now. You'd expect NPR to make (and then defend vigorously) that kind of reporting, but I'm surprised DN didn't do their homework on Wexler.

  4. That was colossally worse, coming from Amy's joint. No wonder we're not hearing anything more. The memory hole strikes again.