Mountain Sun

Mountain Sun

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Question of Federal Involvement in Occupy Wall Street (#OWS) Raids

(This story is developed further here.)

Greg Lavine writes that Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland revealed that she had participated in a conference call among 18 mayors nationwide prior to her own raid on Occupy Oakland.  Lavine quotes Quan: “I was recently on a conference call with 18 cities across the country who had the same situation. . . .”

Add to this Dan Siegel's comment (Siegel was a legal adviser to Quan who quit his job in protest of Quan's actions), during this morning's "Democracy Now" news broadcast in which he wondered aloud if federal "fusion centers" may have been involved in some way.  Wikipedia defines "fusion centers" thus:
A fusion center is a terrorism prevention and response center, many of which were created under a joint project between the Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs between 2003 and 2007.
The fusion centers gather information not only from government sources, but also from their partners in the private sector.
Fusion centers are further described in this exchange between Amy Goodman and the ACLU's Mike German from an earlier Democracy Now broadcast:  (July 28th, 2009)

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean, Mike, by fusion centers.

MIKE GERMAN: About two years ago, me and a colleague at the ACLU started investigating a lot of federal money going to what were called intelligence fusion centers. And I was only two years out of federal law enforcement at that point, and I had never heard this term, so I became concerned. And what these centers are is multi-jurisdictional intelligence centers that involve state, local and federal law enforcement, as well as other government entities — you know, a lot of times there are emergency services type of entities, but actually can’t involve any government entity — but also involve oftentimes the military and private companies.

So we produced a report in November of 2007 warning of the potential dangers that these multi-jurisdictional centers had, because it was unclear whose rules applied. Were we using federal rules? Were we using state rules? Local rules? And what was military and private company — what rules govern their conduct? So we put out this report in November of 2007. At that point, there were forty-two fusion centers. By July of 2008, we had found so many instances of abuse, we put out an updated report. At that point, there were fifty-eight fusion centers. Today, the DHS recognizes at least seventy-two fusion centers. So these things are rapidly growing, without any sort of proper boundaries on what activities happen within them and without really any idea of what it is the military is doing in these fusion centers and what type of access they have to US person information.
This document, downloaded this morning from the Office of Justice Programs at DOJ, clearly states that fusion centers can and do play a key role in what they term "First Amendment-Protected Events"The document, ("Law Enforcement Guidelines for First Amendment-Protected Events"), indicates important roles for fusion centers in events such as those taking place in Occupy actions across the country and at OWS specifically (fusion centers are referenced throughout the document, below is an example):

If a criminal predicate or reasonable suspicion is identified or the findings of the Pre-Event Assessment provide specific, actionable intelligence, fusion centers may support agency leadership and law enforcement officers by identifying the collection requirements applicable to the event, based on the mission and role of the fusion center. In those limited circumstances, fusion centers should also be involved in any post-event activities, including the information evaluation, dissemination, and retention efforts. Fusion centers should not be involved in post-event evaluation, dissemination, and retention efforts of events that involve only routine public safety issues, such as conflicts between demonstrators or crowd-control problems.

I don't want to go all conspiratorial on this, but I think it's important to find out whether fusion centers (and thus DHS and DOJ) were indeed involved with any coordination or other activities surrounding this most-recent wave of Occupy raids.  As these centers are at least nominally defined as "terrorism prevention and response centers", it would be worth asking DOJ and DHS officials if they view Occupy activities as being in any way related to terrorism.   I'd also like to know the legal implications of any federal involvement prior to, during, and/or after the raids, in which constitutional violations and/or other illegal actions may well have occurred.

It is one thing if the Occupy Movement is encountering individual mayors who make poor and/or conceivably illegal decisions regarding constitutionally-protected rights of assembly and speech.  It is quite another thing if those mayors are receiving federal coordination, planning, or other assistance in doing so, under the rubric of homeland security and anti-terrorism.

Update 4:26 CDT

A little tenuous substantiation here:

Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict "Occupy" protesters from city parks and other public spaces. As was the case in last night's move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics. And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.
The FBI has so far failed to respond to requests for an official response, and of the 14 local police agencies contacted in the past 24 hours, all have declined to respond to questions on this issue.

Unfortunate that we have only a single unnamed source in the linked article.  Hopefully someone will be able to push a specific question on this and get an answer on the nature of federal involvement in this growing number of Occupy raids.

Update 7:45

One other relevant item on this issue--I'd forgotten about Naomi Wolf's story, related in the UK paper The Guardian.  On October 18th, Wolf and her partner were arrested in association with an Occupy Wall Street action on Hudson Street, outside an event hosted by The Huffington Post to which Wolf was an invited guest (as was Governor Cuomo).  Following her arrest, OWS protesters attempted to follow her to the NYPD first precinct office where they thought she was detained.  As Wolf relates:
Another scary outcome I discovered is that, when the protesters marched to the first precinct, the whole of Erickson Street was cordoned off – "frozen" they were told, "by Homeland Security". Obviously if DHS now has powers to simply take over a New York City street because of an arrest for peaceable conduct by a middle-aged writer in an evening gown, we have entered a stage of the closing of America, which is a serious departure from our days as a free republic in which municipalities are governed by police forces.
Wolf's story echoes the abuses alluded to above by ACLU attorney Mike German when he warned about the  "potential dangers that these multi-jurisdictional centers had, because it was unclear whose rules applied. Were we using federal rules? Were we using state rules? Local rules"?

I think Wolf's story answers German's question by observing that law enforcement officials will use any and all of 'em.  The rules that apply will be the ones authorities want to be applied.

Update 12:00

CBS news is reporting more information on coordination prior to the recent raids.  Specifically, two conference calls included officials from 40 cities across the US and were organized by a D.C. think-tank named the "Police Executive Research Forum" (PERF).  The calls took place on Oct. 11 and Nov. 4th:

While riot police sweeping through tent cities in Portland, Ore., Oakland, Calif. and New York City over the last several days may suggest a coordinated effort, authorities and a group that organized the calls say they were a coincidence.
"It was completely spontaneous," said Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a national police group that organized calls on Oct. 11 and Nov. 4. 

What CBS does not mention is that Wexler, Executive Director of PERF, serves on The Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Advisory Council.


  1. Great job you've done, following this. If it weren't coordinated, according to Sherlock Holmes, that would be the surprise.
    Look what happened, look who benefited. That's usually all it takes.

  2. @CH, Thanks for fighting your way through to the comment section. Blogger is having issues...

  3. none of this is exactly surprising but it is revealing. thanks! please keep updating!

  4. @pietro, there may not be much more worth updating on this until some questions are asked of the administration, but we'll see where it goes. thanks for commenting.

  5. Haven't heard any more news on this, but DHS did admit that here in Portland, the feds were involved, 'cause Terry Schrunk Plaza (adjacent the two squares) is federally owned. Everywhere else, they're playing Colonel Klink.

  6. @ CH, there is an article here worth looking at,

    There is little new there either, but it's good that multiple sources are circling around the same topic and wondering the same things. Jake Tapper should ask the white house press weasel.