The Hidden Role of the Fusion Centers in the Nationwide Spying Operation against the Occupy Movement and Peaceful Protest in America
| by Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and Carl Messineo
of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
( May 23, 2014, New York City, Sri Lanka Guardian) This report, based on documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, provides highlights and analysis of how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-funded Fusion Centers used their vast anti-terrorism and anti-crime authority and funds to conduct a sprawling, nationwide and hour-by-hour surveillance effort that targeted even the smallest activity of peaceful protestors in the Occupy Movement in the Fall and Winter of 2011.
It is being released in conjunction with a major story in the New York Times that is based on the 4,000 pages of government documents uncovered by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) during a two-year long investigation.
The newly published documents reveal the actual workings of the Fusion Centers - created ostensibly to coordinate anti-terrorism efforts following the September 11, 2001, attacks - in collecting and providing surveillance information on peaceful protestors.
The new documents roll back the curtain on the Fusion Centers and show the communications, interactions and emails of a massive national web of federal agents, officials, police, and private “security” contractors to accumulate and share information, reporting on all manner of peaceful and lawful political activity that took place during the Occupy Movement from protests and rallies to meetings and educational lectures. This enormous spying and monitoring apparatus included the Pentagon, FBI, DHS, police departments and chiefs, private contractors and commercial business interests.
There is now, with the release of these documents, incontrovertible evidence of systematic and not incidental conduct and practices of the Fusion Centers and their personnel to direct their sights against a peaceful movement that advocated social and economic justice in the United States. It bears noting also that while these 4,000 pages offer the most significant and largest window into the U.S. intelligence and law enforcements’ coordinated targeting of Occupy, they can only be a portion of what is likely many more tens of thousands of pages of materials generated by the nationwide operation.
Until now the role of the Fusion Centers in their application of anti-terrorism authority and resources has been shrouded in secrecy. In 2012, the Senate issued an investigative report on the Fusion Centers that The Washington Post described as revealing “pools of ineptitude, waste and civil liberties intrusions.” The Department of Homeland Security immediately dismissed and “condemned the report and defended the fusion centers, saying the Senate investigators relied on out-of-date data,” from 2009 and 2010, and prior years of materials. The public was not privy to the records underlying that investigation, however, the documents that the Senate reviewed predated the documents that the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has obtained and made public. The newly released documents show that the Department of Homeland Security’s representations were far from true, that the conduct of the Fusion Centers continued unabated.
The American people can now see for themselves how the U.S. government and the Department of Homeland Security are spending hundreds of millions of dollars of their money in Fusion Center operations. These documents, along with materials previously released by the PCJF that exposed the FBI and other domestic intelligence and law enforcement agencies’ targeting of Occupy, reveal a U.S. surveillance-industrial apparatus charging forward in willful disregard for the fundamental civil liberties and political freedoms of the people. Targeting a peaceful social justice movement as a criminal or terrorist enterprise is incompatible with a constitutional democracy.
These documents show that the Fusion Centers constitute a menace to democracy. This gross misuse of U.S. taxpayers’ money also demonstrates that the Fusion Centers are a colossal rat hole of waste. The Fusion Centers should be defunded and ended immediately.
Coinciding with the publication of these new documents and this report, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has initiated a nationwide campaign to End the Fusion Centers! The campaign includes a mass email and letter-writing effort to President Obama and all members of Congress calling on them to defund and end the Fusion Centers. As part of the End the Fusion Centers campaign and to broaden awareness of the dangers posed by the Fusion Centers, the PCJF has also made the new documents fully available to the public and to the media in searchable format at BigBrotherAmerica.org.
Anti-Terrorism Resources Devoted to Spy on Occupy Movement; Major City Police Chiefs Used Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center to Produce Regular National Reports on Occupy Movement
Although the Fusion Centers’ existence is justified by the DHS as a necessary component in stopping terrorism and violent crime, the documents show that the Fusion Centers in the Fall of 2011 and Winter of 2012 were devoted to unconstrained targeting of a grassroots movement for social change that was acknowledged to be peaceful in character.
The documents reveal that the police chiefs of major U.S. cities created an “Emerging Issues” Subcommittee to “identify, research and document trends or activities that may threaten public safety” for communication to the nationwide network of Fusion Centers and that “The first issue the committee is working is the Occupy Movement.” The documents show that the Major Cities Chiefs (MCC) efforts to “increase situational awareness and promote public safety” required “twice a week”-produced bulletins on the Occupy Movement. “At the present time it is our intention to utilize the services of the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center to collect, analyze and disseminate bulletins twice a week.”
The distribution list for these Fusion Center-issued bulletins includes virtually every single Fusion Center in the United States.