DHS had policy of daily spying on activists

New FOIA-ed documents reveal that a division of the agency produced daily briefings on Occupy protests

Published April 3, 2013 3:38PM (EDT)

Department of Homeland Security documents obtained recently by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund reveal that the agency, founded for combating terrorism, has a policy of spying daily on peaceful activists and protesters in the United States.

The heavily redacted 252 pages of documents add to findings already made by the PCJF about coordination and intelligence monitoring by the DHS, the FBI, the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies and the private sector of Occupy and related protests.

"Taken together, the two sets of documents paint a disturbing picture of federal law enforcement agencies using their vast power in a systematic effort to surveil and disrupt peaceful demonstrations. The federal agencies’ actions were not because Occupy represented a 'terrorist threat' or a 'criminal threat' but rather because it posed a significant grassroots political challenge to the status quo,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF.

"Functioning as a secret political police force against people participating in lawful, peaceful free speech activity, the heavily redacted documents show that the DHS 'Threat Management Division' directed Regional Intelligence Analysts to provide a 'Daily Intelligence Briefing' that includes a category of reporting on 'Peaceful Activist Demonstrations' along with 'Domestic Terrorist Activity'," noted a release from the PCJF.

The new documents, released Tuesday evening, reveal DHS surveillance of protests in Asheville, N.C.; Tampa; Ft. Lauderdale; Jacksonville, Fla.; Lansing, Mich.; Denver; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Boston; Dallas; Houston; Minneapolis; Miami; Jersey City; Phoenix; Lincoln, Neb.; Chicago; Salt Lake City; Detroit and others.

They reveal too how in New York, coordinating federal and local authorities worked to have protest permits denied -- an outright obstruction of free speech activities.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Activism Civil Liberties Dhs Fbi Occupy Partnership For Civil Justice Fund Protest Spying