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Dissent as 'Terrorism': Targeting Public Protest in the Post-9/11 Era

New report finds Homeland Security 'apparatus' frequently turned against 'political and social dissidents'

Lauren McCauley

Results from a year-long investigation into the activities of the United States' expansive counter-terrorism apparatus found that, throughout the country, the government has turned the tax-payer-funded intelligence-gathering against its own citizens in an effort to suppress dissent.

Released Monday by the DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy, the report, Dissent or Terror: How the Nation's Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street (pdf), focuses primarily on the many instances of "fusion center" monitoring of Occupy Wall Street activists nationwide.

"Put simply," the report states, "heavily-funded municipal, county, state and federal 'counter-terrorism' agencies (often acting in concert through state/regional 'fusion centers') view citizens engaged in movements of political and social dissent, such as Occupy Wall Street, as nothing less than nascent, if not bona fide, 'terrorist' threats."

In addition, the review of records shows that this "monitoring" and "suppression" of activists and dissident groups has been largely carried out "on behalf of, and in cooperation with, some of the nation’s largest financial and corporate interests—the very entities that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and others oppose as usurpers of American democracy."

In a statement released alongside the report, the Center for Media and Democracy says their examination is the first detailed look at the "the breadth and depth of the degree to which the nation's post-September 11, 2001 counter terrorism apparatus has been applied to politically engaged citizens exercising their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights."

The report largely focuses the activities of an Arizona fusion center, the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC), whose surveillance of those citizens active in Occupy Phoenix "benefited a number of corporations and banks that were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest activity," including J.P. Morgan Chase.

Some other key findings of the report include:

  • How law enforcement agencies active in the Arizona fusion
 center dispatched an undercover officer to infiltrate activist groups
 organizing both protests of the American Legislative Exchange Council 
(ALEC) and the launch of Occupy Phoenix and how the work of this 
undercover officer benefited ALEC and the private corporations that
 were the subjects of these demonstrations.


  • How fusion centers, funded in large part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, expended countless hours and tax dollars in the monitoring of 
Occupy Wall Street and other activist groups.


  • How the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has financed
 social media "data mining" programs at local law enforcement agencies engaged in fusion centers.


  • How counter terrorism government employees applied facial
 recognition technology, drawing from a state database of driver's
 license photos, to photographs found on Facebook in the effort to 
profile citizens believed to be associated with activist groups.


  • How corporations have become part of the homeland security “information sharing environment” with law enforcement/intelligence agencies through various public-private intelligence sharing partnerships. The report examines multiple instances in which the counter terrorism/homeland security apparatus was used to gather intelligence relating to activists for the benefit of corporate interests that were the subject of protests. 


  • How private groups and individuals, such as Charles Koch, 
Chase Koch (Charles' son and a Koch Industries executive), Koch 
Industries, and the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council 
have hired off-duty police officers -- sometimes still armed and in
 police uniforms -- to perform the private security functions of keeping
 undesirables (reporters and activists) at bay.


  • How counter terrorism personnel monitored the protest
 activities of citizens opposed to the indefinite detention language
 contained in National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
  • How the FBI applied "Operation Tripwire," an initiative
 originally intended to apprehend domestic terrorists through the use
 of private sector informants, in their monitoring of Occupy Wall 
Street groups.

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