Leaked documents reveal that federal government tracked Occupy Wall Street protesters because it feared the movement could turn violent.
An internal Department of Homeland Security report (PDF) titled “SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street” was part of 5 million leaked documents published by WikiLeaks and examined by Rolling Stone contributing editor Michael Hastings.
The report indicates that the department monitored protesters’ social media activities to assess the movement’s impacts in individuals sectors, including financial services, commercial facilities, transportation, emergency services and government facilities.
In addition to monitoring Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Meetup and Occupy live video feeds, the feds also relied on the left-leaning activist website Daily Kos for tracking protest locations.
“The growing support for the OWS movement has expanded the protests’ impact and increased the potential for violence,” the report notes in its final paragraph. “While the peaceful nature of the protests has served so far to mitigate their impact, larger numbers and support from groups such as Anonymous substantially increase the risk for potential incidents and enhance the potential security risk to critical infrastructure (CI). The continued expansion of these protests also places an increasingly heavy burden on law enforcement and movement organizers to control protesters.”
Hastings warned that there were “ominous” implications to this kind of information gathering.
“It’s never a good thing to see a government agency talk in secret about the need to ‘control protestors’ – especially when that agency is charged with protecting the homeland against terrorists, not nonviolent demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceable dissent,” he wrote.
“There is not much of a bureaucratic leap, if history is any guide, between a seemingly benign call for ‘continuous situational awareness’ and the onset of a covert and illegal campaign of domestic surveillance.”
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