Lawyers that represented Occupy Wall Street defendants have obtained thousands of pages of unclassified emails and reports that reveal how heavily law enforcement officials monitored Occupy protestors, starting in 2011. The files—which contain warnings about possible Occupy actions, from protestors occupying congressional offices in Kansas to Milwaukeeans holiday caroling at “an undisclosed location of ‘high visibility’”—were mostly composed of information stemming from public venues, such as social media, and on-the-ground reports from police themselves. Advocates for civil liberties have expressed concern over the sheer volume of the documents, especially since most of the activity present in the reports can be described as lawful. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund was responsible for obtaining the documents. Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, of the Fund, was quoted in the New York Times as being concerned over the documents, which to her signal a stifling of political dissent in the United States. "People must have the ability to speak out freely to express a dissenting view without the fear that the government will treat them as enemies of the state,” she said. The New York Times goes on to report: The communications, distributed by people working with counterterrorism and intelligence-sharing offices known as fusion centers, were among about 4,000 pages of unclassified emails and reports obtained through freedom of information requests … They offer details of the scrutiny in 2011 and 2012 by law enforcement officers, federal officials, security contractors, military employees and even people at a retail trade association. The monitoring appears similar to that conducted by the FBI counterterrorism officials … According to a Senate subcommittee report, fusion centers have not been very useful in their stated goal of informing counterterrorism operations. Currently, there are 78 such locally-run centers operating across the country, many of which are now monitoring ordinary criminal activity.
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Carlos Ballesteros is a freelance writer based in Chicago. He was born and raised in the South Side and recently graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a B.A. in History.
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