NYPD officers accessed Black Lives Matter activists’ texts, documents show
April 5, 2017
Exclusive: Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal details of how police posed as protesters amid unrest following the death of Eric Garner
People protest after a grand jury decided not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner case.
Undercover officers in the New York police department infiltrated small groups of Black Lives Matter activists and gained access to their text messages, according to newly released NYPD documents obtained by the Guardian.
The records, produced in response to a freedom of information lawsuit led by New York law firm Stecklow & Thompson, provide the most detailed picture yet of the sweeping scope of NYPD surveillance during mass protests over the death of Eric Garner in 2014 and 2015. Lawyers said the new documents raised questions about NYPD compliance with city rules.
The documents, mostly emails between undercover officers and other NYPD officials, follow other disclosures that the NYPD regularly filmed Black Lives Matter activists and sent undercover personnel to protests. The NYPD has not responded to the Guardian’s request for comment or interview.
Emails show that undercover officers were able to pose as protesters even within small groups, giving them extensive access to details about protesters’ whereabouts and plans. In one email, an official notes that an undercover officer is embedded within a group of seven protesters on their way to Grand Central Station. This intimate access appears to have helped police pass as trusted organizers and extract information about demonstrations. In other emails, officers share the locations of individual protesters at particular times. The NYPD emails also include pictures of organizers’ group text exchanges with information about protests, suggesting that undercover officials were either trusted enough to be allowed to take photos of activists’ phones or were themselves members of a private planning group text.
protesters text message
Police obtained access to protesters’ text messages, the documents show. Photograph: NYPD/Screenshot/Scribd
“That text loop was definitely just for organizers, I don’t know how that got out,” said Elsa Waithe, a Black Lives Matter organizer. “Someone had to have told someone how to get on it, probably trusting someone they had seen a few times in good faith. We clearly compromised ourselves.”
Keegan Stephan, a regular attendee of the Grand Central protests in 2014 and 2015, said information about protesters’ whereabouts was limited to a small group of core organizers at that time. “I feel like the undercover was somebody who was or is very much a part of the group, and has access to information we only give to people we trust,” said Stephan, who has been assisting attorneys with a lawsuit to obtain the documents on behalf of plaintiff James Logue, a protester. “If you’re walking to Grand Central with a handful of people for an action, that’s much more than just showing up to a public demonstration – that sounds like a level of friendship.”
Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD detective sergeant and professor at John Jay College, agreed that it would not be easy for an undercover officer to join a small group of protesters and hear their plans. “It would be pretty amazing that they would be able to get into the core group in such a short window of time,” said Giacalone. “This could have been going on a while before for these people to get so close to the inner circle.”
The NYPD documents also included a handful of pictures and one short video taken at Grand Central Station demonstrations. Most are pictures of crowds milling about or taking part in demonstrations. In one picture of a small group of activists, the NYPD identifies an individual in a brown jacket as the “main protester”. These images of protesters are reminiscent of those taken by undercover transit police, who were also deployed to Black Lives Matter protests in Grand Central Station in 2015.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest
An individual is identified as the ‘main protester’. Photograph: NYPD/Screenshot/Scribd
Giacalone said this type of leadership identification was standard police practice at protests. “If you take out the biggest mouth, everybody just withers away, so you concentrate on the ones you believe are your organizers,” he said. “Once you identify that person, you can run computer checks on them to see if they have a warrant out or any summons failures, then you can drag them in before they go out to speak or rile up the crowd, as long as you have reasonable cause to do so.”
Attorneys say the documents raise legal questions about whether the NYPD was acting in compliance with the department’s intelligence-gathering rules, known as the Handschu Guidelines. The guidelines, which are based on an ongoing decades-old class-action lawsuit, hold that the NYPD can begin formally investigating first amendment activity “when facts or circumstances reasonably indicate that an unlawful act has been, is being, or will be committed” and if the police surveillance plan has been authorized by a committee known as the Handschu Authority. (That committee was exclusively staffed by NYPD officials at the time.) However, according to the guidelines, before launching a formal investigation, the NYPD can also conduct investigative work such as “checking of leads” and “preliminary inquiries” with even lower standards of suspicion.
Michael Price, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, said it was difficult to know whether NYPD’s undercover surveillance operations crossed the line, as the documents did not make clear what, if any, stage of investigation the police were in at the time of the operations. But he said the department’s retention of pictures and video raised questions, since police are not allowed to retain information about public events unless it relates to unlawful activity.
“So my question would be: what was the unlawful activity that police had reason to suspect here?” said Price. “It doesn’t appear that there was any criminal behavior they were talking about in the emails. Most references are to protesters being peaceful, so I would be very concerned if they were hinging their whole investigation on civil disobedience, such as unpermitted protests or blocking of pedestrians.”
Throughout the emails, the NYPD’s undercover sources provide little indication of any unlawful activity, frequently characterizing demonstrators as peaceful and orderly with only one mention of a single arrest.
“The documents uniformly show no crime occurring, but NYPD had undercovers inside the protests for months on end as if they were al-Qaida,” said David Thompson, an attorney of Stecklow & Thompson, who helped sue for the records.
Giacalone argued that police could have easily come up with a legal justification to initiate surveillance, especially if such operations occurred after the shooting of two NYPD officers in December of 2014 (all dates in the NYPD’s email communications were redacted). But he noted that such investigative activities would be harder to justify if officers were not directly observing signs of unlawful activity.
“If they’re not talking about any crimes being committed, they’re going to have a difficult time defending this. It may end up in another one of these lawsuits,” said Giacalone. “Some may say this is good police work, fine, but good police work or not, we have rules against this kind of thing in New York.”
Attorneys have already filed a petition charging that the NYPD may have failed to produce all of its surveillance records. But for some protesters, the damage has already been done.
“In the first couple of months, we had a lot of people in and out of the group, some because they didn’t fit our style but others because of the whispers that they were undercovers,” recalled Waithe. “Whether it was real or perceived, that was the most debilitating part for me, the whispers … It’s really hard to organize when you can’t trust each other.”
George Joseph in New York
Tuesday 4 April 2017 11.00 BST Last modified on Tuesday 4 April 2017 22.00 BST
Find this story at 4 April 2017
© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited
Met police accused of using hackers to access protesters’ emails
April 5, 2017
Exclusive: Watchdog investigates claim that secretive unit worked with Indian police to obtain campaigners’ passwords
An anonymous letter claimed the Scotland Yard unit accessed activists’ email accounts for ‘a number of years’.
The police watchdog is investigating allegations that a secretive Scotland Yard unit used hackers to illegally access the private emails of hundreds of political campaigners and journalists.
The allegations were made by an anonymous individual who says the unit worked with Indian police, who in turn used hackers to illegally obtain the passwords of the email accounts of the campaigners, and some reporters and press photographers.
Met presses undercover police inquiry to examine fewer officers
The person, who says he or she previously worked for the intelligence unit that monitors the activities of political campaigners, detailed their concerns in a letter to the Green party peer Jenny Jones. The peer passed on the allegations to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating.
Hacked passwords were passed to the Metropolitan police unit, according to the writer of the letter, which then regularly checked the emails of the campaigners and the media to gather information. The letter to Jones listed the passwords of environmental campaigners, four of whom were from Greenpeace. Several confirmed they matched the ones they had used to open their emails.
The letter said: “For a number of years the unit had been illegally accessing the email accounts of activists. This has largely been accomplished because of the contact that one of the officers had developed with counterparts in India who in turn were using hackers to obtain email passwords.”
Jones said: “There is more than enough to justify a full-scale criminal investigation into the activities of these police officers and referral to a public inquiry. I have urged the Independent Police Complaints Commission to act quickly to secure further evidence and to find out how many people were victims of this nasty practice.”
The letter also alleges that emails of reporters and photographers, including two working for the Guardian, were monitored. A spokesperson for the Guardian said: “Allegations that the Metropolitan police has accessed the email accounts of Guardian journalists are extremely concerning and we expect a full and thorough investigation into these claims.”
The IPCC has for several months been investigating claims that the national domestic extremism and disorder intelligence unit shredded a large number of documents over a number of days in May 2014.
The stories you need to read, in one handy email
Last month the IPCC said it had uncovered evidence suggesting the documents had been destroyed despite a specific instruction that files should be preserved to be examined by a judge-led public inquiry into the undercover policing of political groups.
The letter claimed that the shredding “has been happening for some time and on a far greater scale than the IPCC seems to be aware of”. The author added that “the main reason for destroying these documents is that they reveal that [police] officers were engaged in illegal activities to obtain intelligence on protest groups”.
The letter to Jones lists 10 individuals, alongside specific passwords that they used to access their email accounts. Lawyers at Bindmans, who are representing Jones, contacted six on the list and, after outlining the allegations, asked them to volunteer their passwords.
Five of them gave the identical password that had been identified in the letter. The sixth gave a password that was almost the same. The remaining four on the list have yet to be approached or cannot be traced.
Colin Newman has for two decades volunteered to help organise mainly local Greenpeace protests which he says were publicised to the media. He used the password specified in the letter for his private email account between the late 1990s and last year.
Newman said he felt “angry and violated, especially for the recipients”. He added: “I am open about my actions as I make a stand and am personally responsible for those, but it is not fair and just that others are scrutinised.
“I am no threat. There is no justification for snooping in private accounts unless you have a reason to do so, and you have the authority to do that.”
He said he had been cautioned by the police once, for trespassing on the railway during a protest against coal about two years ago.
Another on the list was Cat Dorey who has worked for Greenpeace, both as an employee and a volunteer, since 2001. She said all the protests she had been involved in were non-violent.
The password specified in the letter sent to Jones had been used for emails that contained private information about her family and friends.
She said: “Even though Greenpeace UK staff, volunteers, and activists were always warned to assume someone was listening to our phone conversations or reading our emails, it still came as a shock to find out I was being watched by the police. It’s creepy to think of strangers reading my personal emails.”
In 2005, she was part of a group of Greenpeace protesters who were sentenced to 80 hours of community service after installing solar panels on the home of the then deputy prime minister, John Prescott, in a climate change demonstration.
According to the letter, the “most sensitive side of the work was monitoring the email accounts of radical journalists who reported on activist protests (as well as sympathetic photographers) including at least two employed by the Guardian newspaper”. None were named.
Investigators working for the IPCC have met Jones twice with her lawyer, Jules Carey, and have asked to interview the peer. An IPCC spokesperson said: “After requesting and receiving a referral by the Metropolitan police service, we have begun an independent investigation related to anonymous allegations concerning the accessing of personal data. We are still assessing the scope of the investigation and so we are not able to comment further.”
The letter’s writer said he or she had spoken out about the “serious abuse of power” because “over the years, the unit had evolved into an organisation that had little respect for the law, no regard for personal privacy, encouraged highly immoral activity and, I believe, is a disgrace”.
In recent years, the unit has monitored thousands of political activists, drawing on information gathered by undercover officers and informants as well as from open sources such as websites. Police chiefs say they need to keep track of a wide pool of activists to identify the small number who commit serious crime to promote their cause.
But the unit has come in for criticism after it was revealed to be compiling files on law-abiding campaigners, including John Catt, a 91-year-old pensioner with no criminal record as well as senior members of the Green party including the MP Caroline Lucas.
The Metropolitan police said the IPCC had made it “aware of anonymous allegations concerning the accessing of personal data, and requested the matters were referred to them by the MPS. This was done. The MPS is now aware that the IPCC are carrying out an independent investigation.”
Tuesday 21 March 2017 16.35 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 22 March 2017 00.50 GMT
Find this story at 22 March 2017
© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited
FBI Spied ‘Beyond Its Authority’ on Keystone XL Opponents
June 26, 2015
New investigation reveals agency’s actions amounted to ‘substantial non-compliance’ with its own rules
The FBI violated its internal rules while spying on Tar Sands Blockade activists in Texas protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, a new report shows. (Photo: Tar Sands Blockade/flickr/cc)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) broke its own internal rules when it spied on Keystone XL opponents in Texas, violating guidelines designed to prevent the agency from becoming overly involved in complex political issues, a new report by the Guardian and Earth Island Journal published Tuesday has revealed.
Internal documents acquired by the outlets through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show how the FBI failed to get approval for launching investigations into Houston-based protesters, whom the agency labeled “environmental extremists,” and held a bias in favor of the controversial tar sands pipeline—currently awaiting federal approval—extolling its supposed economic benefits in one document which outlined reasons for spying on its opponents.
“Many of these extremists believe the debates over pollution, protection of wildlife, safety, and property rights have been overshadowed by the promise of jobs and cheaper oil prices,” the file states. “The Keystone pipeline, as part of the oil and natural gas industry, is vital to the security and economy of the United States.”
The Guardian reports:
Between November 2012 and June 2014, the documents show, the FBI collated inside knowledge about forthcoming protests, documented the identities of individuals photographing oil-related infrastructure, scrutinised police intelligence and cultivated at least one informant.
….However, the partially redacted documents reveal the investigation into anti-Keystone activists occurred without prior approval of the top lawyer and senior agent in the Houston field office, a stipulation laid down in rules provided by the attorney general.
Additionally, the FBI appeared to have opened its file on the Keystone XL opponents in 2013 following a meeting between officials from the agency and TransCanada, the company building the pipeline.
“For a period of time—possibly as long as eight months—agents acting beyond their authority were monitoring activists aligned with [direct action climate group] Tar Sands Blockade,” the Guardian writes.
Dozens of activists were arrested in Texas in late 2012, although none were accused of violent crime or property damage, according to key Tar Sands Blockade organizer, Ron Seifert.
“Less than a month after TransCanada showed the FBI a PowerPoint claiming that people opposed to [Keystone XL] need to be watched, Houston’s FBI office cuts corners to start an investigation; it’s not surprising but it is revealing of who they really work for,” Seifert told Common Dreams on Monday. “The FBI has been harassing and actively repressing communities of organizers for decades.”
Yet more records show that the FBI associated the Tar Sands Blockade, which organizes peaceful protests, with other “domestic terrorism issues.”
Other documents suggest that the Houston-based investigation was only one of a larger probe, possibly monitoring other anti-Keystone XL activists around the country.
“We’re not surprised,” Seifert continued. “We’re also not deterred. Movements for climate and environmental justice are activating people from diverse political backgrounds to take direct action to defend themselves from threats like [Keystone XL]. People are stepping out of the blind alleys of electoral politics and building grassroots power, and that’s scary for people who want a monopoly on power.”
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
byNadia Prupis, staff writer
Find this story at 12 May 2015
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
As Internal Docs Show Major Overreach, Why Is FBI Spying on Opponents of Keystone XL Pipeline?
June 26, 2015
A new report confirms for the first time that the FBI spied on activists in Texas who tried to stop the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Documents from the FBI reveal it failed to get approval before it cultivated informants and opened its investigation, which was run from its Houston field office. The files document “substantial non-compliance” with Department of Justice rules. The Tar Sands Blockade mentioned in that report was one of the main groups targeted by the FBI. Agents in Houston office also told TransCanada they would share “pertinent intelligence regarding any threats” to the company in advance of protests. We are joined by Adam Federman, contributing editor to Earth Island Journal and co-author of the new investigation published by The Guardian, “Revealed: FBI violated its own rules while spying on Keystone XL opponents.” In February, he also revealed how the FBI has recently pursued environmental activists in Texas, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington and Idaho for “little more than taking photographs of oil and gas industry installations.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A new report confirms for the first time that the FBI spied on activists in Texas who tried to stop the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The report is based on FBI documents obtained by The Guardian and the Earth Island Journal. The documents also reveal that the FBI failed to get approval before it cultivated informants and opened its investigation, which was run from its Houston field office. The files document, quote, “substantial non-compliance” with Department of Justice rules. Much of the FBI’s surveillance took place between November of 2012 and June 2014.
AMY GOODMAN: The Tar Sands Blockade mentioned in the report was one of the main groups targeted by the FBI. Agents in Houston also told TransCanada they would share, quote, “pertinent intelligence regarding any threats” to the company in advance of protests.
For more, we are joined by Adam Federman, contributing editor to Earth Island Journal, co-author of this new investigation that was published by The Guardian. It’s headlined “Revealed: FBI Violated Its Own Rules While Spying on Keystone XL Opponents.” In February, he also revealed how the FBI has recently pursued environmental activists in Texas, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington and Idaho for, quote, “little more than taking photographs of oil and gas industry installations.”
Adam Federman, thank you so much for joining us from Burlington, Vermont. Talk about this most recent exposé. How do you know the FBI was spying on those who are opposed to the Keystone XL?
ADAM FEDERMAN: Yeah, the recent investigation is based on more than 80 pages of documents that we obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. And the most striking thing about them is that they demonstrated for the first time that the FBI opened an investigation into anti-Keystone pipeline campaigners in Texas in 2012, late 2012, and that investigation continued through 2013, despite the fact that it was opened without proper approval from within the FBI. And what’s interesting about them is that they show extensive interest in Tar Sands Blockade and activists organizing in Houston, particularly in, yeah, neighborhoods in East Houston, where tar sands oil would eventually end up at the refineries that are based there.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the most surprising revelations that you found in these documents, could you talk about that?
ADAM FEDERMAN: Yeah, there are several. I mean, the fact that the investigation was opened without proper approval is probably most noteworthy. The FBI requires approval from legal counsel and a senior agent for investigations that are described as sensitive, and those include investigations into political or religious organizations, media institutions, academic institutions, and basically they set a higher threshold for opening an investigation. So, the fact that the Houston domain failed to do that obviously violates agency protocol.
But I think, more broadly, the documents also sort of illuminate the FBI’s characterization of environmental organizations and activism in the country. You know, the sort of opening salvo in the investigation is a synopsis of what they call environmental extremism, and that sort of undergirds the entire investigation and has also—you know, we’ve seen the same sort of language used in other contexts, not just surrounding Keystone pipeline.
AMY GOODMAN: Adam, many of the—looking at the quotes in the FBI documents, they talk about, as you said, the environmental extremists and say, quote, “Many of these extremists believe the debates over pollution, protection of wildlife, safety, and property rights have been overshadowed by the promise of jobs and cheaper oil prices. The Keystone pipeline, as part of the oil and natural gas industry, is vital to the security and economy of the United States.” Can you explain these documents?
ADAM FEDERMAN: Yeah, I mean, that quote is really quite amazing for a number of reasons. Mike German, a former FBI agent who’s now at the Brennan Center and who we worked with on this story, you know, said that that characterization would include just about anyone who watches the evening news. I mean, it’s such a broad brush to tar—to describe environmental activists as extremists simply for being concerned about things like pollution, wildlife and property rights.
And then the FBI also goes on to claim that the Keystone pipeline is vital to the national security and economy of the United States, which of course is highly controversial and contested. And as I’m sure your viewers know, the State Department is still deliberating over whether to approve the northern leg of the pipeline itself. So that question remains open; however, it seems that the FBI has taken it upon its own to suggest that the pipeline is crucial to U.S. national security and financial security.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the 2010 intelligence bulletin from the FBI Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit that you obtained. It warned that, even though the industry had encountered only low-level vandalism and trespassing, recent “criminal incidents” suggested environmental extremism was on the rise. The FBI concluded, quote, “Environmental extremism will become a greater threat to the energy industry owing to our historical understanding that some environmental extremists have progressed from committing low-level crimes against targets to more significant crimes over time in an effort to further the environmental extremism cause.”
ADAM FEDERMAN: Yeah, it’s a fascinating document. And the story behind how I obtained it is because of the fact that that very document was used by the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security to justify surveillance of anti-fracking groups in the state. And it essentially captures the FBI’s thinking on, you know, the threat of environmental extremism to—specifically to the energy industry. And this is laid out, as you say, in 2010, so I think that this is sort of the foundation for the FBI’s approach to the environmental movement more broadly. And I think, with these more recent documents, we’re seeing that sort of carried out in real time. And we also know that the FBI has had high-level meetings with TransCanada and that local and state law enforcement along the pipeline route and in Pennsylvania and elsewhere has actively investigated and spied on environmental activists of, you know, all stripes. And it’s quite systematic, and I do think that the FBI is in many ways leading the charge.
AMY GOODMAN: You report the FBI’s monitoring of Tar Sands Blockade activists failed to follow proper protocols for more than eight months. I want to read the FBI’s response: quote, “While the FBI approval levels required by internal policy were not initially obtained, once discovered, corrective action was taken, non-compliance was remedied, and the oversight was properly reported through the FBI’s internal oversight mechanism.” That’s what the FBI said, acknowledging they didn’t initially get approval. Adam, as we wrap up right now, if you can talk about what—the legality of what the FBI did, in what you released today in the Earth Island Journal and The Guardian, and also in your past reporting on FBI spying on activists?
ADAM FEDERMAN: Well, I think, unfortunately, it’s perhaps not the exception that the FBI has opened an investigation without proper approval. In 2011, the inspector general issued a report showing widespread cheating on a test that was designed to prevent this very kind of thing from happening. So it essentially demonstrates a lack of internal control. But more broadly speaking, the question that I think we need to be asking is whether the investigation, opened properly or not, should have been conducted to begin with. I mean, Tar Sands Blockade is committed to nonviolent civil disobedience. They’ve been very open and transparent about their activism and work. And I think the question is whether this investigation should have been opened to begin with, and, quite frankly, if the FBI is actively investigating other anti-Keystone pipeline activists or anti-fracking activists in other states.
AMY GOODMAN: Adam Federman, we want to thank you for being with us, contributing editor to Earth Island Journal, where he covers the intersection between law enforcement and the environment. He co-authored the new investigation published by The Guardian, “Revealed: FBI Violated Its Own Rules While Spying on Keystone XL Opponents.” We’ll link to that story at democracynow.org. When we come back, it’s the 30th anniversary of the MOVE bombing, when the Philadelphia police bombed a neighborhood. Stay with us.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 2015
Find this story at 13 May 2015
Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
Keystone protesters tracked at border after FBI spied on ‘extremists’
June 26, 2015
More than 18 months after federal investigation violated internal rules, activists say they were still watchlisted at the airport, visited at home by a terrorism task force and detained for hours because they ‘seemed like protesters’
An activist was placed on a US government watchlist for domestic flights after being swept up in an FBI investigation into protests of the Keystone XL pipeline, linking a breach of intelligence protocol with accounts of continued tracking that environmentalists fear could follow them for life.
Revealed: FBI violated its own rules while spying on Keystone XL opponents
Twenty-five-year-old Bradley Stroot is one of several campaigners to go public, after the Guardian revealed an FBI investigation that labeled them “environmental extremists”, with new allegations of a continued crackdown. From an hours-long detention at the US border to a home visit by a terrorism task force and an encounter with police searching for bombs, the activists say law enforcement has tracked them from a peaceful Texas protest of the highly contentious oil project in 2012 and 2013 to the tony suburbs of Indianapolis as recently as the end of last year.
Stroot told the Guardian that when he flew back to Texas to visit a friend last December, he learned that he was on a watchlist – known as a “Secondary Security Screening Selection” – and was subjected to more invasive airport security measures.
The FBI’s investigation into anti-Keystone activists was closed in June 2014 due to a lack of credible intelligence regarding threats to the pipeline and extremist activity.
According to internal agency documents obtained by the Guardian and Earth Island Journal, it was discovered in August 2013 that the FBI’s investigation had been opened without proper approval from the chief legal counsel of the agency’s Houston division and a senior agent, resulting in a report of “substantial non-compliance” with rules set out by the US Justice Department.
But before the internal violations were discovered, information on Stroot and several other activists was included in FBI files. Now, interviews with Stroot, who was held up at Chicago’s O’Hare airport six months after the investigation was closed, and other protesters indicate that they are still being monitored by law enforcement.
Stroot and two other people involved in the protests were described in the files as having separate, larger “Subject” files in the FBI’s Guardian Threat Tracking System, a repository for suspicious activity reports and counterterrorism threat assessments that can be searched by all FBI employees.
How the US’s terrorism watchlists work – and how you could end up on one
Hugh Handeyside, an attorney with the ACLU in New York, said the government’s suspicious activity reporting program is often tied to placement on a watchlist.
“Both label people as suspicious according to low standards that inevitably include innocent conduct,” he said. “And this case shows that the two may be linked.”
According to a long-withheld US watchlist guidance document published last year by the Intercept, people who do not meet the criteria for inclusion on the no-fly list but who are associated with “terrorist activity” may be placed on a selectee list like the one Bradley Stroot found himself on. Some 16,000 people – 1,200 of them US citizens – have been identified as so called “selectees” who must undergo heightened screenings at border crossings or airports.
From photos at the pipeline to a pat-down at the airport
Bradley Stroot was one of three people detained by Houston police for taking photographs of an endpoint for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Four days later, a terrorism unit of the FBI reviewed the incident. Information on Stroot and other ‘suspicious individuals’ was kept in the agency’s ‘Guardian’ repository for tracking suspicious activity and terrorism-involved activities.
On 13 December 2014, Stroot said, he prepared to board a flight from Chicago to Dallas to see an old friend – his first air travel since his 10-month involvement in a campaign in the Houston area against the proposed Keystone project.
While in Texas the first time, he had been arrested once for trespassing after taking part in a widely publicized occupation of part of the pipeline route that included a “tree village”.
And on 15 November 2012, Stroot and two other activists were stopped by the Houston police department while taking photos of the Valero refinery, one of the endpoints for tar sands oil. Although they were not charged with any crime, details of the incident ended up in an FBI file – part of more than 80 pages of internal FBI documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request – that described the activists as “suspicious individuals”. Four days later, the police officers met with members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to discuss the incident.
The encounter with the Houston police left Stroot somewhat shaken but determined to continue protesting. He says he had flown once to Europe – before the Keystone campaign began in Texas in 2012 – and had no issues.
But when he printed his American Airlines plane ticket in December, he noticed four S’s in large black letters in the top left corner. So-called “Secondary Security Screening Selection” helps Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security officers single out travelers, with no explanation, for heightened screening at airports.
bradley stroot pass
Secondary Security Screening Selection (SSSS) led Bradley Stroot to a more invasive pat-down on both legs of his return trip to Texas. Photograph: Courtesy of Bradley Stroot
When Stroot arrived at Chicago O’Hare, he said, he was subjected to heightened security screening – removed from the main passenger line and taken to a separate holding area where another airline security official was waiting. His bags, Stroot alleged, were carefully searched and he was subjected to a more invasive pat-down. He said the same thing happened on his return flight to Chicago.
“They pull you out of line, swab down all of your shit with tongue depressor-like things, and check for bomb-making materials,” Stroot said.
TSA’s failures start long before screeners fail to detect bombs in security tests
Jason Edward Harrington
But there were signs that Stroot had become a subject of interest to law enforcement even before he learned he was on a watchlist.
One night in spring 2013, just a few months after he had returned home to Indiana from Texas, Stroot said he was helping out at a makeshift homeless shelter in Bloomington, sleeping in a friend’s truck, when a police officer knocked on the window and asked for identification.
When the officer returned from running his ID, Stroot claims that he was aggressively questioned and that the officer asked if he could look in the truck, which had an open cab. “You could see there was nothing in it,” Stroot said.
After what he recalls as minutes more of questioning, Stroot said the officer finally asked if he had “any bomb-making materials”.
From video in the trees to detention at the border – and at home
Tar Sands Blockade occupy the corporate offices of TransCanada on 7 January 2013 Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Andrew Neef took part in a January 2013 protest at the Houston offices of TransCanada, the Canadian oil giant that would oversee the Keystone XL pipeline. Internal FBI documents show the agency willing to share ‘any pertinent intelligence regarding any threats’ with the company; the documents also show Neef included in files describing ‘Threats to Keystone XL Pipeline Projects’. Photograph: Tar Sands Blockade
Stroot is not the only anti-Keystone XL activist who has been targeted since the Texas protest campaign and parallel FBI investigation.
Elizabeth Arce, a 27-year-old independent journalist, traveled to Texas with a friend in October 2012 to help document the tree sit-in that ended in Stroot’s arrest. After spending a week in the trees live-streaming video of the protest, she said, they ran out of batteries and descended, hoping that as journalists they might avoid arrest from the police waiting underfoot.
I think the storyline of TransCanada and authorities communicating further than we think is plausible
Arce and her friend, Lorenzo Serna, were arrested for trespassing but all the charges were dropped.
In April 2013, Arce was on her way to Canada for an Earth Day event hosted by an indigenous group in Ontario. At the border crossing in Minnesota, Arce said, Canadian border agents asked her about the arrest in Texas, searched her car and eventually let her pass.
But this past August, Arce said she, Serna and another friend were driving to Canada to document the aftermath of the Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia and were denied entry.
At the crossing in Sweetgrass, Montana, Arce said agents at the border asked her detailed questions about her arrest in Texas. They searched the car for “hours”, she said, going through every piece of luggage and scrap of paper, even referring to her trombone as a “noisemaker”. After being detained for five hours, she said she and her friends were told that they could not cross into Canada because, she remembered an agent telling her, they “seemed like protesters”.
In the FBI files, the agency’s Houston office said it would share “any pertinent intelligence regarding any threats” with TransCanada, the Canadian oil giant that has been lobbying for years to oversee the transport of tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast. The project is still awaiting approval from the Obama administration.
“I think the storyline of TransCanada and authorities communicating further than we think is plausible,” Arce said.
(In a statement, TransCanada said the company does not “direct law enforcement” but that “law enforcement officials have asked us on a number of occasions about our experience along the Gulf Coast Pipeline so they can determine what they may expect when Keystone XL construction begins”.)
Andrew Neef, a 31-year-old data archivist from Minnesota, also spent time in Texas in 2012 and 2013. He was part of a mass action on 7 January 2013, at the Houston offices of TransCanada, and was arrested for trespassing along with another activist, Alec Johnson. Because he did not have a permanent address at the time and was not living in Texas, Neef entered his parents’ address on the police report. Neef and Johnson are both referred to in the FBI files obtained by the Guardian, which detail that the FBI had advance knowledge of the TransCanada sit-in and debriefed an informant on the event after it happened.
An internal FBI document detailing the January 2013 arrest of Andrew Neef and Alec Johnson labeled them as ‘Threats to Keystone XL Pipeline Projects’. Neef said the peaceful protest haunted him, with authorities later showing up at his parents’ front door.
About a month after the Houston arrest, Neef said his parents were visited by members of the Indiana division of the FBI’s joint terrorism task force at their home in Carmel, an upscale Indianapolis suburb.
According to Neef, who also works as an independent-media journalist, the agents asked his parents several questions about the people he knew, whom he was working with, and where his funding came from. They also wanted to know, Neef said, if he was involved in anti-fracking campaigns.
“They wanted me to contact them,” Neef said, “and probably become some kind of snitch.”
(The FBI’s Houston field office did not respond to a detailed list of questions for this article.)
More than a year later, the FBI investigation into anti-Keystone pipeline campaigners in Texas was formally closed due to a “lack of reporting and/or extremist activity”. But the FBI retains data on individuals even if the purported threat turns out to be non-existent.
For young activists like Bradley Stroot, the stigma of being on a government watchlist can last for years. Stroot said he was resigned to the “new reality” that he may be on the list for “the rest of my life or a very long period”.
Once an individual has been placed on the selective screening watchlist, there is very little he or she can do to get removed from it, said Handeyside of the ACLU, or even find out why he or she was put on it in the first place.
“There’s no due process for these people,” he said.
Adam Federman is a contributing editor of Earth Island Journal.
Monday 8 June 2015 13.30 BST Last modified on Wednesday 17 June 2015 21.30 BST
Find this story at 8 June 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Revealed: FBI violated its own rules while spying on Keystone XL opponents
June 26, 2015
Houston investigation amounted to ‘substantial non-compliance’ of rules
Internal memo labels pipeline opponents as ‘environmental extremists’
FBI failed to get approval before it opened files on protesters in Texas
The FBI breached its own internal rules when it spied on campaigners against the Keystone XL pipeline, failing to get approval before it cultivated informants and opened files on individuals protesting against the construction of the pipeline in Texas, documents reveal.
Internal agency documents show for the first time how FBI agents have been closely monitoring anti-Keystone activists, in violation of guidelines designed to prevent the agency from becoming unduly involved in sensitive political issues.
The hugely contentious Keystone XL pipeline, which is awaiting approval from the Obama administration, would transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast.
It has been strongly opposed for years by a coalition of environmental groups, including some involved in nonviolent civil disobedience who have been monitored by federal law enforcement agencies.
The documents reveal that one FBI investigation, run from its Houston field office, amounted to “substantial non-compliance” of Department of Justice rules that govern how the agency should handle sensitive matters.
One FBI memo, which set out the rationale for investigating campaigners in the Houston area, touted the economic advantages of the pipeline while labelling its opponents “environmental extremists”.
FBI Keystone memo Facebook Twitter Pinterest
An FBI memo labels opponents of the controversial pipeline as ‘environmental extremists’. Photograph: Guardian
FBI Keystone memo Facebook Twitter Pinterest
An FBI memo detailing ‘non-compliance’ by the Houston field office. Photograph: Guardian
“Many of these extremists believe the debates over pollution, protection of wildlife, safety, and property rights have been overshadowed by the promise of jobs and cheaper oil prices,” the FBI document states. “The Keystone pipeline, as part of the oil and natural gas industry, is vital to the security and economy of the United States.”
The documents are among more than 80 pages of previously confidential FBI files obtained by the Guardian and Earth Island Journal after a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Between November 2012 and June 2014, the documents show, the FBI collated inside knowledge about forthcoming protests, documented the identities of individuals photographing oil-related infrastructure, scrutinised police intelligence and cultivated at least one informant.
It is unclear whether the source or sources were protesters-turned-informants, private investigators or hackers. One source is referred to in the documents as having had “good access and a history of reliable reporting”.
The FBI investigation targeted Tar Sands Blockade, a direct action group that was at the time campaigning in southern Texas.
However, the partially redacted documents reveal the investigation into anti-Keystone activists occurred without prior approval of the top lawyer and senior agent in the Houston field office, a stipulation laid down in rules provided by the attorney general.
Confronted by evidence contained in the cache of documents, the agency admitted that “FBI approval levels required by internal policy were not initially obtained” for the investigation, but said the failure was remedied and later reported internally.
The FBI files appear to suggest the Houston branch of the investigation was opened in early 2013, several months after a high-level strategy meeting between the agency and TransCanada, the company building the pipeline.
For a period of time – possibly as long as eight months – agents acting beyond their authority were monitoring activists aligned with Tar Sands Blockade.
Tar Sands Blockade appeared on the FBI’s radar in late 2012, not long after the group began organising in east Houston, the end destination for Keystone’s 1,660-mile pipeline.
Environmental activists affiliated with the group were committed to peaceful civil disobedience that can involve minor infractions of law, such as trespass. But they had no history of violent or serious crime.
Ron Seifert, a key organiser at Tar Sands Blockade, said dozens of campaigners were arrested in Texas for protest-related activity around that time, but not one of them was accused of violent crime or property destruction.
The group focused on Houston’s heavily industrialised neighbourhood of Manchester, where the Valero Energy Corporation has a massive refinery capable of processing heavy crude oil.
Between early November 2012 and June 2014, the documents show, the FBI collated inside-knowledge about forthcoming protests, documented the identities of individuals photographing oil-related infrastructure, scrutinised police intelligence and cultivated at least one informant.
FBI memo Facebook Twitter Pinterest
‘The Houston Division had identified an emerging threat from environmental extremists targeting construction projects of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline within the Houston Domain.’ Photograph: Guardian
It is unclear whether the source or sources were protesters-turned-informants, private investigators or hackers. One source is referred to in the documents as having had “good access, and a history of reliable reporting”.
At one point, the FBI’s Houston office said it would share with TransCanada “any pertinent intelligence regarding any threats” to the company in advance of a forthcoming protest.
One of the files refers to Houston police officers who stopped two men and a woman taking photographs near the city’s industrial port, noting they were using a “large and sophisticated looking” camera.
Two of the individuals were described as having larger subject files in the FBI’s Guardian Threat Tracking System.
In another incident, the license plate belonging to a Silver Dodge was dutifully entered into the FBI’s database, after a “source” spotted the driver and another man photographing a building associated with TransCanada.
The FBI rules, laid out in the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, dictate that special care should be taken over sensitive investigations such as those targeting elected officials, journalists and political organisations.
FBI work on “sensitive investigative matters” requires prior approval of both the chief division counsel (CDC), the top lawyer in the field office, and the special agent in charge (SAC).
Both are supposed to consider the severity of the threat and the consequences of “adverse impact on civil liberties and public confidence” should the investigation be made public.
Keystone protest Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Tar Sands Blockade occupy the corporate offices of TransCanada in January 2013. Photograph: Laura Borealis/Tar Sands Blockade
However, neither Houston’s CDC or SAC were consulted in relation to the FBI’s monitoring of Tar Sands Blockade activists, the documents show.
Explaining the breach of protocols, the FBI said in a statement that it was committed to “act properly under the law”.
“While the FBI approval levels required by internal policy were not initially obtained, once discovered, corrective action was taken, non-compliance was remedied, and the oversight was properly reported through the FBI’s internal oversight mechanism,” it said.
The FBI did not deny opening an investigation into anti-Keystone campaigners, and said it was compelled to “take the initiative to secure and protect activities and entities which may be targeted for terrorism or espionage”.
But the precise nature of the FBI’s investigation, which continued for almost a year after the Houston Division acknowledged it had violated protocol, remains unclear.
The documents appear to suggest the investigation was one branch of a wider set of investigations, possibly including anti-Keystone activists elsewhere in the country.
The documents connect the investigation into anti-Keystone activists to other “domestic terrorism issues” in the agency and show there was some liaison with the local FBI “assistant weapons of mass destruction coordinator”.
Mike German, a former FBI agent, who assisted the Guardian in deciphering the bureau’s documentation, said they indicated the agency had opened a category of investigation that is known in agency parlance as an “assessment”.
Introduced as part of an expansion of FBI powers after 9/11, assessments allow agents to open intrusive investigations into individuals or groups, even if they have no reason to believe they are breaking the law.
German, now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, said the documents also raised questions over collusion between law enforcement and TransCanada.
“It is clearly troubling that these documents suggest the FBI interprets its national security mandate as protecting private industry from political criticism,” he said.
According to the FBI documents, the FBI concluded there were “no adverse consequences” emanating from its failure to seek approval for the sensitive investigation, noting the mistake was later “remedied”.
The investigation continued for 11 months after the mistake was spotted. It was closed after the FBI’s Houston division acknowledged its failure to find sufficient evidence of “extremist activity”.
Before closing the case, however, agents noted the existence of a file that was to be used as a repository for future intelligence “regarding the Keystone XL pipeline”.
Since then, at least a dozen anti-tar sands campaigners in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho have been contacted by the FBI. The agency has said they are not under investigation.
Adam Federman is a contributing editor of Earth Island Journal
Paul Lewis in Washington and Adam Federman
Tuesday 12 May 2015 11.59 BST Last modified on Tuesday 12 May 2015 23.11 BST
Find this story at 12 May 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
F.B.I. Says It Broke Its Rules in Inquiry of Keystone Pipeline Opponents
June 26, 2015
WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation violated its own guidelines in 2013 when it investigated environmental advocates who opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, the F.B.I. acknowledged on Tuesday.
The bureau had received information about plots to damage part of the existing Keystone pipeline, which moves oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, according to federal law enforcement officials. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would create a shortcut for a significant section of the system.
As part of the investigation, agents at the F.B.I.’s field office in Houston communicated with sources, who gathered information from environmental advocates. The agents also conducted database searches on the advocates and reviewed local law enforcement reports about them. But the agents had not received approval from the head of their office and from its chief lawyer.
Continue reading the main story
Paula Antoine at a “spirit camp” set up by the Rosebud Sioux tribe near the planned route of Keystone XL in South Dakota.Grass-Roots Push in the Plains to Block the Keystone Pipeline’s PathMAY 5, 2015
That authorization was required under F.B.I. investigative guidelines intended to prevent agents from abusing powers that are most often used in national security and criminal investigations.
After an audit led by the bureau’s headquarters in Washington revealed that the agents had not received authorization, the agents asked for permission and got it. The investigation ultimately found no evidence that the protesters were plotting to damage the pipeline, and it was closed.
The Guardian first reported the investigation on Tuesday.
As the F.B.I. changed its focus to national security after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it began building closer relationships with the nation’s largest companies as it worked to protect the country’s critical infrastructure. Many of those companies — like TransCanada, which owns the pipeline — are frequently targets of environmental protests, and issues of free speech and national security can become intertwined.
The F.B.I. said on Tuesday that it had not conducted a full investigation into the protesters — only an assessment, its least invasive inquiry. The bureau said it had looked into the accusations because the threats were against “the oil and gas industry, and the energy sector is considered a part of the critical infrastructure of the United States.”
It characterized the mistake by the agents as an “administrative error” that “was discovered by the F.B.I.’s internal oversight mechanisms.”
“While the F.B.I. approval levels required by internal policy were not initially obtained, once discovered, corrective action was taken, noncompliance was remedied, and the oversight was properly reported through the F.B.I.’s internal oversight mechanism,” the bureau said. “At no time did the review find that the initial justification for the assessment was improper.”
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDTMAY 12, 2015
Find this story at 12 May 2015
© 2015 The New York Times Company
Exclusive: “Eco-Terrorist” Freed 10 Years Early After Feds Withhold Evidence on Informant’s Role
April 8, 2015
In a Democracy Now! exclusive, we speak to environmental activist Eric McDavid, who has just been released from prison 10 years early after federal prosecutors acknowledged withholding key evidence about how he may have been entrapped by an FBI informant with whom he had fallen in love. In 2008, McDavid was sentenced to 19 years in prison for conspiring to bomb sites in California including the Nimbus Dam. Defense attorneys say he was entrapped by a teenage informant who went by the name “Anna” and supplied him with food, housing and bomb-making instructions, and pressured him into illegal activity. As part of a settlement reached in the case on Thursday, federal prosecutors acknowledged withholding key evidence, including an FBI request for the informant to undergo a lie-detector test. This damning detail about the government’s star witness was found in thousands of documents released after his trial, when his supporters filed a Freedom of Information Act request. In his first interview since his release, McDavid joins us from Sacramento along with his partner Jenny Esquivel, a member of the group Sacramento Prisoner Support. We are also joined by McDavid’s lawyer, Ben Rosenfeld, a civil rights attorney who specializes in cases dealing with police and FBI misconduct.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Just a week ago, our next guest was a federal prisoner, serving a 19-year sentence for “eco-terrorism” in what his supporters say was a case of FBI entrapment. Today, he’s a free man. In 2007, Eric McDavid was convicted of conspiring to bomb sites in California including the Nimbus Dam. But his attorneys say he was entrapped by a teenage informant who went by the name “Anna” and supplied him with food, housing and bomb-making instructions, and pressured him into illegal activity. Two others arrested in the plot testified against McDavid in a deal that led to lighter sentences.
AMY GOODMAN: For them. Well, as part of a settlement reached in the case on Thursday, federal prosecutors acknowledged withholding evidence in McDavid’s case, including an FBI request for the informant to undergo a lie-detector test. This damning detail about the government’s star witness was found in thousands of documents released after his trial, when his supporters filed a Freedom of Information Act request. During a hearing, federal judge Morrison England demanded to know how the prosecution failed to give potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense, saying, quote, “This is huge. This is something that needs to be dealt with,” the judge said. McDavid pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge with a maximum five-year sentence. He had already served nine years in prison, and he was released.
Eric McDavid now joins us from Sacramento for his first interview since his release. With him, his partner Jenny Esquivel, a member of the group Sacramento Prisoner Support. And in San Francisco, we’re joined by Ben Rosenfeld, McDavid’s lawyer. He is a civil rights attorney who specializes in cases dealing with police and FBI misconduct. He’s also an advisory board member of the Civil Liberties Defense Center.
We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Eric, let’s begin with you. How does it feel to be free?
ERIC McDAVID: There is no definition to that. There’s no way to express that with, I don’t think, any language, definitely not the English language.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what it is—
ERIC McDAVID: But it’s definitely beautiful to be with my family.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what—how critical the information was that had you released.
ERIC McDAVID: I think that’s pretty obvious. And to tell you the truth, I think Ben could address that with a lot more clarity.
AMY GOODMAN: OK, Ben Rosenfeld in San Francisco, can you talk about what has taken place in this case? I mean, here you have Eric McDavid, who was supposed to serve 19 years in prison. He’s being released a decade early. Why?
BEN ROSENFELD: Eleven years early, actually. And this was about as egregious a case of entrapment as I’ve seen in my entire legal career. And I should point out, too, that what they’ve done to Eric, they visit a thousandfold on Muslims in this country, so it’s very important that we raise public awareness about this.
But in Eric’s case, in particular, a number of FOIA documents were turned over after the case was long concluded. And supporters started going through those documents, and they went, “Aha, this is stuff that should have been turned over to the defense that would have been absolutely critical to his defense.” It included evidence that the government had called urgently for a lie-detector examination of their informant and then inexplicably canceled it. There are indications that letters of a romantic nature that they had withheld from the defense were included in their files. But even the FOIA was the tip of the iceberg, because it pointed to or hinted at some of those documents, but didn’t include them. And we—as his lawyers, we incorporated that into his habeas claim, and the court showed interest in that. And ultimately, that set the table for his release, when the government was forced to admit that they had in fact withheld documents that should have been turned over to the defense.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ben Rosenfeld, the informant in this case is a critical part of what happened here. In 2008, Elle magazine featured an article about how the FBI paid a young woman, known as “Anna,” to befriend activists and pressure them into illegal activity. It describes in detail her relationship with Eric McDavid and her role in the case against him. In an interview for the piece, Anna says when the group planned to blow up the Nimbus Dam, her role was to track down bomb recipes. She said, quote, “I go to the FBI with this and they said, Well, of course we’re not going to give you bomb recipes that actually work. So they gave me about half a dozen recipes that were all missing components.” Could you talk about the role of Anna? Because she supposedly was involved in gathering evidence as an informant against many activists in the environmental movement.
BEN ROSENFELD: Well, thank you. I want to point out first, there was never any plan to blow up the Nimbus Dam. There was actually never any plan to do anything. There was a lot of talk. And whatever plans there were, were 100 percent the FBI’s and Anna’s. I mean, this is a clear-cut case of entrapment. It’s a case of the government creating and then solving its own so-called conspiracy. The Nimbus Dam, if there was any agreement among the co-defendants in this case, it was specifically not to blow up the Nimbus Dam.
But, yes, Anna entrapped them by literally herding them together from around the country, by plying them with the matériel they needed, by sheltering them and providing them food and transportation, and literally gathering them back together and trying to keep them interested in her plans and her schemes. And each of them, for their own reasons, was trying to please and placate her. It was a lot of talk. It was no action. Nothing was ever done. Nothing was ever agreed upon. Certainly, nothing was ever blown up.
AMY GOODMAN: So, if you could talk about the case, Jenny, why you got involved, with Sacramento Prisoner Support, Jenny Esquivel, and how you applied for this information under the Freedom of Information Act?
JENNY ESQUIVEL: Sure. I came to Sacramento immediately after Eric was arrested. He and I were partners right before he got arrested. And so, I came here just to be closer to him and do support work for him, and that’s how I originally got involved in Sacramento Prisoner Support.
As far as the FOIA goes, you know, Mark Reichel, Eric’s original attorney for trial, filed a FOIA request before Eric’s trial in 2007. And at the time, the FBI responded, saying that they had no records responsive to our request, which was interesting. Also, clearly, it was a lie, as at that time we had thousands of pages of discovery that the government had turned over to us for trial. So, we were pretty busy, obviously, at that point in time with trial, also trying to support Eric while he was on hunger strike, trying to get vegan food at the Sacramento County Main Jail. And so, we just didn’t really have time to follow through on that or pursue it, even though we knew that they clearly did have records responsive to our request. So, after Eric was convicted and sentenced in 2008, we filed another Freedom of Information Act request, and about a year and a half later, we started finally receiving records that were responsive to that request. And at that time, we received three or four different packages of documents equaling about 2,500 pages. One other interesting thing about that, though, is that the government admitted to not handing over almost 900 more pages of information. And we still haven’t seen those documents. We still don’t know what’s in those documents, and perhaps, unfortunately, never will.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Eric McDavid, can you talk about your reaction when you discovered that this Anna, the informant, was an informant and had been taping conversations, the very person who was trying to instigate activity among you and other activists? And your reaction to her testimony in court?
ERIC McDAVID: Well, initially, to your first question, it was as I was sitting on the back of the car and I heard the locks click all the way around on the automatic lock of the vehicle that she was sitting in, while she was talking on the phone, as about eight—I don’t know, eight to 10 different vehicles pulled screeching up in front of me with JTTF hopping out, AR-15s, everybody all ready to roll. So, I mean, that’s—that was the first when it clicked. So it wasn’t—I had a whole bunch on my mind at the time, so it wasn’t really a predominant or a huge thought.
During trial, that part, after—because I had read a whole bunch of the discovery, and we’d gone over transcripts and everything. And it was difficult to see, definitely, but—I don’t know. It was definitely hard to see. I mean, that part was definitely one of the more harder rides of the whole trial.
AMY GOODMAN: This is an excerpt—
ERIC McDAVID: After—
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to an excerpt of an exchange between, well, the woman who calls herself Anna—and for folks who are listening on the radio, we’re also showing pictures of her; she was featured, as we said, in Elle magazine—the exchange between Anna and Eric McDavid and another activist, Lauren Weiner, when they were in the cabin allegedly planning to bomb the Nimbus Dam. Anna says, “Tomorrow, what are we planning on doing tomorrow? Are we still planning on doing anything tomorrow? Or should I just stop talking about plans?” Eric McDavid says, “Hmmm.” Weiner says, “I would love it if you stopped talking.” Anna says, “I would love it if you guys followed a plan! How about that!” Ben Rosenfeld, what is the significance of this back-and-forth?
BEN ROSENFELD: The significance of that back-and-forth is that it really illustrates 100 percent a case of egregious and grotesque entrapment by the government. Anna literally called them names and threw fits when they didn’t show enough enthusiasm for her plans. And I think that excerpt illustrates that perfectly.
You know, for—and—and I would also point out that right now the government wants to skate away on the claim that this was purely a mistake or inadvertent, on the back of a press office statement. And whether it was a mistake or it was malfeasance or it was malevolence to withhold these documents, they really owe it to Eric, and they owe it to the public, to come up with a much more detailed explanation about how this could have happened. I mean, you know, the deck is completely stacked in their favor. I mean, the job of the defense, in essence, is to go fishing in their deck to ask, “Do you have anything?” And if you’re told they don’t have anything, you’re stuck with that answer, and sometimes for a long time and sometimes forever—in Eric’s case, for nine years of wrongful incarceration.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Ben, in this situation where prosecutors clearly, deliberately withhold evidence, possibly exculpatory evidence—I’ve seen so many of these cases over the years—isn’t it the responsibility, to some degree, of the judge to insist that an investigation be conducted, because the trial itself was so tainted as a result of these actions of the prosecutors?
BEN ROSENFELD: We’d certainly like to see the judge do that. We’d like to see the judiciary take that up. And there’s some indications by Ninth Circuit judges that they are very concerned about a potential epidemic of Brady violations. Brady is the Supreme Court case that speaks to the withholding of documents. I would point out, too, that from a legal standpoint it doesn’t matter whether it was inadvertent or deliberate. If they withheld documents which were helpful to the defense—in this case, documents showing that there was a romantic interest by Eric, a correspondence between Eric and Anna that the prosecutors held back, and a reciprocation by Anna—that’s good enough to satisfy that constitutional standard and to win release. It should be, but it’s very rare that it happens. And you can see that it takes years and years and years to correct a mistake which should have been corrected a long time ago. And there are a lot of people behind bars who may never get that chance.
AMY GOODMAN: The 2008 Elle article about the Eric McDavid case quotes a juror named Diane Bennett, who was tracked down by the reporter after the trial. Bennett said, quote, “I’ve been bothered by this ever since that day. … [T]he FBI was an embarrassment. … I hope he gets a new trial. I’m not happy with the one he got.” Diane Bennett added, the foreman had “teared up” when he delivered the guilty verdict. She said the judge’s instructions were confusing, but, quote, “People were tired. … We wanted to go home.” Can you talk about the significance of this, Ben Rosenfeld?
BEN ROSENFELD: Well, and she said that so long ago, and it just goes to show how long you can live in this Kafkaesque nightmare, where the government has engaged in total misconduct and the court, perhaps, has abdicated a responsibility to oversee this or maybe is hoodwinked along with the defense because of the overly trusting role and excessive trust that it places sometimes in the government and the prosecutor. I mean, in court on January 8th, the day that Eric walked free, I’ve never seen so many fireworks. And the judge really grilled the prosecutors, and he showed a lot of—a lot of personal pique and interest in getting to the bottom of this. And I really hope that he or somebody does follow up.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you—could you explain the deal that was struck at the end, though?
BEN ROSENFELD: Yeah. You know, Eric had to plead to a simple or general conspiracy count with a maximum penalty of five years. The judge vacated the original conviction and sentence of 20 years on a different charge. So the government extracts its pound of flesh. That’s probably as much justice as you’re going to get out of the Department of Just—Injustice in a case like this. Eric had to waive all civil claims, going forward.
But he’s here now, and we’re extremely grateful for that and for everybody that made that possible and, I will say, too, the team of U.S. attorneys at the end of the case, who behaved extremely honorably and professionally in taking a fresh look at this and enabling that to happen, too. But it took a collaboration of a lot of people to end this nightmare. And there are a lot of people left in prison who are the victims of this kind of government malfeasance also, and there needs to be an inquiry.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Eric, could you talk, in the about a minute and a half we have left, of your time in prison? Did you expect at some point to be able to get out and to have this nightmare behind you?
ERIC McDAVID: I had a buddy at the medium-security prison where I was first held who always challenged me in keeping my mind open and keeping my heart open and making sure that I was ready for anything. And given the intensity of that environment, it definitely helped me to adapt to that whole situation. But he was always—every other week or every other day, he’d hit me up: “You ready to go home? You ready to go home?” I’m like, “Yes, I’m ready to go home.” And he’s like, “All right, so here’s the situation how you’re going to go home. Tell me how you’re going to do it.” And so, that part was always kept alive. And the amount of support that I got from folks has just—it’s blown my heart open every day and every moment that I’ve been—that I was away from my friends and family and my loved ones.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Eric, did you meet other people behind bars who you felt were entrapped like you were?
ERIC McDAVID: There is so many people that either are entrapped in the same way or pressured into taking a sentence because they’re threatened with 60, 70 years of prison, and they have to do the 15, or they have to do the 17, or even 20, because otherwise they’re going to spend the rest of their life back there. That was time and time again.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Eric McDavid, we want to thank you for being with us. Congratulations on your release. He was released from prison Thursday, less than a week after federal prosecutors [acknowledged withholding] key evidence in the 2008 trial that led to his conviction on eco-terrorism charges. Jenny Esquivel, member of the Sacramento Prisoner Support, also Eric McDavid’s partner. And thanks to Ben Rosenfeld, joining us from San Francisco, the civil rights attorney who specializes in cases dealing with police and FBI misconduct, the attorney for Eric McDavid.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 14, 2015
Find this story at 14 January 2015
Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
Home Stations Past Shows Topics Blog Get Involved Events Español About Contact Donate Mobile Site
DONATE →This is viewer supported news
Role of FBI informant in eco-terrorism case probed after documents hint at entrapment
April 8, 2015
In the case of Eric McDavid, alleged to be ring-leader of eco-terrorist cell, ‘game-changing’ documents seen exclusively by the Guardian show informant may have entrapped him
On the surface, she blended in very well. With a skull tattooed on her shoulder, a black-and-white keffiyeh around her neck, a shock of bright pink hair and her standard-issue dress of camouflage skirt and heavy boots, the energetic 17-year-old looked every bit the radical eco-activist she worked so hard to imitate.
But “Anna”, as she called herself, was no ordinary eco-protester. Really, she wasn’t one at all. She was an FBI informant under instructions to infiltrate fringe green groups and anti-capitalist networks and report back on their activities to the US government.
Now “Anna”, in her role at the center of a high-profile prosecution of alleged eco-terrorists in 2006-7, has been put under the spotlight following the embarrassing admission by the US Department of Justice that it failed to disclose crucial documents to defence attorneys at trial.
On Thursday, Eric McDavid, a radical green activist aged 37, was allowed to walk free after having served nine years of a 19-year federal prison sentence. Prosecutors had alleged that he was the ringleader in a small cell of eco-terrorists connected to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) conspiring to bomb the Nimbus Dam in California, cellphone towers, science labs and other targets.
Last week’s dramatic scenes in a courtroom in Sacramento, California, have focused attention on the FBI’s use of undercover informants and prompted claims that the agency lured unsuspecting activists into criminal activity through blatant entrapment.
But last November, the US attorney’s office in the eastern district of California admitted that it had “inadvertently” failed to disclose numerous documents that went to the very heart of the case. Crucially, those previously undisclosed files included correspondence between “Anna” and McDavid that suggests that, far from being the neutral intelligence-gatherer portrayed by prosecutors, she might have entrapped her prey by encouraging him to behave conspiratorially in the hope of romantic fulfilment.
‘I think you and I could be great’
Among the files are a letter and 10 emails written by McDavid to the teenaged woman he thought at the time to be his friend, peer and potential sexual partner. The writings have been seen by the Guardian and extracts of them are published here for the first time.
In the letter, McDavid declared his love for “Anna”, though he coyly added that he was not sure whether his feelings for her amounted to “just infatuation, a crush, or whatever box anybody has for this emotion”. Scrawled diagonally across the page in spindly script, his words expressed the trepidation of someone unused to venting openly his emotions. He feared that unless he shared his feelings, they would “eat me from the inside out”.
“I hope that my forwardness w/expressing all this doesn’t scare the shit out of u,” he wrote, “cause I know if I got this letter I’d probably trip out a bit, to say the least …” Having opened his heart, he blurted out with palpable relief: “Fuck that feels soooooo much better.”
At McDavid’s 2006 trial, his defence team presented evidence to the jury that McDavid had fallen in love with the woman who would turn out to be his downfall. What wasn’t known at that time, and what is revealed by the newly disclosed documents, was that “Anna”, in her guise as a fellow radical, clearly reciprocated.
In an email dated 27 June 2005, six months before McDavid’s arrest, “Anna” responded explicitly to his previous amorous advances. She said: “I think you and I could be great, but we have LOTS of little kinks to work out.” She went on to say: “I hope in Indiana we can spend more quality time together, and really chat about life and our things.”
The tone of romantic encouragement in the email had an immediate impact on McDavid. He replied three days later, using the ungrammatical language of texting: “hey cheeka, so far as us B’n great, that i think is an understatement… along w/the ‘LOTS of little kinks 2 wk out’… but if u aint learning, u aint live’n… & I do think we could learn a lot from each other.”
In subsequent emails, McDavid continued to express his feelings for her, sending her “big hugs” and saying “miss you much”. Only one of “Anna’s” replies to McDavid is included among the new batch of documents disclosed after so many years. In it she wrote intimately about her hairstyle: “I took out the braids. : ( They were hurting my head SO BADLY by the last night in philly that I was just getting pissy. I’ll do it again, but I think I want the loose pink hair, like I told you about; and I can DIY that. But pain isn’t worth that much – besides, identity is so fluid… but that’s another convo, hopefully for IN. : )”
The tone is almost flirtatious. McDavid evidently took it to be such, because he replied: “sad & glad 2 hear about the braids, glad 2 hear they Rn’t hurting u’r head anymore, sad 2 c them gone… they were pretty damn cute, & that princess laya thing was 2 hot (inside shiver)”.
McDavid’s treatment: ‘not fair’ or an ‘inadvertent mistake’?
Eric McDavid walks out of the Federal Courthouse in Sacramento after being released from prison
The judge in McDavid’s case expressed astonishment and dismay that game-changing documents had not been shown at 2007 trial, adding McDavid’s treatment was ‘not fair’. Photograph: Jose Luis Villegas/AP
It took McDavid’s defence team and his large band of devoted supporters seven years after he was sentenced to extract from the Justice Department those 11 precious documents. They were finally released on 6 November last year, fully two years after reference was made to their existence in a court declaration by “Anna’s” FBI handler, special agent Nasson Walker. That two-year delay alone belies the assurance made by the US attorney’s office in Sacramento to the New York Times after last week’s hearing that “the documents were produced to the defendant promptly after their discovery.”
At the hearing, federal judge Morrison England expressed astonishment and dismay that such game-changing documents had not been shown to the defence at the 10-day trial over which he had presided in 2007. “I’ve never heard or seen anything like this,” he said, adding that McDavid’s treatment was “not fair”.
The judge demanded to be told how such a flagrant breach of disclosure – under the 14th amendment of the US constitution, the prosecution must turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defence – could have occurred: “This is huge. This is something that needs to be dealt with, and I want to know what happened.”
McDavid’s current lawyers, Mark Vermeulen and Ben Rosenfeld, said the documents they battled for years to wrestle from US prosecutors would have transformed the trial had they been available at the time. “If the defence had the evidence it has now – that ‘Anna’ encouraged Eric’s romantic advances, leading him to believe that sexual fulfilment would be conditional on him following her plans – that would have confirmed in the jury’s mind that she entrapped him. He would have been acquitted, it’s as simple as that,” Rosenfeld told the Guardian.
If the defence had the evidence it has now … He would have been acquitted, it’s as simple as that.
The Justice Department continues to insist it was all an “inadvertent” mistake. But that narrative does not cut it for McDavid’s legal team and supporters. “They took nine years of Eric’s life away from him and they shouldn’t be able to gloss over that with a press release – there needs to be a detailed explanation,” Rosenfeld said.
Concerns raised by the McDavid case about the use of undercover informants will resonate today given the FBI’s continued reliance upon infiltration as a major plank of its counter-terrorism strategy. Its paid moles, especially those planted within Muslim communities in the wake of 9/11, are regularly accused of crossing the line from observation into entrapment.
Rosenfeld said that McDavid’s story was a warning for today’s justice system: “When people see the TV news and hear of the latest foiled terrorist outrage they think ‘Wow! The FBI is so good at its job.’ But so many of these apparent plots are complete inventions of the government in the first place – they are creating and then solving their own conspiracies.”
‘I wanted to get a conversation going with everyone’
Throughout almost a decade of legal wrangling over the McDavid case, the mysterious “Anna” has been a constant factor. In her only known interview, for a 2008 article in Elle magazine, she posed for photographs in her normal outfit of jeans, T-shirt and suede jacket, her hair by then faded from lurid pink to its natural brown.
She told the magazine that 9/11 had motivated her to engage in counter-intelligence. A year after the attacks, when she was just 15, she contacted the Militarywomen.org website to inquire about enlisting in the army.
At a community college night class in Miami she tried to impress her professor by sneaking into a meeting of anti-free trade protesters for what she called “anthropological observation”. The report she presented to class so struck a police officer who was also taking the course that he passed her details to the Miami police department, which in turn quickly recommended her to the FBI.
Within months, she was going undercover among protesters at the G8 summit of leading economic powers in Atlanta. Over the next two years she was given more than 10 federal assignments, including infiltrating protest groups at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in Boston and New York respectively, and delving into the world of radical environmental activism.
At the G8 she met an anarchist named Zach Jenson, and through him fellow eco-activists Lauren Weiner and McDavid who she first met in 2004. All three were eventually arrested, though Jenson and Weiner cut a deal with prosecutors in which they gave evidence against their co-defendant in exchange for a lesser sentence.
“Anna” told the jury at McDavid’s trial that she had been scrupulously impartial, sticking closely to legal guidelines for informants that forbade her from playing a leadership position in the group or from pushing anybody to do anything. Yet under cross-examination, she described some of the proactive steps she took to bring the “cell” together.
She bought plane tickets for Weiner to fly her to McDavid’s house for a group meeting. “I wanted to get a conversation going between everyone,” she said.
Later, she drove Weiner and Jenson across the country to meet McDavid, using a ’96 Chevrolet paid for by the FBI and kitted out with recording equipment. When Weiner showed signs of losing enthusiasm for the project, “Anna” sent her an email saying: “There’s no going back … I don’t want to be dilly-dallying around forever, which I know I could do and fall into that trap but I want to avoid you doing that too.”
In email correspondence that is included in the newly disclosed documents seen by the Guardian, “Anna” wrote to Weiner in September 2005, telling her “I’ve made some more contacts in Philly, esp with the animal liberation movement, which I’d like to bring you and the rest of teh (sic) crew more into. I already talked a little bit about it with [McDavid] – we could make a big difference on multiple fronts.”
In a later email, also to Weiner, she said: “I’d love to start helping you and the rest of the Philly kids in whatever your hearts find to do.”
The FBI also paid for a cabin in Dutch Flat, California, heavily rigged with surveillance devices, where “Anna” assembled the group, telling them she had earned the rent money working as a dancer-cum-escort. There she presented the others with a “burn book” containing six recipes for concocting firebombs, though she told the jury the devices were designed by the FBI to be duds.
‘The government owes it to Eric – to tell the truth’
As these final planning meetings for a potential attack on a science lab were taking place, the FBI appeared to grow jittery about an operation that depended entirely on “Anna”. In November 2005, just weeks before the three activists were arrested at the cabin, a formal request was made to subject her to a lie-detector test.
The request form says the purpose of the polygraph would be to “confirm veracity of [“Anna’s”] reporting prior to the expenditure of substantial efforts and money based on source’s reporting.”
The polygraph was disclosed to McDavid’s defence team under freedom of information laws in 2012, five years after the trial. A small, but potentially significant, footnote to the request form reveals that a senior federal prosecutor (AUSA) approved the test, though the identity of the official is redacted on grounds of “personal privacy”.
The emergence of the polygraph test, and of the romantically tinged correspondence, has incensed Mark Reichel who acted as McDavid’s lawyer at trial. He tried to mount an entrapment defence, having been told by his client of “Anna’s” amorous behaviour, but was ultimately stymied by lack of evidence.
Before the trial began Reichel filed a motion to dismiss the case on grounds of an improper romance between informant and defendant. In it, he accused “Anna” of having “encouraged and urged him on, to write love letters and emails to her”. The US government’s response to the motion left no room for doubt: “The defendant’s claim of a romantic relationship between him and the informant is categorically untrue”.
I demanded to see the love letters before the trial, but the government told me they didn’t exist
“I demanded to see the love letters before the trial, but the government told me they didn’t exist,” Reichel said. “They wanted the world to see they had captured a member of ELF. He was innocent, they knew that, but they couldn’t let it be seen.”
The revelation of the newly disclosed documents is likely to prompt a flurry of litigation. Jeffrey Weiner, Lauren Weiner’s attorney (and cousin), told the Guardian that he was considering legal action to have her federal conviction lifted.
He said that “Anna” had encouraged a strong and intimate personal relationship with Lauren that was “so intense and continuous she literally took over Lauren’s will. ‘Anna’ chose the most gullible people that she could find and stopped at nothing to persuade them to commit criminal acts. I’m not saying my client did nothing, but her crime was created by the US government.”
For McDavid, too, this story is not at an end. As part of his release deal, he pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy charge with a terrorism enhancement attached, meaning that although he is a free man he will continue to labour under the stigma of a serious federal conviction.
Nor is the full extent of the official deception yet known. In 2010 the Justice Department released 2,500 pages relating to the case under freedom of information rules, but it refused to hand over a further 900 pages. What nuggets of information those pages contain, particularly among “Anna’s” replies to McDavid’s emails – most of which remain hidden – only the US government knows.
McDavid’s current partner, Jenny Esquivel, who has been a leading member of his support group, said she feared the remaining documents would never see the light of day. “The government keeps trying to frame this as a mistake, but they are the only people who knows what happened and they owe it to the American people – and to Eric – to tell the truth.”
She said that in the five days of freedom he has enjoyed, McDavid has revelled in being reunited with his family and spending time with his two nieces, both of whom were born while he was in prison. “The girls were overjoyed when they heard the news that he was coming home. It was almost impossible to pull them away from him while they were here,” she said.
Amid his joy, McDavid hasn’t lost sight, Esquivel said, of those who remain in the clutches of FBI entrapment. “The travesty is that so many people are dealing right now with exactly the same problem. Hundreds are serving decades in prison for crimes that never happened.”
Ed Pilkington in New York
Tuesday 13 January 2015 20.01 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 13 January 2015 23.50 GMT
Find this story at 13 January 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Man convicted of ‘eco-terrorism’ freed amid claims FBI hid evidence
April 8, 2015
Eric McDavid sentenced to nearly 20 years in 2007 for conspiring to bomb one or more targets including electric power stations and cellphone towers
Eric McDavid, who the US government has considered an eco-terrorist since 2007, was released on Thursday night after a judge determined that important documents related to his case had been filed away in an FBI office.
The government handed over thousands of pages of documents – including love notes from from McDavid to an informant – as part of a trial this week in Sacramento, California.
“I’ve never heard or seen of anything like this,” said US district judge Morrison England, the same man who sentenced McDavid in 2007. England ordered McDavid be released and asked to be given information showing how such evidence was hidden.
“I know [McDavid is] not necessarily a choirboy, but he doesn’t deserve to go through this, either,” England told the Sacramento Bee. “It’s not fair.”
McDavid, 37, was three days away from having spent nine years in prison. As part of the agreement, McDavid pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy count and was released with time served.
His lawyers say he was entrapped by an FBI informant – “Anna” – the recipient of the love notes which were hidden away in the FBI office. She was named in the trial and was the subject of a feature in Elle magazine. McDavid’s supporters say she encouraged him to engage in violent acts against the government while suggesting future romantic encounters.
McDavid was arrested in January 2006, and sentenced to nearly 20 years in federal prison in September 2007. He was convicted of conspiring to bomb one or more targets including electric power stations, California’s Nimbus Dam, cell phone towers and the United States Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics.
A September 2007 release from the FBI said he and two others, in the presence of “a confidential source”, met at his parents’ house, purchased a book with instructions on how to make homemade bombs, and bought the necessary supplies.
McDavid’s lawyers had been searching for more evidence, but did not receive confirmation from the government about the existence of the hidden documents until recently.
It is not yet clear why the documents sat in the Sacramento FBI office as McDavid served his sentence in a prison near Los Angeles.
“We don’t know exactly why they weren’t turned over,” the chief of the US attorney’s criminal division, John Vincent, told the court.
The US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of California acknowledged that the government’s failure to produce the documents is grounds for a retrial, but both sides agreed to the deal without a retrial to avoid further possible litigation on both sides.
“As the United States stated at the hearing, the nondisclosure was inadvertent, and the documents were produced to the defendant promptly after their discovery,” the office said in a statement.
Soon after England reached his decision, McDavid left a federal building in Sacramento and was met by his parents, sister and girlfriend.
“We are thrilled beyond word that Eric is coming home to us after nine years in prison,” Eric’s mother, Eileen McDavid, said in a statement on behalf of the family.
“We never stopped believing he was wrongly accused. Blessing to all those who made his early release possible.”
Amanda Holpuch in Washington
Friday 9 January 2015 15.35 GMT Last modified on Friday 9 January 2015 23.53 GMT
Find this story at 9 January 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
How an FBI Informant Sent a Radical Environmentalist to Prison, and How He Got Out Again (2015)
April 8, 2015
An extraordinary thing happened last month: US prosecutors admitted the government messed up.
Well, technically they admitted that a judge could conceivably decide that the government might have possibly messed up enough to warrant a new trial. But still.
As part of a unusual deal brokered between his defense team and chagrined US attorneys, Eric McDavid, who in 2007 was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison on domestic terrorism charges, walked free on January 8 after the government told a judge it had “inadvertently” failed to hand over thousands of pages of FBI documents to his defense counsel in his original trial.
McDavid, 37, served three days short of nine years in custody before US District Judge Morrison England agreed to reduce his sentence to a lone count of conspiracy and released him on time served.
“This is one of the most unusual things I’ve had to deal with, if not the most unusual, since I started on the bench in 1996 and on this court since 2002,” England said, according to court transcripts. “I’ve never heard or seen of anything like this.”
As part of his deal, McDavid waived his right to sue the government. He is now a free man, but the conclusion of his case is an embarrassing coda to the Bush-era surveillance of radical environmentalists and anti-capitalists in the years following the 9/11 attacks.
McDavid and two other radical environmentalists, Zach Jenson and Lauren Weiner, were convicted in 2007 of conspiring to blow up a dam, cellphone towers, and a US Forest Service lab after a paid FBI informant—an unassuming 18-year-old known only as “Anna”—infiltrated their group, egged them on, and exposed them.
That would have likely been the end of McDavid’s story, but a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by two of his supporters dredged up nearly 2,500 pages of FBI documents that prosecutors had previously insisted did not exist.
The tranche of files led the US attorneys office in Sacramento to turn over even more documents that it had—according to a letter to McDavid’s lawyers—”inadvertently not disclosed during discovery.” Among the documents were flirty notes between McDavid and Anna, as well as a request from an FBI agent for a polygraph exam on Anna to test the veracity of her statements. All of which McDavid’s attorneys say would have been crucial in bolstering McDavid’s entrapment defense.
“It’s somewhere along the continuum of mistake, malfeasance, and malevolence.”
“[Anna] fomented the alleged conspiracy, literally herding defendants together from around the country for meetings, badgering them to form a plan, and mocking and berating them when they showed disinterest,” McDavid’s lawyers Ben Rosenfeld and Mark Vermeulen wrote in a motion last year.
The Sacramento Bee described England, who presided over McDavid’s original ten-day trial, as “clearly exasperated” and “sometimes stopping to hold his head in his left hand” during last month’s hearing.
“I know he’s not necessarily a choirboy, but he doesn’t deserve to go through this, either,” England said. “It’s not fair.”
Prosecutors and top brass from the US Attorney’s office, none of whom were involved in the original trial, had little to offer for explanation.
“We don’t know exactly why they weren’t turned over,” John Vincent, chief of the US Attorney’s criminal division, told England. According to the US Attorney’s office, the documents were sitting in an FBI file in Sacramento.
In a statement released following the hearing, the US Attorney’s Office of Eastern California said that “although those documents do not directly bear upon whether the defendant committed the underlying acts… the United States agreed that it is conceivable that a court could conclude that the failure to produce them required a retrial.”
This is a master class in ass-covering, impressive even by government standards. Note how it starts by reaffirming McDavid’s guilt, and then avoids admitting any wrongdoing by saying that the government agreed, in its great magnanimity, that others might come to the conclusion that it had seriously screwed the pooch
Some prosecutors were a bit more forthright.
“We absolutely admit that we made a mistake, but there was no deliberate, knowing withholding of any documents,” said First Assistant US Attorney Philip A. Ferrari in January.
But the notion that the FBI and prosecutors simply misplaced thousands of pages of documents from a highly touted anti-terror investigation and then rediscovered them years later is hard to swallow for many who watched McDavid’s case unfold.
“It’s somewhere along the continuum of mistake, malfeasance, and malevolence,” McDavid’s lawyer Rosenfeld said in a phone interview. “The point is that only the government can explain what level of mistake this was, and the public should demand that explanation.”
In an interview, Will Potter, an independent journalist who has written extensively about the government’s surveillance of radical environmental groups, called the government’s claim that it accidentally failed to hand over the documents “complete nonsense.”
“The FBI and prosecutors have been intimately aware of how many boundaries have been pushed and crossed along the way, and they’ve relentlessly defended it,” Potter said. “Jurors came afterward and said they thought they were misled. In recordings, the court heard [Anna] constantly berating McDavid for not taking action. Every step of the way the government pushed and pushed to get the conviction at any cost.”
The Green Scare
McDavid first met Anna in 2004 at an invitation-only anarchist gathering in Des Moines, Iowa. It was a heady time for both radical leftists and federal law enforcement, which had been given broad discretion and nearly unlimited resources to root out terrorism threats. Love was in the air.
McDavid, 26 at the time, was an on-again, off-again college student from Auburn, California, with a muddled interest in anarchism and environmentalism.
Anna was a no-nonsense girl with pink hair, a short camo skirt, and a keffiyeh around her neck. She told McDavid she had hitchhiked to the gathering. In reality, she had flown out on the FBI’s dime.
She had gotten a taste for informant work after infiltrating an anti-globalization protest group for a paper for her community college class. Impressed by her initiative, a police officer in her class put her in touch with the Miami Police Department, which in turn referred her to the FBI. In a flattering 2008 profile in Elle magazine, Anna said she was a patriotic hawk who wanted to do something for her country after 9/11.
She was a godsend for the FBI. Radicals seemed to be able to sniff out professional undercover officers before they even stepped through the door. But Anna was a natural—quick-thinking, reliable, and able to move through activist circles with ease. She didn’t walk like a cop or otherwise exude cop-ness.
McDavid didn’t know it when he first laid his smitten eyes on Anna in Iowa, but he had just been snared in what activists would later dub the “green scare,” an allusion to the anti-communist red scare of the 1950s.
“The only reason they got on the radar was because they had a political viewpoint,” Mark Reichel, McDavid’s lawyer at his original trial, said in an interview. “At the same time, the head of the Justice Department was testifying before Congress, saying, ‘No, we don’t do that. We don’t spy on people because of political reasons.'”
Indeed, here’s former FBI director Robert Mueller speaking at a press conference announcing the 2006 indictment of 11 “eco-terrorists” responsible for an estimated $80 million in property damages: “The FBI becomes involved, as it did in this case, only when volatile talk crosses the line into violence and criminal activity.”
This is a key point in McDavid’s entrapment defense. Contrary to Mueller’s reassurances, McDavid and Jenson’s rhetoric when Anna first met them in ’04 was about as violent as the average Rage Against the Machine album.
Anna caught up with McDavid again in ’05 in Philadelphia, where he was staying with two friends, Jenson and Weiner. Anna reported back to the FBI that McDavid had become thoroughly radicalized since their first meeting.
Anna’s FBI handlers put her on McDavid, Jenson, and Weiner full-time and outfitted her with the finest in spy gear: a bugged ’96 Chevy Lumina that she used to drive the group around. The FBI also provided Anna with a small cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills that was to act as the quartet’s base of operations. She paid for groceries and even doled out spending money to the group, sometimes in $100 bills. She wasn’t old enough to buy beer yet, but Anna was passing along fake bomb recipes from the FBI to the trio.
Anna’s recordings of late-night bull sessions showed the trio talking about bombing targets like cell phone towers and fish hatcheries. Later in court, the three activists would try to play off the conversations as purely hypothetical, the musings of some stoned anarchists with delusions of grandeur.
“Anarchists usually just talk shit,” Jenson said in a 2012 Outside story on the case, “but they never really do that much.”
In court, the bumbling anarchists became cold, calculating terrorists.
But one day, the group drove to a Kmart in Auburn to pick up ingredients for a bomb test. McDavid was sitting on the back of Anna’s car in the parking lot, waiting for Jenson and Weiner to return, when he heard the automatic locks on the car doors click shut. He looked in. Anna was on her cell phone. Moments later, black SUVs screeched into the parking lot, and he was surrounded by heavily armed agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force. In an interview with Democracy Now!—his first after being released from prison—McDavid said that that was the moment he realized Anna was a snitch.
McDavid, Jenson, and Weiner were charged with conspiracy based on their recorded conversations, their purchase of a book that included bomb-making instructions, their scouting of potential targets, and their purchase of bomb-making materials at Kmart.
For the government’s prosecution of radical environmentalists, Potter said that the McDavid case “represented a turning point in a couple of ways.
“Around September 11, the actions by the radical environmental movement had really subsided significantly,” Potter said. “There were not a lot of crimes by the Animal Liberation Front or Earth Liberation Front. There were very heavy prosecutions of a few cases, but the climate as a whole, there wasn’t a lot happening. The McDavid case represented a shift. They manufactured terrorism plots, and that’s precisely what McDavid’s case was all about.”
In court, the bumbling anarchists became cold, calculating terrorists. US Attorney McGregor Scott claimed the group’s plot to bomb the Nimbus dam, had it not been thwarted by Anna, would have made “what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina look like a Sunday pancake breakfast.” (A spokesman for the dam later said that blowing up the gates would just cause water to “trickle” down the American and Sacramento rivers.)
Anna testified that she woke up in the cabin one night with McDavid looming above her holding an eight-inch hunting knife. Meanwhile, Jenson and Weiner both flipped and agreed to testify against McDavid in return for lighter sentences. Years later, Jenson would provide McDavid’s lawyer with a sworn declaration saying he was pressured to contort his testimony to agree with the government’s version of events.
“I became very aware that if I did not testify to the facts that the government felt occurred, which I did not believe occurred, that my plea bargain would be taken away and I would be charged with the major federal charge and would very likely receive a 20-year sentence,” Jenson said. “This was a lot of pressure for me to handle.”
The jury also received confusing, sometimes contradictory instructions. They were told entrapment required a government “agent,” and Judge England told the jurors from the bench that Anna was an agent, but then later sent a written note to the jury that she was not one.
The jury was also told, when considering McDavid’s predisposition for violence, to limit the timeframe to June 2005 and onward, not from when Anna first began reporting on him in 2004.
Of the 12 jurors, ten would later go on the record to various publications expressing serious doubts about the government’s case against McDavid. “I hope he gets a new trial,” Diane Bennett, one of the jurors, told Elle in 2008. “I’m not happy with the one he got.”
England sentenced McDavid to 235 months in prison on an enhanced terrorism charge. He spent the first 28 months of his sentence in solitary confinement. Jenson and Weiner served six months and two weeks in prison, respectively. Anna consulted for the FBI for a bit longer before giving up the spy game and trying to move on with her life.
But perhaps more interesting than the vagaries of the case is what never made it to the jury’s ears. During the trial, Reichel filed dozens of motions to suppress, dismiss, and otherwise muck up the government’s case against McDavid. Among those were numerous motions for discovery for the FBI files on McDavid and Anna.
“The hell that we had been through for so long, we knew we had to pursue it, but it was like, ‘God, is this even going to work?'”
“The FBI filed responses in writing saying none of this stuff exists. No cell phone records, no polygraphs, no internal FBI reports, no letters,” Reichel said. “So I did a FOIA and it came back with not much, maybe 20 pages, items of discovery I already had.”
Reichel also filed a motion to dismiss the case based on McDavid’s infatuation with Anna. The prosecution’s response to Reichel’s motion: “The defendant’s claim of a romantic relationship between him and the informant is categorically untrue.”
“I Think You and I Could Be Great”
McDavid lost an appeal before the Ninth Circuit, and the Supreme Court refused to hear his case. He would have languished in prison for the rest of his long sentence had it not been for the dogged work of two of his supporters, Jenny Esquivel and Evan Tucker.
Tucker, now living in Spain, had started a group called Sacramento Prisoner Support in 2004 to help activists who had been targeted by the federal government. In 2008, Esquivel and Tucker filed a FOIA request for McDavid’s FBI file.
“Jenny and I always felt that the government was hiding evidence from the defense,” Tucker said. “How could a person who was investigated by the FBI for one and a half years and then convicted of a federal crime not have an FBI file? So we decided to do our own request. Originally they told us there was nothing, but we kept pushing and finally, one day, several thousand pages of documents showed up in our PO box.”
Tucker says the FOIA sleuthing revealed the FBI was also interested in him.
“They interviewed people about me, sat outside my house, and followed me around,” Tucker said. “They sent informants to our fundraisers and had them report back on me as well. There is a lot I still don’t know about the investigation because they would only give me half my file and even that was heavily redacted.”
With a batch of fresh evidence in hand, McDavid’s lawyers filed a writ for habeas corpus in 2010. The government continued to fight the appeal, but in November 2014 it handed over even more files that should have been given to McDavid’s defense counsel in his original trial. The new documents included mushy notes from McDavid professing his interest in Anna, as well as never-before-seen responses from Anna leading him on.
In a 2005 email six months before McDavid’s arrest, Anna wrote, “I think you and I could be great, but we have LOTS of little kinks to work out. I hope in Indiana we can spend more quality time together, and really chat about life and our things.”
McDavid replied three days later in his idiosyncratic syntax: “hey cheeka, so far as us B’n great, that i think is an understatement… along w/the ‘LOTS of little kinks 2 wk out’… but if u aint learning, u aint live’n… & I do think we could learn a lot from each other.”
It’s fair to say they learned a lot from each other, although Anna and McDavid both clarified that their relationship was never physical. For the most part, it seemed one-sided, with Anna brushing McDavid off and telling him to wait until after their “mission.”
The US Attorney’s Office also handed over a request for a polygraph test on Anna. The request form said the polygraph was to “confirm veracity of [Anna’s] reporting prior to the expenditure of substantial efforts and money based on source’s reporting.”
But the polygraph test never took place. No documents provided by the FBI or the US Attorney’s Office explain why, and the name of the US prosecutor who signed off on the polygraph request was redacted for “privacy” reasons.
I asked Reichel if he was surprised at the contents of the documents, considering the FBI had insisted they didn’t exist. He replied with the typical bravado of a criminal defense attorney who’s been proven right.
“You remember that Johnny Carson bit, Carnac the Magnificent, where he would hold the letter up to his head and predict what was inside?” Reichel said. “I knew exactly what was in those documents.”
But McDavid’s release was far from certain. Even after securing a deal with the US attorneys office, no one was sure how Judge England, who had previously thrown the book at McDavid, would react to such a bizarre request.
“The hell that we had been through for so long, we knew we had to pursue it, but it was like, ‘God is this even going to work?'” Esquivel said in an interview. “It was nine years of struggle and fighting and hoping against hope. A lot of hard work and luck came together.”
There are lingering questions surrounding McDavid’s case. According to Esquivel, the FBI is still withholding 900 pages of documents. And although McDavid cannot sue under the terms of his plea agreement to a single conspiracy charge, a lawyer for Weiner told the Guardian she is considering suing to get her own conviction lifted.
There is also the case of Steve Lapham, the assistant US attorney in McDavid’s case. Lapham fought McDavid’s Habeas appeal tooth and nail.
“The government concedes that a relatively small amount of information pertaining to the case was apparently not disclosed to the defense,” Lapham wrote in response to the appeal. “However, the omitted material was either inculpatory or benign. None of the omitted material was exculpatory.”
It was only after Lapham departed the US Attorney’s Office, according to Tucker, that the government showed any interest in releasing the withheld documents. Lapham is now a judge for the Sacramento County Superior Court.
February 27, 2015
by CJ Ciaramella
Find this story at 27 February 2015
How the FBI Used “Anna” the Informant to Entrap Eric McDavid and other Environmentalists as “Terrorists” (2008)
April 8, 2015
Elle Anna Informant Green Scare Eco-terrorism McDavid
The May issue of Elle has an article on how the FBI paid a young woman, known as “Anna,” to befriend activists and pressure them into illegal activity. Now, some of those she befriended and entrapped, including environmentalist Eric McDavid, are going to prison as terrorists.
“For two years now, a young woman in camo pants, black sweatshirt, military boots and pink hair, known to both her fellow eco-activists and FBI employers as ‘Anna,’ had been crashing the party.”
Unfortunately Andrea Todd’s article misses the big picture—questioning the relentless push to label non-violent activists as “terrorists,” and the sleazy methods used to do that– for the sake of glamming up an interesting spy story.
She falls head-over-heels for the sexiness of the story—shadowy activists in love out to save the world—and swallows a series of absurdities provided by the FBI. Rather than pick apart every paragraph, I wanted to highlight a few good points buried within the sensationalism:
Eric McDavid, Lauren Weiner and Zachary Jenson are accused of plotting to sabotage a U.S. Forest Service genetics tree lab and the Nimbus Dam. U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott has claimed that damage to the dam would have made “what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina look like a Sunday pancake breakfast.” Todd reports that Jeff McCracken, a spokesperson for the dam, says the water would just “trickle.” (p. 323)This is an important point when we’re talking about labeling people as “terrorists” who endangered human life. It’s a good example of how the government has consistently twisted the truth in the hopes of chalking up a victory in the “War on Terrorism.”
The FBI supplied Anna with a ’96 Chevy Lumina, and gas money, and food money, to drive Jenson and Weiner across the country and meet McDavid. There, the FBI paid for a cabin. And on top of that, the FBI supplied bomb-making recipes and materials.All that was needed was a little encouragement. And the FBI supplied that, too.
At one point when tensions were very high, McDavid tried to calm Anna and Weiner down, saying “relax and chill out and maybe come back and chitchat later.” Weiner agreed, offering to make pasta. Anna flipped out.
Anna: Tomorrow, what are we planning on doing tomorrow? Are we still planning on doing anything tomorrow? Or should I just stop talking about plans?
Weiner: I would love it if you stopped talking.
Anna: I would love it if you guys followed a plan! How about that! (p. 324)
This is a critical exchange, because Jenson’s attorneys argued that his client was “entrapped.” In other words, the three were not likely going to commit these crimes, and Anna was trying to push them down that path, in the hopes of getting a big gold star from the FBI.
“Under cross-examination by Reichel [Jenson’s attorney], Torres [FBI] admitted he hadn’t read all of the literature on informants; nor could he recall any specifics about the Attorney General’s guidelines regarding political protests.” (p. 324)Anna infiltrated lawful gatherings, like a CrimethInc convergence and G8 protests. Todd says that they were secretive and require a special eco-terrorist invitation. In reality, they’re posted widely on the Internet. The danger of tactics like this, beyond ruining the lives of those entrapped and watering down public faith in the criminal justice system, is that basic First Amendment rights are a casualty as well.
During Jenson’s trial, prosecutors went to great lengths to conceal Anna’s identity, even from the attorneys. Part of the justification was that Anna could be a target for retaliation, retaliation by environmentalists who have yet to harm anyone. If environmentalists are such a threat, why is Anna posing glamour-shot-style in the world’s largest fashion magazine?
Perhaps the most disturbing piece in all of this is the final section of the article, where Todd interviewed one of the jurors, Diane Bennett.“I said the FBI was an embarrassment,” she says, as other jurors scrambled to unload similar opinions. “I hope he gets a new trial. I’m not happy with the one he got.”
Bennett said that the foreman “teared up” when he delivered the guilty verdict. But the judge’s instructions were confusing, she said, and “people were tired… we wanted to go home.”
The piece could have been much worse. As someone posted anonymously on Indymedia in Portland: “Perhaps Andrea Todd deserves a little credit. She was, after all, attempting to write an article about someone who lies for a living.”
In light of that, has Elle issued a retraction? These stickers have mysteriously appeared in copies of the magazine on newsstands around the country.
They read, in part:
Following consultation with federal agencies, we at Elle wish to retract this article. Not because of the stream of factual inaccuracies beginning in the second sentence (there has never been a CrimethInc. convergence in Athens, Georgia), but because in the current political climate it is irresponsible to even pretend to give a fair hearing to radical anti-capitalists. Even if Anna’s story is a cut-and-dried case of entrapment, we have to understand this as a necessary defense of our free market freedoms.
by WILL POTTER on MAY 2, 2008
Find this story at 2 May 2008
FBI Surveillance Of Occupy Wall Street Detailed
April 8, 2015
WASHINGTON — Was Tim Franzen stockpiling weapons? What was Tim Franzen’s philosophy? What was his political affiliation? Did Tim Franzen ever talk about violent revolution?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted to know. In late 2011, an agent or agents — Franzen still isn’t quite sure — began trying to find out. It was during this time that Franzen became a well-known and central presence in Occupy Atlanta. He helped start the Occupy Wall Street offshoot, and had been arrested when police razed their encampment in a downtown Atlanta park.
After the first police sweep of the park, Franzen told The Huffington Post that the FBI began interviewing his fellow Occupy Atlanta activists about whether Franzen might have a cache of weapons for a future violent revolution. He said the feds interviewed three different activists at their homes about his activities and beliefs.
“It definitely rattled my cage to have these kids getting knocks on their door,” Franzen said.
Here’s what the feds would have found out in the course of a background check on the activist: Franzen had a criminal record related to teenage drug use and robberies that supported his habit. But he last spent time in prison when he was 19. Franzen, now 35, went on to found a chain of halfway houses to help people make the transition from addiction to recovery. He later became a community organizer with the Quaker social justice organization American Friends Service Committee, a position he continues to hold while working within Occupy Atlanta.
During one interview, an FBI agent gave one of Franzen’s fellow activists a business card, which was handed over to Franzen, who decided to call the agent and have a little fun.
“I have an expert on all things Tim Franzen,” Franzen remembers telling the agent over the phone. “I said, ‘I’m Tim Franzen.’ … He was sort of dumbfounded. He didn’t know what to say.”
Franzen chastised the federal agent for scaring his younger activist friends. “At first he started denying it,” he said. “He tried to write it off as not a big deal, as sort of protocol.”
At the end of December, the FBI released internal documents that revealed a coordinated — if quixotic — surveillance of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Just about every law enforcement agency gets a cameo in the correspondence: Homeland Security, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, an entity known as the Domestic Security Alliance Council — and even the Federal Reserve. But the extremely limited disclosure makes it difficult to assess exactly with whom the government agencies were coordinating, or why. Was the FBI attempting to infiltrate and undermine the Occupy movement, or simply trying to keep tabs on protesters who were hoping to spark political change?
Of the 110 pages released — first obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund through a Freedom of Information Act request — dozens are heavily redacted. The documents state that 287 additional pages on the FBI’s Occupy activities were “deleted” from the release by the agency for various reasons, including nine labeled “outside the scope” and 14 tagged “duplicate.”
At times, the documents are contradictory and show FBI agents spreading false information. The earliest memo erroneously describes Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that came up with the idea behind Occupy, as a “self-identified American revolutionary anarchist group.” In another, OWS is lumped in with the “Aryan Nations (sic)” and hacker-activists Anonymous as “domestic terrorists.”
In response to a request for comment, FBI spokesperson Christopher Allen replied via email, “The FBI cautions against drawing conclusions from redacted FOIA documents.” He continued, “While the FBI is obligated to thoroughly investigate any serious allegations involving threats of violence, we do not open investigations based solely on 1st Amendment activity. In fact, DOJ and the FBI’s own internal guidelines on domestic operations strictly forbid that.”
If there was a unified mission behind the Occupy surveillance, it appears the purpose was to pass information about activists’ plans to the finance industry. In one memo from August 2011, the FBI discusses informing officials at the New York Stock Exchange about “the planned Anarchist protest titled ‘occupy Wall Street’, scheduled for September 17, 2011.[sic] Numerous incidents have occurred in the past which show attempts by Anarchist groups to disrupt, influence, and or shut down normal business operations of financial districts.”
The documents reveal that the FBI met with officials from four banks and one credit union, and spoke over the phone with a representative from a fifth bank. The FBI also talked with officials from the Richmond Federal Reserve, a branch of the central bank that covers much of the American South. If the FBI communicated with any of the trillion-dollar banks that were the primary subject of Occupy Wall Street’s economic critique, however, those discussions have been redacted from the documents.
Citigroup, for example, is not mentioned anywhere the documents, while Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are each mentioned once in passing. No documents show coordination between the FBI and any of those banks — although it would be conspicuous for the FBI to have communicated with smaller banks that were not a major focus of the Occupy movement while ignoring the much larger institutions that were recipients of the 2008-2009 bailouts.
The few direct communications with banks that are detailed in the documents reveal little evidence of improper behavior. On Oct. 6, 2011, the FBI called Zions Bank to inform the bankers that “Anonymous hactivists” had distributed the personal phone numbers of “the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase” online, implying that Zions executives might also be subject to such treatment per an impending Occupy rally in Salt Lake City, where Zions is headquartered. Zions declined to comment on the call for this article, but the bank — which has about 2 percent of the total assets of JPMorgan — has not been a target of Occupy rhetoric before or since the FBI call.
The only other banks named in the FBI documents are Hancock Bank, Peoples Bank, Bancorp South and Regions Bank — all of which declined to comment for this article. The FBI attended a Nov. 16, 2011, meeting of officials from those banks in Biloxi, Miss., where someone from Hancock Bank warned attendees to expect an Occupy protest on Dec. 7 that could include a “sit-in” or efforts to “lock the bank doors.”
None of the banks mentioned in the FBI file would comment on whether the FBI met regularly with bank officials. Bank robbery is a federal crime, which gives FBI jurisdiction.
All of these banks would have been small-ball for a protest movement that targeted massive income inequality and outrageous executive pay. But if the FBI was issuing warnings to and meeting on security issues with these smaller banks, they were almost certainly having talks with bigger New York banks — meaning the portrait of the FBI’s activities around Occupy, insofar as the internal documents are concerned, is likely incomplete in a significant dimension.
Recent FBI investigations have at times put big banks in a negative light, but have yet to result in major actions against financial institutions. In July 2012, an FBI probe found that Bank of America had allowed a Mexican drug cartel to launder money through the bank. While BofA has yet to face any fines for the episode, the head of the FBI in Charlotte, N.C., BofA’s headquarters, recently left the law enforcement agency for a job at Bank of America.
While the FBI communicated with the financial sector about Occupy, it’s unclear the degree to which they engaged with actual Occupy activists like Franzen.
Kevin Zeese was one of the founding organizers of Occupy Washington, D.C., which set up camp just blocks from FBI headquarters and the Department of Justice. Zeese told HuffPost that infiltration by law enforcement agents or informants was an issue, but whether much of it was just shadowy conspiracy or serious agitating remains a mystery.
In one exchange he had with a Homeland Security officer, Zeese said the agent knew a key detail about a scheduled protest at the Environmental Protection Agency. Zeese joked that the officer knew more than he did about what was going on.
Zeese did remember one FBI agent who would bike over to the camp. Some of the younger activists talked regularly with the agent. “He was open about it,” Zeese said. “He would ride through on a bike with the FBI thing on his back.” The agent ended up spending a weekend at the camp and even donating funds to help pay for security.
Whether law enforcement had a hand in breaking up camps, Zeese said, “I can’t tell.” To which he added, “Down the road, there may be proof.”
Franzen suggests that federal agents conducted more clandestine activities than simple Internet searches and protest monitoring. Occupiers frequently complained that the more outspoken activists within their ranks appeared to be targeted by police for arrest. Franzen said there is a connection between the agent who inquired about him among his friends and his subsequent arrest at a protest. He chronicled the incident on his blog a year ago:
Before the police officers warned the crowd to disperse from the street I had already gotten onto the side walk. One of the police Lieutenants yelled to his officers, ‘Get him’ and pointed at me. The police had to worm their way through the crowd in order to grab me and drag me into the street.
When I was dragged into the street, I asked the lieutenant what he was doing and he said, ‘arresting you.’
‘For what,’ I asked.
‘For being in the street,’ he said.
‘But I was on the sidewalk,’ I replied.
‘You’re not now,’ he said with a smile.
Posted: 01/05/2013 7:42 am EST Updated: 01/23/2014 6:58 pm EST
Find this story at 23 January 2013
Copyright ©2015 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
Dissent or Terror: Counterterrorism Apparatus Used to Monitor Occupy Movement Nationwide
April 8, 2015
Newly revealed documents show how police partnered with corporations to monitor the Occupy Wall Street movement. DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy have obtained thousands of pages of records from counterterrorism and law enforcement agencies that detail how so-called fusions centers monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement over the course of 2011 and 2012. These fusion centers are comprised of employees from municipal, county and federal counterterrorism and homeland security entities, as well as local police departments, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
Click here to see our extensive coverage of the police crackdown of the Occupy movement.
Read full report on government surveillance of Occupy movement by the Center for Media and Democracy / DBA Press.
AMY GOODMAN: Matt Rothschild, it’s great to have you with us, editor of The Progressive magazine. And he did this very interesting story, a cover story for June issue of the magazine, “Spying on Occupy Activists: How Cops and Homeland Security Help Wall Street.” Can you compare what you have found—and start off by saying why Phoenix. Why did you focus on Phoenix?
MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Well, I focused on Phoenix because the primary researcher for this story, Beau Hodai of DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy, had compiled tremendous amounts of information. He had issued Freedom of Information Act requests from the Phoenix Police Department, from the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center. And so, he got thousands, literally thousands, of pages of information, primarily about Phoenix and Arizona, but also some national context. But I thought by focusing on this one city, you could really tell, at the most granular level, how police officers and Homeland Security are really going after left-wing activists. And I thought it was important to really focus in narrowly, because I think those narrow details really give a clearer picture of just how hand-in-glove local law enforcement is with the private sector in going after these Occupy protesters.
AMY GOODMAN: How does this compare to the IRS monitoring tea party groups or, you know, sort of specially targeting them for deciding whether they should get nonprofit status?
MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Well, I thought it was outrageous what the IRS was doing in that Cincinnati office. But this, to me, is much worse because, whereas the IRS office in Cincinnati, that may have been, you know, a bureaucratic mistake or bungling or lack of supervision, what’s going on with the spying on Occupy activists was a systematic effort by police departments, not just in Phoenix, but around the country, with Homeland Security, to track the Occupy activists—and to coordinate a response, even. One of the documents that Beau Hodai released, from the Center for Media and Democracy and DBA Press, was a file—a report on a teleconference that 13 police departments around the country had as to how to respond to Occupy, what they called “growing concerns” about the burgeoning Occupy movement, and that they needed to coordinate an effective response. And so, you know, when we had that crackdown on Occupy simultaneously over a weekend in many different cities, I wondered at the time whether there wasn’t coordination going on between the police departments to crush the Occupy movement. And this suggests that there was.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Matt Rothschild, you also speak specifically about the way in which protests against the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, occurred. Could you elaborate on that and why that was a particular focus of law enforcement?
MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Yeah, there’s documents, again, that show that police, from the U.S. Capitol Police all the way to the Phoenix Police Department, were monitoring protests of the National Defense Authorization Act. The National Defense Authorization Act allows the president of the United States to grab any single one of us and throw us into jail and deny us due process and access to a judge for as long as the president says so. And so, this is a huge clampdown on our civil liberties, and people should be protesting it. And it’s ironic that people trying to defend their civil liberties are having their civil liberties violated at the same time.
AMY GOODMAN: Matt Rothschild, explain what these fusion centers are and how they work, both with public law enforcement and with private companies.
MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Well, this is a real problem I have with fusion centers, Amy. Fusion centers are—in each state, there’s a fusion center. And the fusion center is supposed to represent law enforcement at every level, from, you know, campus police to city police, to sheriffs, to the FBI and state police. But also, within these fusion centers, there are representatives of the private sector. And there’s also an organization called InfraGard in these fusion centers. Now, InfraGard is an association of more than 50,000 business people with the FBI. They’re essentially FBI minders, with these business people in each state. And sometimes these business people get information from the FBI even before elected officials get it. And also, the FBI tells these business members of InfraGard, “Hey, if you ever have a problem with an employee, just let us know.” And so, you know, is this the kind of collaboration we want? That a boss, who doesn’t like what you’re doing on the workplace—maybe you’re forming a union, the boss calls the FBI, and then what? The FBI opens a file on you? We need to be careful of this institution called InfraGard, too, which was part of the Arizona fusion center, by the way.
AMY GOODMAN: Matt, we want to thank you for being with us. Matt Rothschild, editor and publisher of The Progressive magazine, wrote the cover story for the June issue of the magazine, “Spying on Occupy Activists: How Cops and Homeland Security Help Wall Street.” The piece draws heavily on documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy and DBA Press. Matt Rothschild is also author of You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2013
Watch Part One of our interview with Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive
Find this story at 22 May 2013
Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
Home Stations Past Shows Topics Blog Get Involved Events Español About Contact Donate Mobile Site
How Our Massive Homeland Security Apparatus Does the Bidding of the Big Banks<< oudere artikelen
April 8, 2015
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a nationwide “counter terrorism” apparatus emerged. And it has turned on dissenters like the Occupy movement.
The following is the first in a series of articles extracted from a new report by CMD and DBA Press entitled “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With
Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street.”
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a nationwide “counter terrorism” apparatus emerged. Components of this apparatus include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. DHS), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), ODNI’s “National Counterterrorism Center” (NCTC), and state/regional “fusion centers.”
“Fusion centers,” by and large, are staffed with personnel working in “counter terrorism”/ “homeland security” units of municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/”public safety”/”counter terrorism” agencies. To a large degree, the “counter terrorism” operations of municipal, county, state and tribal agencies engaged in “fusion centers” are financed through a number of U.S. DHS grant programs.
Initially, “fusion centers” were intended to be intelligence sharing partnerships between municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/”counter terrorism” agencies, dedicated solely to the dissemination/sharing of “terrorism”-related intelligence. However, shortly following the creation of “fusion centers,” their focus shifted from this exclusive interest in “terrorism,” to one of “all hazards” — an umbrella term used to describe virtually anything (including “terrorism”) that may be deemed a “hazard” to the public, or to certain private sector interests. And, as has been mandated through a series of federal legislative actions and presidential executive orders, “fusion centers” (and the “counter terrorism” entities that they are comprised of) work — in ever closer proximity — with private corporations, with the stated aim of protecting items deemed to be “critical infrastructure/key resources” (CI/KR, typically thought of as items such as power plants, dams or weapons manufacturing plants).
As detailed in a report from DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy (DBA/CMD), “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street,” through 2011 and 2012, “fusion centers” and other “counter terrorism” agencies engaged in widespread monitoring of Occupy Wall Street activists.
Records obtained by DBA/CMD indicate that, in some instances, these “counter terrorism” agencies worked in partnership with corporate interests to gather and disseminate intelligence relating to the activities of citizens engaged in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Ironically, records indicate that corporate entities engaged in such public-private intelligence sharing partnerships were often the very same corporate entities criticized, and protested against, by the Occupy Wall Street movement as having undue influence in the functions of public government.
This article examines the effects of such public-private intelligence sharing partnerships in Arizona, and how such partnerships benefited corporate interests that were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest actions through 2011 and 2012.
Arizona Fusion Center Work on Behalf of Banks
In October of 2011, Jamie Dimon, president and CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, had plans to travel to Phoenix for a “town hall” event with 2,000 of his employees at Chase Field (home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, located in downtown Phoenix). As Dimon is one of the most powerful men on Wall Street and the head of the largest bank in the country — a bank that played a key role in the collapse of the U.S. economy in 2008 — JP Morgan Chase Regional Security Manager Dan Grady contacted Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center personnel on October 17 (the day before Dimon’s scheduled visit), to ensure a smooth landing for Dimon in Phoenix.
The Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC), commonly known as the “Arizona Fusion Center,” is comprised of personnel from such entities as the Arizona Department of Public Safety Intelligence Bureau, the Phoenix Police Department Homeland Defense Bureau, the Tempe Police Department Homeland Defense Unit, the Mesa Police Department Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Unit, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI Phoenix Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Transportation Security Administration, and the U.S. DHS offices of Infrastructure Protection and Intelligence and Analysis.
Records indicate that Grady’s chief point of law enforcement/”counter terrorism” personnel contact in Phoenix — with whom he discussed the particulars of Dimon’s visit and shared a detailed itinerary — was Phoenix Police Department Homeland Defense Bureau (PPDHDB) Detective, and ACTIC Community Liaison Program Coordinator, Jennifer O’Neill. As records indicate, the chief area of discussion between Grady and O’Neill were concerns that citizens engaged in Occupy Phoenix, an Occupy Wall Street-inspired group that had launched only days prior, on October 14 and 15, might try to disrupt the event — or otherwise inconvenience Dimon.
According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, in response to Grady’s concerns, O’Neill stated that she and a PPDHDB “CI/KR security specialist” colleague had engaged in the monitoring of known online “social networking” outlets used by Occupy Phoenix for discussion relating to the Dimon visit. As such O’Neill stated: “we have not seen anything on social networking that leads us to believe protestors are aware of this event.”
By no stretch of the imagination was this monitoring of social media (known in the world of “counter terrorism” agencies as the acquisition of “open source intelligence”) for the benefit of JP Morgan Chase President and CEO Dimon the full extent of such activity conducted by ACTIC personnel. Records indicate that ACTIC personnel consistently gathered “open source,” and other, intelligence relating to Occupy Phoenix protests of corporate entities throughout 2011 and 2012. According to these records, in many instances ACTIC personnel would share this intelligence with personnel employed by corporations who were subject to these protests.
Another example of Occupy Phoenix-related ACTIC CLP work for the benefit of banks would be intelligence gathering and other monitoring conducted in preparation for “Bank Transfer Day,” November 5, 2011 — a day on which Occupy Wall Street groups nationwide, along with other mainstream activist/consumer advocate groups, encouraged citizens to discontinue business with the nation’s leading banks (such as J.P. Morgan Chase banks, Bank of America and Wells Fargo), in favor of credit unions and smaller community-based banks.
Records obtained by DBA/CMD show that, on November 3, Mesa Police Department (Mesa is a Phoenix suburb) Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Unit Detective/ACTIC Terrorism Liaison Officer (TLO) Christopher Adamczyk, issued an OWS-related bulletin to a number of ACTIC TLOs/analysts. While the actual Adamczyk bulletin is absent from records delivered to DBA/CMD by PPDHDB, records indicate that the subject of this Adamczyk bulletin was the impending November 5 “Bank Transfer Day.” It is important to note, however, that available records indicate that the Mesa TLO did not address “Bank Transfer Day” events set to take place in the Phoenix area.
Records show that, after receiving this bulletin, O’Neill contacted PPDHDB/ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Brenda Dowhan and asked if there was any specific information she could pass on to downtown Phoenix banks.
In response to O’Neill’s request, Dowhan indicated that she would try to find “FOUO” (“For Official Use Only”) information that could be released to downtown Phoenix banks. In addition, she offered:
“Occupy Phoenix just updated their [Facebook] page saying that they will be marching to Wells Fargo, B of A [Bank of America], and Chase Tower. They are supposed to do a ‘credit card shredding ceremony’ , but eh haven’t identified which bank they will be doing that at [sic]. We will have to monitor their FB [Facebook].”
As previously stated, O’Neill is the coordinator of the ACTIC Community Liaison Program (CLP). ACTIC CLP was created in 2006, in response to federal mandates calling for greater involvement of private sector corporations in the national “counter terrorism” “information sharing environment” (ISE, as created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. This piece of federal legislation also created ODNI, NCTC and set the groundwork for the national spread of “fusion centers,” per the implementation of ISE).
ACTIC CLP is intended to facilitate the flow of “counter terrorism” information/intelligence between private sector corporate partners and the Arizona “fusion center.” While the stated purpose of ACTIC CLP is to prevent terrorist activity, to identify terrorist threats, protect CI/KR, and “create an awareness of localized security issues, challenges, and business interdependencies,” records indicate that, during the course of 2011 and 2012, ACTIC CLP was used as an advance warning system to alert member corporations and banks of impending Occupy Phoenix protests.
ACTIC CLP is one of two primary vehicles through which corporate interests partner with ACTIC, the other vehicle being Arizona Infragard. Arizona Infragard is the Arizona chapter of Infragard, a public-private intelligence sharing partnership administered by the FBI and supported (both financially and through the delivery of intelligence) by U.S. DHS.
The Creepy Guy Cometh: Undercover Cop Goes to the Vegan Coffee Shop
Records indicate that these advance warnings concerning the planned actions of Occupy Phoenix, and other instances of intelligence sharing with private sector partners (including meetings between law enforcement/”counter terrorism” personnel and area bankers), were derived from the constant monitoring of Occupy Phoenix — and other activist groups — by Phoenix area law enforcement personnel, most of whom were “terrorism liaison officers” active in the ACTIC TLO Program.
While much of this TLO-gathered information came in the form of “open source intelligence” derived from the monitoring of social media, one source of intelligence that records show greatly benefitted not only ACTIC “counter terrorism” personnel, but also ACTIC’s private sector partners, was an undercover Phoenix Police Department Major Offenders Bureau (PPDMOB) detective who had infiltrated the Phoenix activist community and who had attended some of the earliest Occupy Phoenix planning meetings, as well as subsequent meetings throughout October and November, 2011.
This infiltrating undercover officer presented himself as a homeless Mexican national named “Saul DeLara” (Saul). One example of this undercover officer’s work product is as follows: following a request by Phoenix Police Department Community Relations Bureau (PPDCRB, the departmental entity that served as the public face of PPD interaction with Occupy Phoenix — known, affectionately, by members of the Phoenix activist community as the “Red Squad”) Sgt. Mark Schweikert, PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Tom Van Dorn dispatched Saul to attend an early Occupy Phoenix planning meeting held on October 2, 2011 at a local coffee shop. Following the meeting, Saul delivered a detailed report, dutifully relaying all plans the activists had discussed, to his PPD superiors. And records indicate that Van Dorn recommended at this time that PPD units augment the intelligence stream provided by Saul with constant monitoring of the Occupy Phoenix Facebook page.
But, Saul’s attendance at and reporting on the October 2, 2011 Occupy Phoenix planning meeting was far from the extent of the undercover detective’s involvement in the world of Phoenix activism. For example, records indicate that Saul had embedded himself among Phoenix activists in Occupy Phoenix’s encampment at Cesar Chavez Plaza, in an attempt at providing further intelligence relating to activist “Bank Transfer Day” plans.
As stated in a November 3, 2011 email, PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Van Dorn informed PPDHDB commanding officers that, “Saul will be spending today and tomorrow hanging out in the Plaza and [sic] with the Anarchists to try and gather additional intelligence as we head into the weekend.”
Interestingly, Saul’s first appearance among Phoenix activists is said to significantly predate the birth of Occupy Phoenix (which officially launched over the course of a two day event, held October 14 and 15, 2011) and even the emergence of the national Occupy Wall Street movement (which materialized on September 17, 2011).
According to then-Phoenix activist Ian Fecke-Stoudt (Fecke-Stoudt has since moved out of the Phoenix area), Saul first appeared at Conspire, a now-defunct coffee house and vegan cafe located in downtown Phoenix, in July of 2011.
Poetically enough, Conspire was awarded the title of “Best Hangout for Anarchists, Revolutionaries and Dreamers” by the Phoenix New Times in 2010. The coffee house also served, later in 2011 and early 2012, as a regular meeting place for members of Occupy Phoenix.
According to Fecke-Stoudt, Saul’s appearance roughly coincided with the beginning of activist meetings, held at Conspire, dedicated to the planning of protest events associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) States and Nation Policy Summit (SNPS), to be held at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in the upscale Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, from November 28 through December 2, 2011.
ALEC is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that bills itself as the nation’s largest state “legislative membership organization.” As such, ALEC claims roughly 2,000, or approximately one third, of the nation’s state lawmakers as members. The organization couples these legislative members on a variety of “task forces” with representatives from the nation’s leading corporations, lobby and law firms, as well as private ‘think tanks’ and ‘public policy foundations.’ These various “task forces” generate and adopt “model legislation,” which member lawmakers dutifully introduce and work to pass into law in their home assemblies.
Representatives of corporations and private foundations involved in ALEC are known as the organization’s “private sector members.” As is reflected by the organization’s tax filings, these private sector members fund most of ALEC’s activities. As such, ALEC is in reality the nation’s largest public-private legislative partnership, dedicated to advancing the legislative agenda of its corporate underwriters — though ALEC has steadfastly denied that any lobbying activity takes place at their events.
ALEC holds three primary events each year: the Spring Task Force Summit, the Annual Meeting and the States and Nation Policy Summit. Invariably, these events are held at upscale resorts in cites throughout the nation. Travel and boarding expenses for ALEC member lawmakers who attend these meetings are more often than not paid through the ALEC “scholarship fund,” a fund for which ALEC member lawmakers and ALEC member lobbyists raise (tax deductible) donations from other lobbyists/private sector donors.
The organization has come under fire in recent years for its involvement in disseminating various pieces of “model legislation” and policy initiatives — from “voter ID” laws, to laws aimed at crushing unions, as well as firearms-related laws (such as the “Stand Your Ground” law, which gained national attention following the February, 2012 shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin).
But, before the rise of public furor surrounding such pieces of “model legislation,” ALEC came under criticism for its involvement in disseminating the “No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act,” a piece of “model legislation” introduced to the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force (ALEC claims it disbanded this task force in April of 2012) by then-Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce during the ALEC December, 2009 SNPS (a month and a half prior to Pearce’s introduction of the same bill, SB 1070, in the Arizona legislature).
The crux of criticism relating to ALEC’s role in adopting and disseminating this piece of “model legislation” was the fact that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s premier operator of for-profit prisons and immigrant detention facilities, was a longstanding member — and corporate underwriter — of the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force at the time of the “model legislation”‘s adoption. Various records obtained by DBA/CMD show that the nation’s second largest private prison/immigrant detention center operator, Geo Group, was also active in ALEC during this time (Arizona lobby records indicate that Geo Group lobbyists were wining and dining lawmakers at the 2009 ALEC SNPS), along with the nation’s third largest private prison/immigration detention center operator, Management and Training Company (MTC, records obtained by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy indicate that MTC was paying into the ALEC Arizona Scholarship Fund as late as August of 2010).
And so, when Phoenix-area activists learned of ALEC’s plans (Fecke-Stoudt estimates that Phoenix activists first learned of these plans in June of 2011) a coalition of activist groups — including prison reform activists, anarchists, immigrants’ rights groups and indigenous rights groups — began planning protest actions at Conspire.
According to Fecke-Stoudt, at some point in early to mid-July, 2011, his roommate — also a Phoenix-area activist — mentioned that “a creepy guy who looked like he was probably a cop” had been hanging around Conspire. According to Fecke-Stoudt, his roommate told him that the “creepy guy” had wandered into Conspire and struck up a conversation with her. The roommate said that, following this initial conversation, the man would appear at Conspire and seek her out — as if they were friends. According to Feck-Stoudt’s recollection of the roommate’s impression, the “creepy guy” had come off as being “overly interested in anarchism.”
It was not long after that Fecke-Stoudt was also approached by the “creepy guy” at Conspire. According to Fecke-Stoudt, the man wore a blue t-shirt and blue jeans, had slicked-back salt-and-pepper hair, appeared to be in his 50s, was very clean-cut and in good physical shape. The “creepy guy” introduced himself to Fecke-Stoudt and other Phoenix activists as “Saul DeLara.” Despite the man’s fit and clean appearance, Fecke-Stoudt said Saul claimed to be homeless — and commented frequently on trouble he had with police through the course of his life on the street. Saul claimed to be a native of Juarez, Mexico, but seldom disclosed any other details of his background or personal life.
It is worth noting that Saul would later offer one other interesting detail of his life. As reported by activists present at a November 9, 2011, ALEC protest planning meeting, Saul claimed to have ties to recent “anarchist” actions in Mexico. This appears to have been an oblique reference to a group calling themselves “Mexican Fire Cells Conspiracy/Informal Anarchist Federation,” which, through a number of anarchists online forums, had claimed responsibility for a fire at Las Torres Shopping Mall in Juarez on November 2.
According to Fecke Stoudt and other activists interviewed by DBA/CMD, Saul consistently expressed a voracious interest in all things related to anarchism. Perhaps the only area of conversation that stimulated Saul’s interest as much as general discussion of anarchism, said Fecke-Stoudt and other activists interviewed by DBA/CMD, was discussion of the pending ALEC SNPS protest.
According to Fecke-Stoudt, Saul commenced to appear at Conspire on nights when the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition (PAC) would hold meetings. It was during one of these occasions that Fecke-Stoudt detected a particularly odd pattern of behavior on Saul’s part.
“There’s a certain thing that people do, when you can tell they’re interested in something, but they’re trying not to talk about it — where, whenever they hear, like, even the slightest mention of that thing, they come running over and they start listening intently, or, like, they’ll just kind of slowly put themselves into the conversation — that’s what he did,” said Fecke-Stoudt.
This behavior on Saul’s part, explained Fecke-Stoudt, would occur whenever mention was made of the planned ALEC protest.
“Once, after a PAC meeting […] he was hanging about and somebody said something about ALEC and, you know, he just kind of suddenly appeared in the conversation,” said Fecke-Stoudt. “I didn’t see it happen at that time, because I was engaged in the conversation, but I’m like, all of a sudden, ‘there’s Saul. Why is Saul in this conversation all of a sudden?'”
It is important to note that, according to both activists’ accounts and records obtained by DBA/CMD, Saul did not only attend anarchist protest planning meetings. Throughout his time as an activist infiltrator, Saul rubbed elbows with members of Occupy Phoenix, immigrants’ rights groups, faith-based organizations, indigenous rights groups, and others.
Records obtained by DBA/CMD show that Saul would report on these ALEC protest planning meetings to Van Dorn, who would then forward the intelligence on to PPDHDB personnel.
For example, on October 26, 2011, Van Dorn sent the following email to PPDHDB Lt. Lawrence “Larry” Hein, PPDHDB Sgt. Pat “Patrick” Kotecki and PPDMOB Lt. John Geroulis:
“Hey Bosses,” wrote Van Dorn. “Saul has stated that the Anarchists have officially posted the ‘resist ALEC’ on their website but they haven’t discussed specifics on how to disrupt the conference [sic]. There are also two websites that might be worth the TLO’s [ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison Officers”] monitoring.”
Van Dorn then went on to provide a link to “azresistsalec.wordpress.com,” and to detail the number of “likes” on the Facebook page associated with that site.
“According to Saul they are supposed to be having ‘resist ALEC’ training this weekend in downtown Phoenix as well,” added Van Dorn. “Kepp you updated [sic].”
Records indicate that PPDHDB Sgt. Kotecki forwarded this intelligence on to PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Rohme with instructions to “monitor and advise.”
Records obtained by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy show that PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Van Dorn and a PPDMOB undercover detective named Saul Ayala attended two meetings (November 18 and 23, 2011), held in the ACTIC “training room.” The subject of both these meetings was planned protests of the ALEC conference.
Interestingly enough, records indicate that PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Michael Rohme had invited Westin Kierland Director of Security Phil Black to attend the November 23 ACTIC meeting. According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, Rohme had been the chief ACTIC point of contact between ALEC personnel in the months leading up to the 2011 SNPS. Such ALEC-related personnel Rohme had shared ACTIC resources/information with included Bayer Healthcare Head of Security Mark Davis. Bayer Healthcare is a longtime ALEC private sector member and had served as co-chair of the ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force for several years, ending in 2011. At the time of the ALEC 2011 SNPS, Bayer Healthcare’s parent corporation, Bayer Corporation, served as “first vice chairman” of the ALEC Private Enterprise Board Executive Committee.
And, speaking to the private sector clout carried by ALEC in the world of “counter terrorism” public-private intelligence sharing partnerships, consider this: Arizona Public Service/Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (APS) served as a “chairman” level sponsor of the 2011 ALEC SNPS. The chairman of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership (DPP, an economic development corporation whose members are clearly active in ACTIC CLP) Board of Directors is APS/Pinnacle West President and CEO Donald Brandt. APS Enterprise Security Operations Director Bob Parrish served as longtime board member of Arizona Infragard at this time as well.
Furthermore, records obtained by DBA/CMD show that, in February of 2012, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Protective Security Advisor Christine Figueroa forwarded open source intelligence (derived from activist Facebook postings and the Occupy Phoenix events calendar) pertaining to planned February 29, 2012 protests of ALEC-member corporations (a nationwide effort launched by Occupy Portland, Oregon) to ACTIC personnel (including O’Neill) and other U.S. DHS personnel.
According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, the information distributed by Figueroa had been gathered by Salt River Project (SRP) Security Manager Jay Spradling. This Spradling advisory reiterated activist plans (as posted on the Occupy Phoenix events calendar) to “march from [Freeport-McMoran Center, worldwide headquarters of Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold, Inc.] to other ALEC corporations downtown. Send them a message that we won’t stand for the corporate takeover of our democracy any longer,” and to (as stated on the Occupy Phoenix Facebook page) hold a press conference for the purpose of “informing people about what ALEC is and why they are bad!” Records show that this information was then passed on, through PPDCRB Sgt. Schweikert, to Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold Manager of Corporate Security Thomas Tyo.
At the time of the F-29 protests SRP lobbyist Russell Smoldon served as the ALEC Arizona “private sector chair” (largely responsible for ALEC Arizona “scholarship fund” fundraising) and Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold served as a “director” level sponsor of the 2011 ALEC SNPS. Freeport-McMoran is also active in ACTIC CLP through its position on the Downtown Phoenix Partnership Board of Directors.
As indicated by records obtained by DBA/CMD, as well as accounts of activists interviewed, Saul’s participation in ALEC protest planning meetings ended on November 9, 2011. The PPDMOB undercover detective attended an ALEC protest planning meeting that evening, after which an immigrants’ rights activist approached Saul and confronted him about his life as a cop.
According to the activist (who spoke to DBA/CMD on condition of anonymity), she had worked as a barista at a Phoenix Starbucks some years prior. During her time as a barista, the woman and her co-workers had become accustomed to the habits of two police officers who would come into the cafe to order drinks every night, while the cafe was closing. Rather than leaving coffee machines on and uncleaned, the cafe workers would set drinks aside for these two officers. One of these officers, said the activist, was the man who currently represented himself as the homeless anarchist wannabe, “Saul DeLara.”
According to this activist, when confronted, Saul denied having ever seen her before and angrily denied being a cop. Nevertheless, word of Saul’s possible relationship with law enforcement spread quickly through the Phoenix activist community and, as indicated by records obtained by DBA/CMD, details of this November 9 meeting were the last to be gathered by Saul and relayed through Van Dorn to PPDHDB/ACTIC personnel.
PPD Public Information Officer Trent Crump declined to confirm whether PPDMOB undercover detective Saul Ayala was in fact the man who presented himself to Phoenix activists as “Saul DeLara,” or to discuss any specifics of PPD undercover officer activity related to Occupy Phoenix or other Phoenix activist groups. However, Crump did state that it is a “regular practice” of PPD to employ “plainclothes or undercover” officers in the gathering of intelligence related to activist activity that may include “civil disobedience.”
When asked what suspicion of criminal activity PPD used to predicate such intelligence gathering conducted by undercover officers, Crump stated:
“I don’t even think that one has to say that we have to anticipate that there’s going to be criminal activity for us to gather intelligence — public safety is one of our job responsibilities. So, when we know they’re going to have, very possibly, some civil unrest, or we know we may have large groups of people organizing to rally under a protest — or whatever you want to call it — we gather intelligence on this, absolutely.”
Brenda the “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Facebook Queen
According to records obtained by DBA/CMD from the Arizona Department of Homeland Security (AZDOHS, the state agency that essentially acts as a bursar for U.S. DHS Arizona grant awards), PPD was awarded $1,016,897 in U.S. DHS State Homeland Security Grant Program funding in September of 2010 for the PPD “ACTIC Intelligence Analyst Project.” According to these AZDOHS records, these funds were intended to fill positions for both a PPD “ACTIC Intelligence Analyst” and “IT Planner.” Records obtained by DBA/CMD indicate that these project funds have been used, in part, to hire and pay the more than $71,000 compensation (this figure includes salary and benefits) of PPDHDB/ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Brenda Dowhan.
According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, Dowhan’s primary role at ACTIC over the course of 2011 (according to records, Dowhan appears to have been hired in July of 2011) and 2012 appears to have been the monitoring of social media activity associated with individuals involved in Occupy Phoenix — as well as to create bulletins for distribution to both ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison Officers” and other “fusion center” personnel nationwide, detailing trends in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, in order to facilitate Dowhan’s work PPD personnel regularly fed the “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” logs containing the names, addresses, social security numbers, driver’s license/state identification numbers, and physical descriptions of citizens arrested, issued citations — or even given “warnings” by police — in connection with Occupy Phoenix. The vast majority of these citizens who had been arrested, or had other interactions with PPD, were cited/warned for alleged violations of the city’s “urban camping” ordinance.
Records indicate that Dowhan took her job very seriously. Records obtained by DBA/CMD show that when, in December of 2011, two members of Occupy Phoenix posted plans to travel to Flagstaff for Christmas, Dowhan alerted ACTIC Terrorism Liaison Officers in the Flagstaff area to their impending arrival.
And, records show that, in November, 2011, when Dowhan first became concerned that those she surveilled within the Phoenix activist community may eventually detect her presence online, she asked her PPDHDB superiors if they could discuss the possibility of her using a “clean computer,” possibly one with an “anonymizer,” in the future. This appears to have been a reference to a computer utility product, made by Anonymizer, Inc., that allows users to visit websites anonymously.
In fact, Dowhan was so dedicated to her job of monitoring the Facebook posts (and other social media/blogs) of members of Occupy Phoenix that, when, on December 16, 2011, FBI agent Alan McHugh contacted ACTIC/Arizona Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) personnel (including FBI Phoenix JTTF Special Agent Marcus Williams and U.S. DHS Intelligence Analyst Anthony Frangipane) to advise them of a planned December 17 Occupy Phoenix protest to be held outside the Phoenix office of U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA 2012), ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Dowhan giddily responded:
“Good Morning Alan [sic] [paragraph break] Tracking the activities of Occupy Phoenix is one of my daily responsibilities. My primary role is to look at the social media, websites, and blogs. I just wanted to put it out there so that if you would like me to share with you or you have something to share, we can collaborate [sic].”
Dowhan went on to state that ACTIC/PPDHDB was also concerned about the NDAA 2012 protest (dubbed by Occupy Phoenix the “No Indefinite Detention Rally”) as well as other Occupy Phoenix events planned for coming days. In closing, Dowhan stated that she would continue to “monitor online activities to get an idea of what kind of participation we can expect.”
This glimpse into the day-to-day working life of those in the “counter terrorism” world is, of course, hilariously ironic, since citizens protesting NDAA 2012 were protesting provisions of the law that would allow for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens who are even suspected of aiding, committing, or plotting acts of terrorism, “hostilities,” or any other “belligerent acts” against the nation.
However, perhaps a much less humorous side of this reality is illustrated in an October, 2011 advisory sent out to “fusion center”/”counter terrorism” personnel nationwide by Transportation Security Administration (TSA, a component of U.S. DHS) Office of Intelligence Field Intelligence Officer Larry Tortorich. In this advisory, focused on a planned October 6 Occupy New Orleans march, Tortorich opined: “the potential always exists for extremists to exploit or redirect events such as this or use the event to escalate or trigger their own agendas. […] Jihadists recently discussed how they can benefit from the Occupy Wall Street protests that have been ongoing in New York City, and suggested ‘that their continuation will make the enemy lose focus on the wars abroad.'” [It is not known what “Jihadists” Tortorich referenced.]
It is also worth noting that, according to records obtained by DBA/CMD, when President Barack Obama visited the Phoenix area in January of 2012, ACTIC personnel monitored associated NDAA 2012 protests. Furthermore records indicate that the U.S. Capitol Police Office of Intelligence Analysis (working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) had monitored Arizona protest activity aimed at NDAA 2012 in February of 2012.
In any event, let’s get back to Dowhan. While records obtained by DBA/CMD do show that Dowhan spent tremendous amounts of time trolling the Facebook pages of citizens engaged in Occupy Phoenix, as well as other Occupy Wall Street and activist groups, during 2011 and 2012, the mere culling of “open source intelligence” was not the extent of Dowhan’s U.S. Department of Homeland Security-funded activities.
Records obtained by DBA/CMD show multiple instances in which Dowhan attempted to identify citizens believed to be active in the Occupy Phoenix/Occupy Wall Street movement (though not believed to have committed any crime — other than an allegation of marijuana use, as discussed below) through the use of biometric data analysis applied to photos found on Facebook.
One example of the use of this facial recognition technology is as follows:
On November 18, 2011, ACTIC received information pertaining to an individual reported to be involved with Occupy Phoenix. This information came in the form of an anonymous tip submitted to ACTIC personnel through the Silent Witness “web tip” program (a service provided to ACTIC personnel by The Silent Witness, Inc., a private non profit corporation).
The anonymous tip stated:
“Met an Occupy nut online, she says she’s from your area […] She appears to be involved with some sort of violent organization. Has expressed intent to ‘take down the local power structure,’ desire to be killed in violent resistance as a martyr: ‘GOOD KILL US. That will really make people mad!'”
The anonymous “tipster” (records identified the source of this information as being “Web Tipster,” and Dowhan subsequently referred to the informant as “the tipster”) then went on to state that the “Occupy nut” “[had] indicated knowledge of specific plans for violent revolt, knowledge of bomb-related activities. When pressed further was reticent, claimed she did not want to give more details on the plans due to ‘outstanding warrants and paranoia’. [sic]”
In closing, the “tipster” wrote:
“Additionally, since I’m aware no crime has technically been committed there (apart for whatever the warrants are for), I’ve got an actual crime for you as well: illegal possession/use of marijuana, I’ve seen her smoking it on camera. I will attempt to get a picture in the future. [Paragraph break] I’m well aware that the threat of violence sounds like someone yanking my chain, and it quite possibly is, but she sounds serious about this and I feel it’s better to falsely report than to not report an actual threat.”
The anonymous “tipster” then went on to identify the “Occupy nut” as being a 20-year-old female known as “Amber.” The tipster stated that the young woman was unemployed and living with her twin sister and father. The tipster also provided ACTIC personnel with a photograph of what appears to be a teen-aged girl wearing eye glasses seated in front of a computer (the photo appears to have been taken by a monitor-mounted camera).
ACTIC PPDHD “Terrorism Liason All-Hazards Analyst” Dowhan immediately followed up on this tip on November 18, 2011, by distributing information contained in the anonymous tip to PPDHDB personnel.
In a December 23 email from Dowhan to PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Christopher “CJ” Wren, PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Rohme and PPDHDB Det. Robert Bolvin, Dowhan stated that she had attempted to identify “Amber” through the use of facial recognition technology, but that the attempt had failed.
“We have a Facebook photo and tried to do facial recognition, but she was wearing glasses,” wrote Dowhan in the December 23 email.
The facial recognition resources that Dowhan utilized in her efforts to identify individuals believed to be associated with Occupy Wall Street groups are provided through the ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit, a unit housed within ACTIC and operated by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).
According to records obtained from the Arizona Department of Homeland Security by DBA/CMD, the ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit has the ability to match biometric data contained in photographs — such as those found on Facebook — with biometric data contained in roughly 18 million Arizona Driver’s License photos, 4.7 million Arizona county/municipal jail “booking” photos, 12,000 photos contained in the “Arizona Sex Offender Database,” and 2 million photos available through the Federal Joint Automated Booking System.
The ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit, according to these AZDOHS records, also has the ability to utilize “portable units” during “special events.” And, according to AZDOHS records, MCSO has requested additional U.S. DHS funding in order to purchase additional “facial recognition video capture” technologies.
The ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit currently utilizes technology and services purchased from Hummingbird Defense Systems, Inc. (HDSI, a Nevada corporation allegedly headquartered in Phoenix, but which has had its status as an active corporation revoked in both Nevada and Arizona since at least 2008). HDSI purports to have partnered with Detaq Solutions in 2002 in the development of a biometric surveillance system for the Beijing Public Security Bureau. Part of this system, according to HDSI, was a “centralized biometric database […] that was deployed to help secure Tiananmen Square.” As such, HDSI boasts that this system “was awarded ‘National Technology Treasure’ status by the Ministry of Public Security of China.”
Tiananmen Square was, of course, the site of the massacre of hundreds of peaceful Chinese student protestors by People’s Republic of China armed forces on June 4, 1989. The students, demanding government reform, had occupied the square for weeks prior to the massacre. The site, and the “June 4 Massacre,” have remained significant rallying points to government reform activists in China.
All Actors in Play: the Facebook Queen, the Creepy Guy, Public-Private Partnerships, and Paid Cops
Occupy Phoenix was not a large operation. Despite a relatively large turnout during the group’s inaugural march on October 15, 2011 (which peaked at about 1,000 participants), the Occupy Phoenix encampment in Cesar Chavez Plaza typically saw fewer than 50 “occupiers.” So, given the galvanizing force offered in opposition to ALEC throughout the spectrum of the Phoenix activist community, protests of the 2011 ALEC SNPS were, by far, the most well-attended Occupy Phoenix protest events to take place during 2011 or 2012, aside from the initial October 15, 2011 march.
The largest of these protests was held on the morning of the first full day of the conference, November 30, outside the Westin Kierland’s east gate. Protestors, numbering in the hundreds, marched to the gate as ALEC member lawmakers, lobbyists, corporate executives, and right-wing ‘think tank’ luminaries were ushered into the resort through security check points. Arizona Governor Brewer was to be the keynote speaker at the day’s ALEC luncheon, held in one of the Kierland’s many grand dining rooms.
At about 9:40 a.m., an incident took place between protestors and riot gear-clad PPD “mobile field force” officers who had established a “tactical response unit” (TRU) outside the Kierland’s eastern gate. All told, five protestors were arrested on charges of trespassing and “crossing a police line” during this incident.
Following the arrests, PPD officials told local media that officers had been attacked by wild-eyed “anarchists” brandishing “nail filled sticks” and that these “anarchists” had attempted to overthrow police barricades with metal poles. These attacks, according to PPD officials parroted in media accounts, had “forced” officers to deploy amounts of oleoresin capsicum (“OC”) spray into the crowd and make the five arrests.
Interestingly, this PPD version of events, wherein officers were provoked by violent “anarchists” with “nail filled sticks,” seems to have little semblance to reality.
The following version of events that took place outside the east gate of the Westin Kierland, at approximately 9:40 a.m., November 30, 2011, is based on video evidence that resulted in the dismissal of charges against one of the activists arrested, as well as photographs and police records obtained from PPDHDB/PPD by DBA/CMD:
At approximately 9:40 a.m., several PPD officers (many of whom did not wear any identification, in violation of departmental policy), deployed as part of a TRU, were met by a group of protestors who had marched to the eastern entrance of the resort and stopped approximately 50 feet from a barrier line established by TRU officers. Protestors at the front of the group held a large banner. Behind these protestors were a number of other protestors. Some of these other protestors held signs, and some played marching band music on musical instruments. The crowd of protestors, contrary to PPD accounts, was not composed entirely, or mostly, of “anarchists.” Present at this protest were members of Occupy Phoenix, members of several immigrants’ rights groups, members of indigenous rights groups, members of faith-based groups, concerned citizens, as well as a small group of individuals who described themselves as being “anarchists.”
The protest group having stopped well outside the established police barricade line, four protestors moved to the front of the large banner at the head of the procession and sat passively on the ground — remaining several (approximately 30 to 40) feet from the police barricades.
Shortly after these four protestors had seated themselves, several TRU officers picked up a metal barricade, carried it over to where the protestors sat, and pushed the barricade down on top of them, as if to crush the protestors. At this point, another protestor, Ezra Kaplan, a member of the Occupy Phoenix media group, walked over to where the police were pushing the barricade down on protestors and started taking pictures with his camera. The TRU officers then lifted the metal barricade over the seated protestors and shoved it directly into the banner, pinning the cameraman between the police line and the banner. Protestors then began to shout: “we’re non-violent,” at which point the four seated protestors and Kaplan were grabbed by officers, rushed onto resort property and arrested on charges of “crossing a police line” and trespassing. At this point, TRU officer PPD Violent Crimes Bureau Gang Enforcement Unit Detective Gregory Liebertz, reached into the crowd, grabbed the banner and began spraying protestors with OC spray. This officer was joined by several other officers in pulling, tearing, and eventually stomping the banner. Simultaneously, several other officers also deployed OC spray on the protestors. With the onset of this police aggression, the protestors temporarily disbanded and retreated.
At no point does this video footage show any sign of crazed “anarchists” (or any other protestor) swinging “nail filled sticks” at officers, or of “anarchists” (or other protestors) attempting to overturn police barricades.
In reality, the TRU/”mobile field force” officers had been working under the command of PPD Sgt. Eric Harkins. According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, at the time of this incident Harkins was actually off-duty, earning $35 per hour as a private security guard employed by ALEC, under the direction of Westin Kierland Director of Security Phil Black. Records show that, by the time SNPS ended, Harkins had earned $630 for security services rendered to ALEC and Westin Kierland during November 30 and December 1.
Harkins wasn’t alone in this paid service to ALEC/Westin Kierland. Records indicate that ALEC/Westin Kierland had hired 49 active duty and 9 retired PPD officers to act as private security during the conference. All told, ALEC/Westin Kierland paid out a total of $36,015 in “off-duty” pay to these officers.
[Note: records obtained by DBA/CMD relating to this off-duty job detail clearly state that the “client company” for this event was ALEC. As previously discussed, other records obtained by DBA/CMD show that Westin Kierland Director of Security Black, clearly working for the benefit of ALEC, had coordinated closely with both ALEC personnel and PPDHDB/ACTIC personnel in preparation for this event.]
It is not known how many of these off-duty PPD officers working as private security for the ALEC conference were involved in the TRU/”mobile field force” incident at the Westin Kierland east gate, but it is known that Harkins and another off-duty officer working as private ALEC/Kierland security, Eric Carpenter (paid a total of $630 by ALEC/Kierland for services rendered), personally arrested the Occupy Phoenix photographer, Ezra Kaplan. Furthermore, Officer Carpenter’s report of the incident (actually filed as the joint report of both Harkins and Carpenter) explicitly states that Sgt. Harkins had “advised nearby officers to place [the four seated protestors] under arrest.”
As further stated in the Harkins/Carpenter report, off-duty officers had attended a briefing prior to the protests at which they were told, by PPD Off-Duty Job Coordinator Officer Tim Moore (who was paid $2,065 by ALEC/Kierland for services rendered under the direction of Black during the conference. Moore had also attended several meetings of both ACTIC and ALEC personnel regarding the planned protests, some of which were also apparently attended by PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Van Dorn and PPDMOB undercover detective Saul Ayala) that “no protestors were wanted on resort property and that the resort would want prosecution.” And, indeed, the five protestors arrested at the Kierland’s east gate were prosecuted — based, in part, on demonstrably false claims made by these off-duty police officers.
As for the presence of “mobile field force”/TRU officers at the gates of the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa during the ALEC SNPS, records obtained by DBA/CMD show that Black, citing an “article” he had been given by personnel employed by ALEC, had discussed the possibility of deploying a “mobile field force” to the grounds of the resort during the conference with PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Rohme.
The article cited by Black as grounds for this “mobile field force” presence (“Occupy Wall Street Gets More Violent”) was written by Heritage Foundation Assistant Director of Strategic Communications Mike Brownfield, and had been published in a Heritage Foundation newsletter. Conspicuously absent from records obtained by DBA/CMD relating to the acquisition of a “mobile field force” apropos the Heritage Foundation “article,” is any disclosure on the part of ALEC personnel (or personnel working on behalf of ALEC, including Black) of the fact that Heritage is an ALEC member ‘think tank,’ co-founded by ALEC founder Paul Weyrich, and financed by many of the very same corporate interests that comprise ALEC “private sector” membership.
What’s more, according to records obtained by DBA/CMD, off-duty officers employed as private security for ALEC/Kierland had been given “face sheets,” generated by PPDHDB, containing the photographs (mostly driver’s license photos) of 24 Phoenix and Tucson-area activists listed as “persons of interest to the ALEC conference.” Such activists listed on the ALEC “face sheet” included members of Occupy Phoenix, anarchists, prison reform activists, members of Phoenix Cop Watch (a watchdog group that seeks to police unscrupulous or illegal actions of local law enforcement) and others.
While the exact purpose of the ALEC “face sheet” is unknown, since none of the activists listed on the sheet (with the exception of one activist who had been arrested prior to the ALEC event) were wanted in relation to any alleged crime at the time of the ALEC conference. For his part, PPD Public Information Officer Crump declined to answer any questions relating to the ALEC “face sheet.” Nevertheless, a November 17 email sent from ACTIC/PPDHDB “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Dowhan to ACTIC/DPS Intelligence Bureau Analyst Annette Roberts may provide some insight to PPDHDB/ACTIC motives [Note: DPS Northern Intelligence District Commander, Captain Steve Harrison, did not respond to requests seeking information pertaining to Roberts’ position within DPS. Records do, however, suggest that Roberts is most likely a DPS Intelligence Bureau analyst]:
“The ACTIC has identified groups that intend ‘Shut ALEC Down.’ While some may merely protest the event, such as Anti-SB1070 and the Occupy Phoenix movement, anarchist groups have shown a determination to disrupt and shut down the event with the use of violent tactics experienced by other states hosting these meetings. The Phoenix Police Department is taking the lead to identify and intercept persons they believe to pose a threat to the event or attendees.”
It should be noted that, regardless of Dowhan’s assertions, previous ALEC conferences were not — by any stretch of the imagination — subject to any “violent tactics” perpetrated by “anarchists” (or any other individuals). Indeed, the sole arrest to have occurred at any ALEC conference protest prior to the Scottsdale ALEC SNPS took place in New Orleans in August of 2011, during the ALEC Annual Meeting held at the Marriott New Orleans French Quarter Hotel. According to New Orleans Police Department records, on August 5 an officer (who was off-duty, working as private security for the ALEC conference) arrested a male subject for allegedly spray painting an “unknown symbol resembling the letter ‘A’ with a circle around it (in red color)” on Marriott property.
Nevertheless, this much, regarding the application of the ALEC “face sheet,” is known: during the ALEC protest on the morning of November 30, 2011, Jason Odhner, a Quaker street medic working with the Phoenix Urban Health Collective, was handcuffed by a police officer, who was likely off-duty and working as private security for ALEC/Kierland, while walking across a slim portion of the the Kierland golf course and detained in the back of a police vehicle for more than an hour (though he was not charged with any crime). At the time of Odhner’s false arrest, he had been seeking treatment for a protestor who was suffering from heat-related symptoms. Not surprisingly, Ohdner’s name and driver’s license photo were present on the ALEC “persons of interest” “face sheet.”
According to both a copy of the ALEC “face sheet” and other records obtained by DBA/CMD, officers equipped with this “face sheet” were instructed — by none other than the sheet’s creator, ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Brenda Dowhan — to destroy all copies of the “face sheet” after the ALEC event. And, as most — if not all — of the activists pictured on the ALEC “face sheet” had either known, been Facebook friends with, or been at ALEC protest planning meetings attended by, the “creepy guy” calling himself “Saul DeLara,” it is clear that intelligence provided to Dowhan in the creation of this “face sheet” likely had its origins, at least in part, with the PPDMOB undercover detective who had infiltrated the Phoenix activist community.
Beau Hodai is a freelance journalist and publisher of DBA Press, an online news publication and source materials archive. He can be reached at email@example.com
By Beau Hodai / PR Watch May 22, 2013
Find this story at 22 May 2013