The DHS surveillance of OccupyWallStreet
New documents obtained by WikiLeaks indicate that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) routinely monitored OccupyWallStreet (OWS) activities and protests as they spread across more than 70 cities.
According to documents cited by Rolling Stone, DHS officials "scoured" OWS-related Twitter feeds, blogs entries and Facebook posts to keep tabs on the growing movement.
"Social media and the organic emergence of online communities have driven the rapid expansion of the OWS movement," explained an internal DHS report titled SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street.
"Mass gatherings associated with public protest movements can have disruptive effects on transportation, commercial, and government services, especially when staged in major metropolitan areas... Large scale demonstrations also carry the potential for violence, presenting a significant challenge for law enforcement."
The five-page report also attempted to summarize the rather brief history of OWS, while assessing its impact - primarily via open source material - on everything from financial services to government facilities.
However, as Rolling Stone's Michael Hasting's notes, the most ominous part of the report can be found in its final paragraph, with the DHS warning of potential violence and danger to critical infrastructure due to the participation of Anonymous and other unnamed groups.
"It's never a good thing to see a government agency talk in secret about the need to 'control protestors' – especially when that agency is charged with protecting the homeland against terrorists, not nonviolent demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceable dissent," Hastings opined.
"There have been reports that DHS played an active role in coordinating the nationwide crackdown on the Occupy movement last November – putting the federal government in the position of targeting its own citizens in the name of national security. There is not much of a bureaucratic leap, if history is any guide, between a seemingly benign call for 'continuous situational awareness' and the onset of a covert and illegal campaign of domestic surveillance."