Posted 6 months ago on April 2, 2014, 7:07 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Homeland Security Study Praises Occupy Sandy, With Murky Intentions
Wednesday, 02 April 2014 10:20
By Thomas Hintze, Truthout | News Analysis
A new study titled "The Resilient Social Network" praises Occupy Sandy, the fluid, grass-roots relief network that emerged following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. The report offers comprehensive analysis of Occupy Sandy's "Success Drivers" and juxtaposes its findings with the "Limitations of Traditional Relief Efforts," characterizing the work of conventional responders like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and The Red Cross, and providing recommendations for the way these organizations can improve their efforts in the future. Sounds great, right?
There's just one problem: the study was conducted for the Department of Homeland Security.
The late journalist Michael Hastings covered the involvement of Homeland Security in monitoring Occupy Wall Street, a Rolling Stone story that he broke in conjunction with Wikileaks in February 2012. One document Hastings obtained, a seemingly harmless five-page report called "Special Coverage: Occupy Wall Street," led him, presciently, to conclude the following:
"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. ... 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."
By the end of 2012, The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund had obtained documents that broke the story of the crackdown on OWS wide open, tracing the steps Hastings described from surveillance to action. Homeland Security, along with the FBI, local and state police, regional fusion centers, and private-security firms working for big banks and industry were collaborating in a public/private security structure called the Domestic Security Alliance Council to stifle dissent and shut down OWS.
So when some OWS and Occupy Sandy organizers got wind of the recent report, the feeling was mixed: affirmation peppered with educated misgivings. Michael Premo, a longtime activist and executive producer of Sandy Storyline, a participatory documentary about the impact of Superstorm Sandy, was one of the main organizers I followed for a story in the immediate wake of the storm. When I spoke with him recently about the new report, he invoked historical examples of repression - COINTELPRO, the Green Scare, the coordinated crackdown on OWS - to map out the possible actions that the government could take against political groups. Yet, he believed that the report on Occupy Sandy might be a chance for activists to pat themselves on the back.
"This is an acknowledgement of why [Homeland Security was] so paranoid about Occupy Wall Street in the first place," Premo said. "The federal government understands how powerful autonomously organized networks can be."