Federal Reserve, FBI spied on Occupy Wall Street movement, documents show

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
Font Size:

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond worked with the FBI to closely monitor the protest activities of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, according to recently released FBI documents.

The documents — obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the progressive Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) — reveal that the FBI coordinated at length with local law enforcement, private financial institutions and other government agencies in their monitoring efforts of the Occupy movement’s activities.

For example, the Federal Reserve of Richmond — headquartered in Richmond, Va. — instructed its personnel to monitor Occupy planning sessions, and reported to the local FBI office about their findings on a number of occasions.

One of the FBI documents — published to PCJF’s site on Dec. 22, 2012 and dated Oct. 4, 2011 — says that the “Assistant Vice President [of the] Law Enforcement Unit of the Federal Reserve Law Enforcement Unit [was contacted] to pass on information regarding the movement known as Occupy Wall Street.”

“This movement has been known to be peaceful, but demonstrations across the United States show that other groups have joined in, such as Day of Rage and the October 2011 Movement,” the document reads.

The Federal Reserve System has its own commissioned law enforcement arm, the Federal Reserve Police, which is allowed to operate in uniform or plainclothes.

The FBI’s continued contact with the Federal Reserve “on October 05, 07, 14 and 15 to pass on updates of the events and decisions made during the small rallies and the following information received from the Capitol Police Intelligence Unit through JTTF, I,” the document reads.

JTTF is the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a partnership between the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies.

The Richmond bank is the third largest of the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks — behind New York and Atlanta — in terms of assets held. It is the headquarters of the Fifth District of the Federal Reserve, covering the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and most of West Virginia.

Jim Strader, spokesman for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, told The Daily Caller that the occupiers were camped at a city-owned plaza across the street from the bank, and said that it is common for its law enforcement unit to talk with other law enforcement about city events near the bank.

“It’s really just kind of a standard operating procedure for law enforcement to talk about what’s going on in town,” he said.

“There is a folk festival here every fall, and it is held on the hillside next to where we are, and it affects traffic,” said Strader.

“We’re on the James River, and there’s a rubber duck race every year, and so when that’s being held and they talk about events that are potentially going to impact people getting in and out of the building,” he said.

“I think that we had some political rallies that were at like five o’clock in the afternoon, so if there’s going to be a big crowd across the street, you talk about how you’re going to get people out of our building so that they can go home,” said Strader.

The FBI disclosure also contradicts a previous denial made by the agency in November 2011 to about possessing such documents.

The documents reveal that the agency had been monitoring the Occupy movement as early as August 2011, considering it a potential criminal and terrorist threat.

“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material,” stated Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF.

Benno said that PCJF was filing an appeal to demand full disclosure of the agency’s Occupy operation.

The FBI also disseminated information about Occupy to campus officials in Syracuse, Albany and Oswego, N.Y.

“A representative of the State University of New York at Oswego contacted the FBI for information on the OWS protests and reported to the FBI on the SUNY-Oswego Occupy encampment made up of students and professors,” said the PCJF.

In May 2012, DHS released 335 pages of documents that revealed widespread monitoring of Occupy by the federal government, coordinated through local DHS fusion centers.

The fusion centers — which coordinate intelligence gathered between federal, state and local law enforcement — were heavily criticized as a failure in a Senate report last year.

Members of the movement were not unaware of the FBI’s watchful eye, however, and were often suspicious of newcomers to the group.

Representatives from Occupy Wall Street did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

Follow Josh on Twitter