Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech... or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. -- 1st AmendmentBut just because the Bill of Rights says you can air your grievances, it doesn't mean the government has to just sit there and take it. With a treasure trove of FBI documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, has exposed the extent to which the FBI and law enforcement agencies around the country spied on the Occupy! movement.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security treated the Occupy protesters as domestic terrorists as they mobilized agents for the benefit of big banks and Wall Street. The FBI was particularly concerned about protests on the West Coast that targeted major ports.
Those concerns manifested themselves in Texas where members of an Austin Police Department task force infiltrated the Occupy Austin group and helped produce the so-called "sleeping dragons" used by protesters at the Port of Houston to prevent trucks from entering the port.
Documents obtained from the Austin Police Department paint a picture of a handful of officers who not only kept on eye on protesters but who became actively involved in the planning and carrying out of actions.
The question arises as to just why the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement agencies were so interested in the Occupy movement. These documents also raise questions as to what role the government should be playing in domestic surveillance operations.
Supposedly the role of of law enforcement is to serve the local community in making the community safe for its residents. These officers, after all, are employees of the local community and answer, in theory, to the members of the community.
In this case the federal government was busy handing out grants for local communities to create what have been referred to as "fusion centers" where members of various law enforcement agencies could get together and share intelligence on protesters.
Keep in mind that these protesters were upset about the growing gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us in this country. These young men and women were standing up and publicizing the fact that the financial crisis was caused by the major banks and Wall Street and that the primary "victims" were ordinary workers and homeowners. The Occupy movement was all about highlighting the fact that our government was busy handing out money hand over fist to the very folks who caused the problem while ignoring the plight of the ordinary folks caught in the middle.
But god only knows we can't have that debate in this country. We can spend all the time in the world arguing about abortion or whether President Obama has a valid birth certificate. But it's off limits to discuss the shortcomings of capitalism or alternative economic systems.
The same President Obama who was happy to let the world know he was a community organizer back in Chicago authorized the surveillance and infiltration of the Occupy movement.
And what does such an operation tell us about our government's priorities? Millions of people are unemployed - some for years - and others have lost their homes, yet we're going to spend our money on a massive domestic spying operation for the benefit of corporate America.
The Occupy protesters gathered to petition the government regarding their grievances. Their government responded by spying on them and sending in agent provocateurs to incite criminal activity that likely would never have happened otherwise.