On Twitter yesterday, various Occupy Wall Street participants started buzzing as Wojciech Braszczok appeared in court for his role in assaulting Alexian Lien. They realized Braszczok had infiltrated Occupy Wall Street over the course of several years.
Gothamist has all the details of Braszczok’s undercover presence at Occupy, including the possibility that he worked events outside of NYC, which would be sure to piss of those other jurisdictions.
But I’m particularly appalled that he continued to track the group during Occupy Sandy.
Braszczok’s surveillance apparently extended beyond political demonstrations to the hurricane recovery work of Occupy Sandy. In November, the detective tweeted about an Occupy Sandy meeting in the Financial District. Participants remember him as a regular presence at Occupy Sandy’s operations as well.
“He was at 520 Clinton and Sunset Park,” an occupier named Casper recalls, referring to Occupy Sandy’s two main distribution hubs. “I saw him there a lot.”
Rather than helping Sandy victims, the NYPD was surveilling those who were.
But don’t worry. NYPD hasn’t gone overboard or anything.
This story — about how Occupy Wall Street protestor Michael Premo beat an assaulting an officer charge when his lawyers found video evidence to disprove the NYPD’s claims — might make you believe in justice.
Except for this. Premo’s lawyers first went to the cops for video, knowing they had tons of officers deployed with cameras during the protests. They found the cop who had relevant video. And … he apparently lied in court about whether he had that video.
Prosecutors told them that police TARU units, who filmed virtually every moment of Occupy street protests, didn’t have any footage of the entire incident. But [Premo's lawyer Meghan] Maurus knew from video evidence she had received while representing another defendant arrested that day that there was at least one TARU officer with relevant footage. Reviewing video shot by a citizen-journalist livestreamer during Premo’s arrest, she learned that a Democracy Nowcameraman was right in the middle of the fray, and when she tracked him down, he showed her a video that so perfectly suited her needs it brought a tear to her eye.
For one thing, the video prominently shows a TARU cop named Bosco, holding up his camera, which is on, and pointing at the action around the kettle. When Premo’s lawyers subpoenaed Bosco, they were told he was on a secret mission at “an undisclosed location,” and couldn’t respond to the subpoena. Judge Robert Mandelbaum didn’t accept that, and Bosco ultimately had to testify [Correction: Bosco didn't take the stand; he had to appear at the District Attorney's office for a meeting with Maurus and prosecutors. Judge Mandelbaum accepted that Bosco would likely say on the stand what he said in the meeting, and didn't require him to testify.] Bosco claimed, straining credibility, that though the camera is clearly on and he can be seen in the video pointing it as though to frame a shot, he didn’t actually shoot any video that evening.
Bosco almost certainly lied. The NYPD clearly lied, repeatedly.
And yet there’s no hint they’ll be charged with obstructing justice.
While you’re reflecting on that, remember what the cops were doing (funded, in part, by JP Morgan Chase $4.6 million donation to the NYPD Foundation). They were making sure that a bunch of hippies could not continue to engage in a highly visible challenge to bank power, and certainly not in the banks’ turf around Wall Street.
Sure, OWS did not present as significant a financial threat as preventing banks from foreclosing on homes they did not hold the proper paperwork on — the threat that robosigners lied under oath to combat. But they did present an ideological threat to the banks.
And here we are, again finding people — cops! — lying in court to protect the banks. And here we are, once again, finding those liars go unpunished.
The documents and the FBI’s defense of them exposes several long term claims by the FBI to be false. First, that their domestic mapping program, the Domain Management Program, is not inappropriate surveillance directed at domestic politics.
An October 2011 memo from the bureau’s Jacksonville, Fla., field office was titled Domain Program Management Domestic Terrorist.
The memo said agents discussed “past and upcoming meetings” of the movement, and its spread. It said agents should contact Occupy Wall Street activists to ascertain whether people who attended their events had “violent tendencies.”
Domain Management also gets directed at Muslims and Latinos in the name of preparing to investigate terrorism and drugs. If it weren’t already clear this is about domestic spying, the inclusion of Occupy should now make that clear.
Then there’s FBI’s claim that it can’t investigate solely on the basis of speech or religion.
“The F.B.I. recognizes the rights of individuals and groups to engage in constitutionally protected activity,” said the spokesman, Paul Bresson. “While the F.B.I. is obligated to thoroughly investigate any serious allegations involving threats of violence, we do not open investigations based solely on First Amendment activity. In fact, the Department of Justice and the F.B.I.’s own internal guidelines on domestic operations strictly forbid that.”
Bresson overstates this, of course. The Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide prohibits opening an investigation solely on the basis of First Amendment activity. But it permits using such activity as part of the predicate for an investigation.
Which is why I find the FBI’s redactions so interesting.
Even the first pages of the actual documents show how FBI repeatedly acknowledged that Occupy “does not openly condone the use of violence.” But then it notes that Occupy trained for civil disobedience and its response, and from that the FBI concludes “that violence and/or illegal activity is expected by event organizers.” The FBI ascribes the violence that organizers correctly expected from cops to the organizers themselves, and used the intent to engage in civil disobedience as the means to use First Amendment activity as a predicate for investigation.
More interesting, on page 2, the FBI claims that Occupy’s website, “suggested that protestors bring ‘billy clubs and taser guns.’”
Well, that doesn’t sound like the Occupy I know (not to mention most Occupy adherents would have a tough time getting a taser gun). Luckily, the FBI included handy-dandy endnotes to show from what public sources (here, Occupy’s own website) they drew these observations.
But FBI redacted all these endnotes as a b(7)(E) exemption, which allows FBI to hide techniques used in law enforcement investigations.
These are–at least according to the claims in the document–public websites (and would have to be to be permissible under preliminary investigation rules). And yet, the FBI refuses to tell us on which public websites these claimed suggestions were made.
Probably, because that would show that FBI is using the timeworn “investigation techniques” of “drawing illogical conclusions from public claims” and “just making shit up” to invent the reason to use First Amendment activities as the predicate for an investigation.
Specifically, Justin Elliott provided the definitive debunking of Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly’s repeated claims that their multimillion dollar Muslim profiling program has done anything to thwart the 14–or rather 3–terrorist attacks on NY since 9/11.
That wasn’t the end of the ass-handing, though. After Elliott’s piece, NYPD’s spokesperson Paul Browne started trolling Elliott’s comments, pretending the NYPD hadn’t repeatedly claimed to have stopped 14–or rather 3–terrorist attacks with their vast counterterrroism apparatus.
Elliott debunked that, too.
Mayor Mike, meanwhile, was backtracking–or perhaps forwardtracking–wildly, in another attempt to pretend the NYPD’s core terror myth wasn’t a carefully crafted myth.
And Ray Kelly? He hasn’t been seen to ask him about this ass-handing; maybe he was crying in a bar somewhere?
Meanwhile, last night, during the All Star Game, a new myth started.
Murder! DNA! Occupy Wall Street!
Starting with NBC, followed by a slew of other predominantly NY outlets, the press reported a flimsy story–sourced to law enforcement–claiming that DNA found on a chain left at an Occupy-related protest earlier this year matched DNA found at the site of a murder of a Pretty White Woman. Continue reading
The bridge on 82 in this picture is the bridge a bunch of purported “anarchists” have just been arrested for threatening to blow up.
You’ll note the idyllic parklands through which it travels You’ll note the presence of two bridges in the immediate vicinity (not to mention the major freeway bridges not far away), to which traffic could easily be diverted if an attack succeeded. You’ll notice the almost complete lack of traffic on the bridge, at least when Google took its satellite picture.
In short, it makes zero sense for anyone to want to target the bridge. It would have almost no visibility. It would do almost nothing to disrupt traffic.
It would be, at best, an expensive curiosity.
It makes a far more implausible target for terrorists than the one the alleged plotters originally considered: bank signs in downtown Cleveland. The signs would have visibility. They would strike at a logical anarchist target. It would create news.
As one of the plotters said, “The signs are the most important part because they need to make sure everyone knows the action was against corporate America and the financial system, not just some random acts.”
The bridge, on the other hand, has just two advantages. First, as the affidavit notes, the bridge “has support columns within the boundaries of the National Park” and also (being not that far from the PA border) occasionally has cars with out of state plates drive over it. Those things–in spite of this being a little-used bridge on a state road–make blowing the bridge up interstate commerce, something the FBI can pursue.
And, the bridge, unlike some signs, would require an explosive like C4 to bring down.
So well before you get to the parts where a paid informant was offering to find money to get the C4 that the plotters said would otherwise be too expensive, you really have to wonder what purpose this plot serves.
Besides to give the FBI something to point to on May Day to justify arresting peaceful protestors.
In conjunction with his speech at the Holocaust Museum yesterday and announcement of the Atrocities Prevention Board, President Obama also rolled out sanctions against those who use IT to repress human rights. The Treasury Department named the sanctions GRAHVITY (I think they get it from “GRAve Human rights abuses Via Information TechnologY” or some such Orwellian acronym).
There’s a problem with that. We are all subject to gravity.
But only Israel’s enemies–Iran and Syria–are subject to GRAHVITY.
This exclusive application was set up in yesterday’s speech when Elie Wiesel suggested the point of remembering the Holocaust was to guarantee the strength of Israel and ensure its enemies–in this case, Syria and Iran–are removed from office (and deprived of the same weapons Israel stockpiles against them).
Have you learned anything from it? If so, how is it that Assad is still in power? How is it that the Holocaust Number 1 denier, Ahmadinejad, is still a President, he who threatens to use nuclear weapons–to use nuclear weapons–to destroy the Jewish state?
Now, I hope you understand, in this place [the Museum], why Israel is so important, not only to the Jew that I am and the Jewish people, but to the world. Israel cannot not remember. And because it remembers, it must be strong, just to defend its own survival and its own destiny.
Obama’s focus was broader. In his speech, he listed Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya (with no mention of the civilian casualties NATO caused), the Lords Resistance Army.
But Obama, too, focuses primarily on Syria.
In this speech, the sole reason to ensure internet freedom, according to Obama, is to bring about regime change in Syria.
And when innocents suffer, it tears at our conscience. Elie alluded to what we feel as we see the Syrian people subjected to unspeakable violence, simply for demanding their universal rights. And we have to do everything we can. And as we do, we have to remember that despite all the tanks and all the snipers, all the torture and brutality unleashed against them, the Syrian people still brave the streets. They still demand to be heard. They still seek their dignity. The Syrian people have not given up, which is why we cannot give up.
I started my morning reading with this AP Q&A on the significance of their series on the NYPD’s spying on Muslims. There are several things missing: why does the NYPD profile only businesses they believe to be owned by Muslims, and not the American chains at which recent immigrants also congregate? Why doesn’t the Q&A discuss how the NYPD-on-the-Hudson got close to, but missed the two most significant plots of recent years; what does that say about the efficacy of all this spying? And why doesn’t the Q&A discuss the many informants the NYPD has deployed?
That said, the AP does get to the core reason why the NYPD’s program abuses the First Amendment:
Bloomberg and his aides have not addressed, however, why police kept intelligence files on innocuous mosque sermons and plans for peaceful protests. They’ve not explained why police noted which restaurants served “devout” Muslims, why police maintained lists of Muslims who changed their names or why innocent people attending Friday prayer services were photographed and videotaped.
Those activities, many Muslims said, make them feel like they’re under scrutiny just because of their religion.
After reading that Q&A, I then read this NYT article, talking about how the NYPD’s intelligence division–the CIA-on-the-Hudson again–has preemptively arrested some Occupy Wall Street protestors before they engaged in protest.
On Nov. 17, Kira Moyer-Sims was near the Manhattan Bridge, buying coffee while three friends waited nearby in a car. More than a dozen blocks away, protesters gathered for an Occupy Wall Street “day of action,” which organizers had described as an attempt to block the streets around the New York Stock Exchange.
Then, Ms. Moyer-Sims said, about 30 police officers surrounded her and the people in the car.
All four were arrested, said Vik Pawar, a lawyer for Ms. Moyer-Sims and two of the others, and taken to a police facility in the East Village. He said officers strip-searched them and ignored their requests for a lawyer.
These are the same tactics–or worse–as used when the NYPD targeted Muslims planning a peaceful protest of cartoons deemed blasphemous. But most troubling is the last anecdote the NYT reports (which the NYT might have known to contextualize if they had been reporting on the NYPD spying on Muslims). In one case, they NYPD and the FBI are targeting an Occupy activist who, as someone who appears to have changed his name from his birth name, would have been targeted closely under the NYPD program. And they appear to be insinuating a tie with Islamic terrorism.
Mark Adams, a 32-year-old engineer from Virginia, said he was arrested in November at an Occupy Wall Street protest in Midtown and was questioned by a police detective and an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who asked about his involvement with Occupy Wall Street, requested his e-mail address and inquired whether he had ever been to Yemen or met anyone connected to Al Qaeda.
Mr. Adams, a naturalized United States citizen who was born in Pakistan, said he was arrested during another protest in January and questioned by intelligence division detectives. In that instance, he said, the detectives asked him about specific names and addresses, asked about his work history, education and family, and questioned him about a trip he had made to Ireland.
Mr. Adams said he was disturbed that anyone would consider him a threat because of his ethnicity or political views. “It’s scary,” he said. [my emphasis]
As the AP reported last October, the NYPD conducts extensive checks and keeps records on those within the city who change their names from Arabic or Muslim-sounding names to something Americanized.
The NYPD monitors everyone in the city who changes his or her name, according to internal police documents and interviews. For those whose names sound Arabic or might be from Muslim countries, police run comprehensive background checks that include reviewing travel records, criminal histories, business licenses and immigration documents. Continue reading
A bunch of leaders in NYC’s Muslim community have declined Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s invitation to an interfaith breakfast because of the racial profiling done by the NYPD’s intelligence division.
The move is interesting for the press it has generated–which in turn, has also (presumably, as designed) focused new attention on the racial profiling itself
It’s interesting, too, for the obnoxious editorial written in response from the NYDN. Along with lecturing these Muslim leaders about what invitations they should accept, the NYDN claims that the NYPD had done no more than map out census data.
The plain and salutary fact is that the NYPD’s counterterrorism unit has done no more than use census data to develop a portrait of Muslim New York and then follow leads, some sent the city’s way from abroad via the CIA, when they demanded investigation.
Many a plot has been disrupted by this type of perfectly proper nonintrusive vigiliance.
I find the claim that this all came from census data alarming, given that the NYPD has actually cased out a bunch of Middle Eastern restaurants in the city, including details such as what back passages the restaurants have, as in these details about the Eastern Nights Cafe.
The restaurant consists of two stores next to each other, connected to each other from the back of the store. The restaurant also has a back yard. The restaurant has access to the basement; the access door is located on the far right of the store.
Note, too, that while NYDN might be speaking generally about the “many a plot” that has been disrupted by mapping the back hallways of NY restaurants, this surveillance has not only disrupted primarily aspirational plots, but it damaged the FBI investigation into the real plot Najibullah Zazi had planned, because one of the NYPD’s own informants tipped the Zazis off to the investigation.
And the invitation declination is interesting, finally, for the way the Muslim leaders framed this issue–as part of a larger choice on the part of the NYPD to neglect law enforcement while it engages in civil rights abuses not just of Muslims, but of people of color and Occupy Wall Street protestors.
Mayor Bloomberg, the extent of these civil rights violations is astonishing, yet instead of calling for accountability and the rule of law, you have thus far defended the NYPD’s misconduct. We, on the other hand, believe that such measures threaten the rights of all Americans, and deepen mistrust between our communities and law enforcement. We are not alone in our belief. Many New Yorkers continue to express a variety of concerns centered on a lack of law enforcement accountability in our city, from stop and frisk procedures in African American and Spanish-speaking communities, to the tactics used in the evacuation of Zuccotti Park.
That’s really what the NYPD surveillance is about: prioritizing the profiling of an entire community (even while periodically and repeatedly stopping and frisking totally innocent people of color), rather than investigating and solving actual crimes.
Pardon me for the Taibbi like insolence, but this is just fucking amazing. While most Americans are struggling to stay alive, employed, and their families fed and in their homes, much less celebrate a decent Christmas, the 1% Masters Of The Universe have gotten together for a group bitchfest of elitist assholes:
Jamie Dimon, the highest-paid chief executive officer among the heads of the six biggest U.S. banks, turned a question at an investors’ conference in New York this month into an occasion to defend wealth.
“Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I don’t understand it,” the JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) CEO told an audience member who asked about hostility toward bankers. “Sometimes there’s a bad apple, yet we denigrate the whole.”
Dimon, 55, whose 2010 compensation was $23 million, joined billionaires including hedge-fund manager John Paulson and Home Depot Inc. (HD) co-founder Bernard Marcus in using speeches, open letters and television appearances to defend themselves and the richest 1 percent of the population targeted by Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.
Uh, fuck you Jamie Dimon and to the plaintive wail of the skimming, raping moneychangers.
Oh, and in case you had any question on what side of the 1%/99% divide Barack Obama and his Administration are on, yet another answer was given today with the announcement of their proposed selection for the critical “independent” seat on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC):
The Obama administration is considering nominating Jeremiah Norton, an executive director for JPMorgan Chase’s investment bank, to sit on the FDIC’s board of directors.
Who is Jeremiah Norton? Well, as this quote states, he executive director of the investment banking shop and one of Obama’s buddy, Jamie Dimon’s, right hand men. Oh, and before that, Norton was former Goldman Sachs honcho Henry Paulson’s right hand man in the Bush Treasury Department and assisted Paulson in getting Goldman Sachs a backdoor bailout through AIG.
So, while OWS is out protesting and the majority of citizens are falling deeper in despair and many losing their homes and hopes, and Barack Obama duplicitously coos about feeling the pain of the 99%, this is what is going on where the rubber meets the actual road.
PS: Digby has pounded Dimon on this as well if you want more searing criticism.
It can be said, therefore, that ideology, as that instrument of internal communication which assures the power structure of inner cohesion is, in the post-totalitarian system, something that transcends the physical aspects of power, something that dominates it to a considerable degree, and therefore, tends to assure its continuity as well. It is one of the pillars of the system’s external stability. This pillar, however, is built on a very unstable foundation. It is built on lies. It works only as long as people are willing to live within the lie. –Václav Havel, “Power of the Powerless“
In his essay, Power of the Powerless, Václav Havel described how citizens of “post-totalitarian” societies perform certain rituals–his central example was a green grocer putting the sign, “Workers of the World, Unite!” in his shop window every morning, but he saw the “dictatorship of consumption” to work similarly–to signify their adherence to the ideology on which power in the system rests. The system relies on (and rewards, with access to a comfortable livelihood) the universal performance of such rituals to sustain the ideology that gives the raw power behind the system some legitimacy. He argued that if people began to live within the truth–stopped putting up the sign every morning and paid the consequences in terms of lost benefits–it might expose the lie behind the myths people told themselves about their society.
But the moment someone breaks through in one place, when one person cries out, “the emperor is naked!”–when a single person breaks the rules of the game, thus exposing it as a game–everything suddenly appears in another light and the whole crust seems then to be made of a tissue on the point of tearing and disintegrating uncontrollably.