Privacy SOS

Vandalism: a threat to America?

When President Bush created the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11, he said that the agency would "develop all-hazards plans and capabilities, including those of greatest importance to the security of the United States homeland, such as the prevention of terrorist attacks and preparedness for the potential use of weapons of mass destruction, and ensure that state, local, and federal plans are compatible."

Documents released to investigative reporter Jason Leopold of Truthout show that the agency is involved in monitoring the Occupy Wall Street movement. Oddly enough, Bush didn't tell us the agency would be doing this kind of COINTELPRO work when he established the organization back on March 1, 2003.

But if Bush was telling the truth, and his initial description of the agency was accurate, the Truthout documents show that DHS has experienced some serious "mission creep" over the past nine years.

So how does DHS define its mission in 2012? Well, it isn't exactly specific:

The Department of Homeland Security has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face. This requires the dedication of more than 240,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation and border security to emergency response, from cybersecurity analyst to chemical facility inspector. Our duties are wide-ranging, but our goal is clear – keeping America safe.

Ok then. DHS' job is to keep "America safe" "from the many threats we face." That's a really broad mission statement, but maybe understandable given that it is an organization with 240,000 employees and an annual budget of over $50 billion dollars.

More specifically, DHS has a number of primary missions. They are:

  1. Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security
  2. Securing and Managing Our Borders
  3. Enforcing and Administering Our Immigration Laws
  4. Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace
  5. Ensuring Resilience to Disasters
  6. Providing Essential Support to National and Economic Security

More specific, but still pretty wide-ranging. Keep that in mind.

Vandalism, Occupy, and DHS

As Kevin Gosztola points out, DHS began monitoring the Occupy Wall Street movement from day one of the first occupation at Liberty Plaza in NYC. An intelligence bulletin dated 9/17/11 reads in part:

Though the protests will likely be peaceful in nature, like any protest, malicious individuals may use the large crowds as cover to conduct illegal activity such as vandalism. 

I'm sorry, what? DHS feared that the movement would be used "as cover to conduct illegal activity" like vandalism? Is that what the agency is worried about these days?

Vandalism is a far cry from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Stay tuned for more from these documents. We shall see if there's something else DHS is interested in when it comes to Occupy and dissent in the USA.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.