Federal officials relayed information about the Occupy movement to the financial community as part of surveillance by authorities of a series of protests against banks that took place in 2011.
Though the FBI observed that the Occupy movement planned to protest peacefully, the bureau passed information about demonstrations to the New York Stock Exchange (NYX), Zions Bank (ZION) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, according to documents published Saturday by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a nonprofit group that obtained the files under the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents show that the FBI discussed the Occupy movement with representatives of the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 19, 2011, roughly one month before protestors planned to congregate in Manhattan to demonstrate against what they saw as the greed and corruption of the financial sector. According to a report of the meeting, the FBI warned the stock exchange of "numerous incidents that have occurred in the past which show attempts by anarchist groups to disrupt, influence, and or shut down normal business operations of financial districts."
On Oct. 4, 2011, roughly two weeks after demonstrations began in New York, the FBI alerted the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond to protests planned for Washington. "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 bureau wrote in a report to the regulator.
Two days later, the FBI advised "information security personnel" at Zions that the bureau "had no intelligence indicating a specific threat" to the bank from hacktivists. According to the FBI, the bank was "aware of the recent hacking incidents perpetrated by Anonymous hacktivists in support of the Occupy Wall Street protest" and asked the bureau about reports that hackers had published information about the chief executives of both JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Goldman Sachs (GS).
The bureau warned separately that Anonymous could be planning a cyberattack on banks in connection with protests by the Occupy movement.
"These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity," Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the partnership’s executive director, said in a press release. "These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and corporate America."
FBI officials were unavailable Monday to comment. A NYSE spokeswoman declined to comment. Spokespeople for the Richmond Fed and Zions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The documents show that the Domestic Security Alliance Council, a partnership among the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and roughly 200 companies, dispensed tips to members on how to "reduce vulnerability in the event of civil unrest." The council recommended that members avoid rallies, which could "spur violent activity or be met with resistance by security forces." The council also instructed companies to refrain from publishing the assessments. "Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public, or other personnel who do not have a valid need-to-know without prior approval from an authorized FBI official," the council wrote.