How America’s National Security Apparatus in Partnership With Big Corporations, Cracked Down on Dissent


 

 

Counter-terror police officers collaborated with corporate entities to combat protests. Undercover police officers monitored and tracked the Occupy movement. A right-wing corporate-backed group hired a police officer to help protect a conference. These are some of the details revealed in a new report published [3] by the Center for Media and Democracy’s Beau Hodai, along with DBA Press. The revelations are based on government documents the group obtained.

The report, titled “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street [4],” is an eye-opening look into how the U.S. counter-terror apparatus was used to track the Occupy movement in 2011 and 2012 and also help protect the business entities targeted by the movement. The report specifically looks at the activities of “fusion centers,” or law enforcement entities created after 9/11 that transform local police forces into counter-terror units in partnership with federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. The fusion centers devoted a lot of time–to the point of “obsession,” the report notes–to monitoring the Occupy movement, particularly for any “threats” to public safety or health and to whether there were “extremists” involved in the movement.

The documents obtained for the report from government agencies reveal “a grim mosaic of ‘counter-terrorism’ agency operations and attitudes toward activists and other socially/politically-engaged citizens over the course of 2011 and 2012,” writes Hodai. He adds that these heavily-funded agencies indisputably view Occupy activists as “terrorist” threats. Additionally, Hodai writes that “this view of activists, and attendant activist monitoring/suppression, has been carried out on behalf of, and in cooperation with, some of the nation’s largest financial and corporate interests.”

Much of the report hones in on the Occupy Phoenix branch of the movement and Arizona counter-terrorism agents monitoring, tracking and cracking down on the protests.

For instance, when JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was planning on coming to Phoenix in October 2011, a “counter-terrorism” detective employed by the Phoenix Police Department’s Homeland Security Bureau exchanged information on potential protests with a JP Morgan Chase security manager. The detective, Jennifer O’Neill, received information on Dimon’s travel plans, and then shared information about Occupy Phoenix. O’Neill said that she and another officer had tracked the online activities of Occupy protesters to find out if they were planning to protest Dimon. No plans for protest were discovered by O’Neill, who also works with the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, otherwise known as the Arizona fusion center.

Another similar example of how corporate entities were helped by counter-terrorism units of police forces also occurred in October 2011. Then, businesses–including banks–received alerts authored by the Arizona fusion center about planned protest activities. Similar alerts to banks were given in the run-up to the November 5 day of action labeled “Bank Transfer Day,” which encouraged people to move their money from corporate banks to more local financial institutions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also engaged in similar activity, according to the report. “The bureau had been in the business of alerting banks (and related entities) tothe planned protest activity of OWS groups as early as August of 2011.”

The extent of law enforcement-corporate cooperation has also been taken a step further by the practice of corporations or right-wing corporate backed groups hiring officers for pay to police protests.

In late November-early December 2011, the largest Occupy Phoenix action took place outside of a conference held by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded group that brings together right-wing lobbyist groups and conservative politicians to push model legislation in state legislatures. The protest was marred by police violence, with officers deploying pepper spray and pepper ball projectiles on activists and arresting 5. While the police portrayed the action as the work of violent anarchists, Hodai writes that this narrative of events had little grounding in reality.

Hodai reveals that the “tactical response unit” of officers working at the action was under the direction of Phoenix Police Department Sgt. Eric Harkins. What makes this noteworthy is that Harkins was “actually off-duty, earning $35 per hour as a private security guard employed by ALEC.” ALEC also “hired 49 active duty and 9 retired PPD officers to act as private security during the conference.” ALEC also employed off-duty police officers from Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department during another ALEC summit in May 2012.

The Center for Media and Democracy report also provides details on how police officers tracked and went undercover to monitor the Occupy movement. The report focuses on an undercover police officer who went by the name of “Saul DeLara,” who presented himself as a homeless Mexican activist. “DeLara” went to Occupy meetings and then reported back on their contents to the police.

The revelations are confirmation that, as the Center for Media and Democracy noted in a press release,”the nation’s post-September 11, 2001 counter terrorism apparatus has been applied to politically engaged citizens exercising their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kochs, Lies, and Videotape


 

 This week as I premiered my new film, Koch Brothers Exposed — the result of a year-long investigation on how two billionaires are using their wealth to corrupt democracy — Koch Industries has launched an attack on the film and me. The Kochs intimidate, they menace; they have a letter from their lawyer borderline threatening the media if it reports what’s in the film — and they always try to change the subject so their behavior can stay in the shadows: not only are they unwilling to accept my offer of a debate or interview, they also refuse to testify about their interest in the Keystone XL pipeline and may have to be dragged kicking and screaming into revealing their secret contributions to groups doing election work. This time, the Kochs are using a technique I point out in the film: attacking to avoid dealing with the facts. They are dodging and distorting the truth to avoid confronting our findings on cancer, voting rights, civil rights, and more.

How? Let me count (some of) the ways:

1) Cancer. People are dying of cancer near the Kochs’ Georgia Pacific plant in Crossett, Arkansas, and the Kochs refuse to answer the relevant question: What are they going to do about it? On Penn Road in Crossett, right near the mill, residents powerfully show how nine out of 11 homes have suffered from cancer. A USA Today study said Crossett’s school district is in the top 1% in the nation for cancer. Meanwhile, the Kochs’ facility releases significant amounts of formaldehyde — a known carcinogen — and there’s no other chemical plant in town. The Kochs are among the country’s top 10 polluters and lobbied hard to keep formaldehyde from being labeled a carcinogen. For a company where one of the owners (David Koch) and the communications director (Melissa Cohlmia) are cancer survivors, this is tragic and infuriating. It reflects a warped sense of humanity where greed trumps all.

2) Voting rights. The Kochs have given over $1 million to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that’s trying to pass severe voter ID restrictions in states across the country. These bills disenfranchise the poor, the elderly, the young, people of color — in short, people who are likely to oppose a 1% agenda. The Kochs won’t explain why anyone should believe that ALEC’s pro-corporate, anti-99% agenda is somehow detached from its billionaire funders. Onerous voting restrictions are already impacting people’s ability to vote in the 2012 election.

3) Re-segregation. Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which is Koch-founded and Koch-financed (they refuse to say how much but we know it’s at least $5 million), pushed “reforms” in North Carolina that would destroy a school district’s model of racial integration and ensure students go to school mainly with people of their own race. We call out this “re-segregation” in Koch Brothers Exposed. The Kochs, of course, try to hide from their connection — hoping we ignore not only their involvement in the founding and financing of AFP, but also the fact that David Koch has served as chair of the group’s supposedly nonpolitical arm, the AFP Foundation. Their dissembling doesn’t pass the laugh test–particularly when they’ve refused to open the books to show where their funding is coming from.

4) Worker rights. The Kochs have been undermining labor rights, helping anti-union Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and supporting groups that want to boost employer power against employees. They also have pushed the interests of large corporations over Main Street. The Koch brothers try pathetically to attack me on that front, going back eight years to my film Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Priceand saying a locally-owned hardware store I profiled as an example of how Wal-Mart shuts down small businesses had actually closed before the retail giant opened. Um, as the store owners said in the film, the reason it closed early was problems involving financing and reduced appraisals in light of Wal-Mart’s impending arrival. This is yet another example of distorting the facts and is ultimately a distraction.

Why are the Kochs flailing so desperately in the face of our findings? Because they can’t give straightforward, convincing rebuttals to the claims we lodge against them in the film. My organization, Brave New Foundation, doesn’t have billions of dollars at its disposal to fight back, but this time time, the Kochs aren’t getting the last word. The smears and name-calling (I’m malicious, I’m a liar, blah blah blah) may not be pleasant but won’t stop the film from being shared by 25 groups partnering with us and thousands of people online.

The Koch brothers epitomize the corruption of democracy that’s going on in our country, with a handful of people at the top expanding their wealth on the backs of the 99%. Americans shouldn’t fall for their attempt to change the subject.

By Robert Greenwald | Sourced from AlterNet

Posted at March 31, 2012, 10:24 am

http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/874960/kochs%2C_lies%2C_and_videotape/

Koch Brothers, ALEC and the Savage Assault on Democracy | Common Dreams


by John Nichols

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch finally got their way in 2011. After decades of funding the American Legislative Exchange Council, the collaboration between multinational corporations and conservative state legislators, the project began finally to yield the intended result.
For the first time in decades, the United States saw a steady dismantling of the laws, regulations, programs and practices put in place to make real the promise of American democracy.

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch finally got their way in 2011. After decades of funding the American Legislative Exchange Council, the collaboration between multinational corporations and conservative state legislators, the project began finally to yield the intended result. For the first time in decades, the United States saw a steady dismantling of the laws, regulations, programs and practices put in place to make real the promise of American democracy. That is why, on Saturday, civil rights groups and their allies will rally outside the New York headquarters of the Koch Brothers to begin a march for the renewal of voting rights in America.

For the Koch Brothers and their kind, less democracy is better. They fund campaigns, with millions of dollars in checks that have helped elect the likes of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich. And ALEC has made it clear, through its ambitious “Public Safety and Elections Task Force,” that while it wants to dismantle any barriers corporate cash and billionaire bucks influencing elections, it wants very much to erect barriers to the primary tool that Americans who are not CEOs have to influence the politics and the government of the nation: voting.

That crude calculus, usually cloaked in bureaucracy and back-room dealmaking, came into full view in 2011.

Across the country, and to a greater extent than at any time since the last days of southern resistance to desegregation, voting rights were being systematically diminished rather than expanded.

ALEC has been organizing and promoting the assault, encouraging its legislative minions to enact rigid Voter ID laws and related attacks on voting rights in more than three dozen in states.

With their requirements that the millions of Americans who lack drivers licenses and other forms of official paperwork go out and purchase identification cards in order to cast ballots, the Voter ID push put in place new variations on an old evil: the poll tax.

“We are in the midst of the greatest coordinated legislative attack on voting rights since the dawn of Jim Crow,” says NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. “Voter ID laws are nothing but reincarnated poll taxes and literacy tests, and ex-felon voting bans serve the same purpose today as when they were created in the wake of the 15th Amendment guaranteeing ex-slaves the vote—suppressing voting numbers among people of color.”

Voter ID laws represent only the beginning of the assault on voter rights. In states across the country in 2011, conservative governors and legislators who had swept to power in the 2010 election moved to restrict access to the polls in other ways. They ended election-day registration programs in state such as Maine, ending a practice that had allowed new voters to come to the polls, fill out a simple form and cast a ballot. They restricted early-voting in states such as Ohio, making it dramatically harder for citizens to cast ballots in the run-up to an election. They scrapped weekend-voting in Ohio, where working men and women had been able to cast ballots on their days off. They placed new restrictions on voting by students at colleges and technical schools, even going so far in Wisconsin as to move the primary election date to when most students were on summer break. They reduced the number of polling places in some states, making it harder for voters who lack transportation to get to the polls. And after they established the Voter ID requirements in Wisconsin, and said that citizens had to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get the proper paperwork, they tried to reduce the number of DMV offices.

“For nearly a century, there were Jim Crow laws in place that discouraged people of color from voting, explains Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights. “Today, there are different laws, but the objective is the same—to prevent millions from exercising their right to vote.”

No one who is serious about voting and elections misses the point of the project.

The point is not just to make it harder to vote. The point is to make it harder for citizens to elect legislators, governors, members of Congress and presidents who will regulate and tax multinational corporations such as Koch Industries, while at the same time establishing programs that meet the needs of the great mass of Americans. “Now, just as before, they are seeking to block us from voting in order to make it easier to come after our other rights,” says Mike Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “Everything we care about is at stake, from the right to a quality education to the right to a fair wage.”

It is with all of this in mind that the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund and allied civil rights and civil liberties organizations, churches and unions have endorsed the  “Stand for Freedom” voting rights campaign, which will launch with a march Saturday from the offices of the Koch Brothers to the United Nations. At the United Nations, the groups will mark Human Rights Day by calling for an end to assaults on voting rights in the United States.

The choice of the Koch Brothers office as a starting point is not symbolic. It is practical. For decades, the Koch Brothers and their foundation have funded ALEC and other groups that are now driving the attack on voting rights in states across the country.

The people are pushing back. In November, Mainers voted by an overwhelming margin to restore election-day registration. In other states, voting rights has become a central political issue. And, now, that issue is being raised at the headquarters of the Koch Brothers — and the United Nations.

“From the beginning of our nation’s founding, Americans have understood that voting was fundamental to their pursuit of freedom and equal opportunity,” says Lillian Rodríguez López, President of the Hispanic Federation.  “Any attempt to undermine the right to vote, especially when that effort is directed at historically marginalized groups, must be treated as an attack on the very ideals that created our country: democracy and equality. And that is why we stand up for freedom and continue to fight for the right to vote for all Americans.”

Koch Brothers, ALEC and the Savage Assault on Democracy | Common Dreams.