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Gibson writes: "If you or one of your close friends was possibly the target of a sniper assassination, and if law enforcement knew about it, shouldn't law enforcement have an obligation to tell you?"

The FBI ignored a plot to assassinate Occupy Houston leaders. (photo: Occupy Houston)
The FBI ignored a plot to assassinate Occupy Houston leaders. (photo: Occupy Houston)

How the FBI Routinely Breaks the Law and Endangers Lives

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

28 March 14


f you or one of your close friends were the possible target of a sniper assassination, and if law enforcement knew about it, shouldn’t law enforcement have an obligation to tell you? And if they deliberately didn’t tell you, wouldn’t you be legitimately concerned that your potential assassin may be part of law enforcement?

In November of 2011, I arrived at Tranquility Park in downtown Houston about 15 minutes late for Occupy Houston’s nightly general assembly. I was having trouble finding a parking place when I noticed that the park was bathed in the flashing red and blue lights of the Houston PD's cars surrounding the park, and there were television news trucks adjacent to the park broadcasting live. I thought we were being evicted, and ran to the scene.

Just moments before I arrived, a 21-year-old man named Joshua Anthony Twohig had walked into the park, dressed in a suit and carrying a .40 caliber assault rifle. He pointed his gun at several of my Occupy Houston comrades, fired several shots into the air, and was shot by police before being taken into custody. As someone with a history of mental illness, Twohig was ruled incompetent to stand trial in January of 2012. The incident spooked a lot of people at the camp, many of us wondering if any of us were targets of a larger plot.

In December 2012, documents revealed by a FOIA request from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund showed that the FBI was investigating the Occupy Wall Street movement – a movement that explicitly operated on principles of nonviolence and direct democracy – for “criminal activity” and “domestic terrorism.” Those documents also revealed the FBI’s knowledge of a November 2011 assassination plot in which leaders of the Occupy Houston movement were targeted. In these public documents the FBI redacted the names of the individuals and/or groups plotting the assassination with high-powered rifles, and never approached anyone at Occupy Houston alerting them that their lives were in danger.

Ryan Noah Shapiro, a Ph.D. candidate at MIT, alleges that the FBI has further knowledge of the assassination plot but is actively withholding that information from the public. This week, Federal District Judge Rosemary Collyer sided with Shapiro in court, giving the FBI a deadline of April 9 to either turn over the additional documents related to the Occupy Houston assassination plot, or provide a more detailed explanation of why they wouldn't, beyond their previous assertion of “national security.”

“Since its earliest days, the FBI has viewed and treated political dissent as a security threat. This remains very much the case,” Shapiro told Reader Supported News on Wednesday. “The FBI has provided zero evidence to support such a contention. And that’s exactly what the judge just ruled in my lawsuit against the FBI for these records.”

Shapiro said only five pages of at least 15 were released by the FBI in regard to the Occupy Houston assassination plot. He says the FBI is “notorious” for creating a mountain of documents on anything under investigation, and that the agency is purposefully refusing to disclose critical information.

“We have an FBI investigation that the Bureau claims was an investigation of possible terrorist activity and attempts to overthrow the government by Occupy Houston, and then the discovery by the FBI during this investigation of an actual terrorist plot to assassinate the leaders of Occupy Houston,” Shapiro said. “This is a situation in which the FBI indeed should, and undoubtedly did, create a mountain of documents. And yet the FBI is claiming it amassed only 17 pages total? This is simply preposterous.”

In a recent segment on Democracy Now, Shapiro said the FBI was in violation of federal law in refusing to abide by the Freedom of Information Act, and that he has had to file FOIA requests to check on his previous FOIA requests. Shapiro believes the FBI is refusing to disclose information to cover the agency’s involvement in the eviction of Occupy encampments around the country.

“I want to know what the role of the FBI is in coordinating the response to the Occupy movement, why the FBI considered the Occupy movement a terrorist threat, and I also want to know why the FBI didn't inform the protesters of this tremendous threat against them,” Shapiro told Amy Goodman. “As Kade Crockford at the ACLU recently said, if the targets of this plot had been Wall Street bankers, I think we can all safely assume that the FBI would have picked up the phone.”

In researching the documents made available about the crackdown on the Occupy movement, Naomi Klein wrote in The Guardian that the FBI not only helped municipalities coordinate the crackdown with their own resources, but also shared information on the protesters being monitored directly with the banks they were protesting. The New York Stock Exchange, Federal Reserve branches in several states, and Department of Homeland Security fusion centers were also involved in the surveillance of the Occupy movement.

“These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in an interview with Democracy Now. “We believe that there is a lot more that’s being withheld. Even when you go through the text of the documents, you can see that there’s a lot more in terms of meetings and memos that must exist.”

History shows that the FBI has, for decades, used its powers in attempts to intimidate and subdue constitutionally-protected political activism. The FBI’s COINTELPRO initiative focused on infiltrating, monitoring, and disrupting the civil rights and peace movements of the sixties and seventies. Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was assassinated by federal agents in Chicago at the age of 21. Martin Luther King’s inner circle was infiltrated by FBI agent Marrell McCullough, a former Memphis police officer who was photographed next to King’s body just moments after his assassination.

On Democracy Now, Ryan Shapiro mentioned that one of his FOIA requests was to gain more information on the US intelligence community’s classification of South African president Nelson Mandela’s classification as a terrorist between 1962 and 2008, long after Mandela had won the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The FBI, CIA, and NSA all took part in disclosing Mandela’s whereabouts to the Apartheid regime, which led to Mandela’s arrest and imprisonment. To this day, the NSA uses the “national security” argument as an excuse to deny the release of documents relating to the surveillance of Mandela. The NSA also denied FOIA requests 98 percent of the time in the past year, citing the National Security Act of 1959 that established the agency, as well as the Espionage Act – the same law used to convict Chelsea Manning and charge Edward Snowden.

“Not only does the NSA invoke national defense here, as well as the Espionage Act, they also invoke the NSA Act of 1959,” Shapiro said. “Though the NSA Act of 1959 was passed years before the Freedom of Information Act was passed, the NSA has succeeded in convincing the courts that the NSA Act of 1959 exempts the NSA entirely from the obligations of FOIA. And so, the only times the NSA complies with the Freedom of Information Act is when it wants to.”

Whether or not the November 2011 incident involving Joshua Anthony Twohig’s shooting at the Occupy Houston encampment was part of the assassination plot mentioned in FBI documents, it’s clear that the FBI is concealing information that’s critical to the preservation of American lives, which implicates the agency just as much as a potential terrorist. Shapiro told Reader Supported News that the FBI should be investigated by Congress for its consistent violations of transparency law.

“Fritz Schwarz, one of the key figures in the 1970s Senate “Church Committee” that investigated the FBI and broader U.S. intelligence community, and which played a pivotal role in exposing the FBI’s COINTELPRO crimes, is now calling for the formation of a new Church Committee to again investigate the FBI and U.S. intelligence community. I enthusiastically support this call,” Shapiro said.

“We as a nation need to foster a broader understanding of ‘national security,’” Shapiro continued. “an informed citizenry is impossible" without broad public access to information about the operations of government. The FBI’s stonewalling in my FOIA case is another sad example of the Bureau’s contempt for exactly this sort of necessary transparency.”

Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

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