An Occupy Wall Street protester dangles a donut in front of NYPD Police Officers near the New York Stock Exchange In New York City on September 17, 2012. UPI/John Angelillo | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- FBI counter-terrorism agents monitored the Occupy movement throughout the United States, believing the movement to be a potential threat, documents show.
The FBI has released documents showing counter-terrorism agents were in close communication with law enforcement agencies nationwide about the Occupy Wall Street movement, CNN reported Thursday.
FBI counter-terrorism agents generally investigating and preventing both domestic and foreign terrorism threats.
The documents also show that the FBI warned New York Stock Exchange in August, 2011, about a "planned anarchist protest titled Occupy Wall Street" scheduled for Sept. 17, 2011.
The documents said the FBI was concerned that the Occupy venues could provide "an outlet for a lone offender exploiting the movement for reasons associated with general government dissatisfaction."
Counter-terrorism agents also monitored Occupy protests in Florida, Alaska, California, Colorado Mississippi, Virginia and other states, the documents show.
The documents were requested by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a civil rights group in Washington, through the Freedom of Information Act.
"This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI's surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protesters organizing with the Occupy movement," stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the organization. "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."
After the release of the documents, FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the FBI recognizes the rights of the people to peacefully protest, but that the agency must take precautions to deal with any potential threats of violence.
"While the FBI is obligated to thoroughly investigate any serious allegations involving threats of violence, we do not open investigations based solely on First Amendment activity," Bresson said in a statement. "In fact, the Department of Justice and the FBI's own internal guidelines on domestic operations strictly forbid that."