Alternative news sites are buzzing today over news that the FBI may have known about an assassination plot against the leaders of Occupy Houston. Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman interviewed Ryan Shapiro:
Transparency activist Ryan Shapiro discusses a growing controversy over the FBI’s monitoring of Occupy Houston in 2011. The case centers on what the FBI knew about an alleged assassination plot against Occupy leaders and why it failed to share this information. The plot was first revealed in a heavily redacted document obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund through a FOIA request. The document mentioned an individual “planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas.” When Shapiro asked for more details, the FBI said it found 17 pages of pertinent records and gave him five of them, with some information redacted. Shapiro sued, alleging the FBI had improperly invoked FOIA exemptions. Last week, Federal District Judge Rosemary Collyer agreed with Shapiro, ruling the FBI had to explain why it withheld the records.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about your work around animal rights activism and getting information, but I want to first turn to Occupy Houston. You have been working on getting information from the FBI around Occupy Houston. The particular issue focuses on what the FBI knew about an alleged assassination plot in 2011 against leaders of Occupy Houston and why it failed to share this information. The plot was first revealed in a heavily redacted document obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice through a FOIA request. It read, quote, “An identified [REDACTED] as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protestors in Houston, Texas if deemed necessary,” unquote. When our guest, Ryan Shapiro, asked for more details, the FBI said it found 17 pages of pertinent records and gave him five of them with some information redacted. So, Ryan Shapiro, you sued, alleging the FBI had improperly invoked FOIA exemptions.
Last week, Federal District Judge Rosemary Collyer seemed to agree with you, when she ruled the FBI had to explain why it withheld records. She made reference in her ruling to David Hardy, the head of the FBI’s FOIA division, writing, quote, “At no point does Mr. Hardy supply specific facts as to the basis for FBI’s belief that the Occupy protesters might have been engaged in terroristic or other criminal activity. … Neither the word ‘terrorism’ nor the phrase ‘advocating the overthrow of the government’ are talismanic, especially where FBI purports to be investigating individuals who ostensibly are engaged in protected First Amendment activity.”
Ryan Shapiro, explain what the judge ruled and what “talismanic” means.
RYAN SHAPIRO: Absolutely. First I should say that this is a really weird and crazy story, and I’m still trying to make sense of it, and I’m working with my attorney, Jeffrey Light, and the journalist Jason Leopold to that end. But the judge’s ruling is terrific on this point…
[continues at Democracy Now]