The Department of Homeland Security Was Out of Bounds – for Two and a Half Hours

The latest installment in Truthout’s FOIA of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) involvement in law enforcement’s response to Occupy Wall Street (OWS) shows considerable coordination between various agencies regarding the December 12, 2011, West Coast-wide OWS protest aimed at shutting down seaports in Anchorage, Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, Portland, Houston, Seattle and Tacoma. A request from DHS’s Network Operations Center (NOC) went out on December 6 to Customs and Border Patrol (CPB), the US Coast Guard and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In preparation for these protests, a December 8 memo details DHS field offices in Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle were “actively engaged with local law enforcement and trade partners to establish contingency plans” in case the protests affected CPB locations in those cities. Coordinated agencies included local police departments, the Coast Guard, the TSA (including Federal Air Marshals), US Marshals, the US Attorneys Office, and potentially others – the memo contains significant redactions. (p. 305-7)

It is not clear what ICE’s response to the request to “provide what actions they will be taking to prepare” for the shutdown contained or why it was thought necessary to have ICE detail its plans. The same RFI mentions placing San Francisco’s Special Response Team (SRT) on notice. The SRT is a group of elite deputies with heavy training in special weapons and tactics. (p. 301) The Coast Guard provided a “general battle rhythm” and a list of its assets on patrol including boats and weaponry, though “In general,” the memo stipulates, “no overt weapons will be displayed.” (p. 296)

The previous port shutdown, which Occupy Oakland organized on November 2, had support from the air. An email contained in the documents assures DHS that “Air Station San Francisco has a B-0 aircraft ready to respond as well.” (p. 98)


At 3:43 PM on November 9, 2011, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) sent an email to the Department of Homeland Security, asking for a Request for Information (RFI) to be sent through the National Operations Center (NOC) Fusion desk “to obtain information pertaining to The Occupy Movement.” The CPD was especially interested in contacting New York, Oakland, DC, Denver, Boston, Portland and Seattle about how they were dealing with their Occupy protests. (p. 240)

At 4:21 PM, the NOC sent out the RFI, asking the law enforcement agencies four questions: “1. Does your city allow the Occupy (sic) to set up camp or not? 2. If they are allowed to camp out where is this location? 3. Is there any specific building or landmark that the group is camping out next to? 4. What are the arrest charges?” The RFI additionally requests “any contact information” and “threat assessments” and that responses by in no later than Friday, November 11, at 5:00 PM (two days later). (p. 244)

The Boston Regional Intel Center responded three minutes later, at 4:24, that it had “already sent a response to Chicago directly” as they had “inquired earlier today.” The response went to someone, name redacted, at the Chicago Police Department/Rail Analyst Counter-Terrorism Section. (247)

An email from DHS’s Intelligence Coordination Branch Chief went out over an hour later, at 5:41, reminding correspondents that “DHS I&A personnel” – Intelligence & Analysis – “both at Headquarters and in the field – may NOT be engaged in any efforts to gather information on First Amendment-protected activities that have no direct nexus to violence or that are otherwise outside the scope of DHS I&A authorities.” (p. 251) Donald Triner, director of DHS’s Operations Coordination Division, sent an email out at 6:48 saying “We should stop this rfi asap – this is not our lane.” (sic) (p. 262)

Four minutes later, at 6:52 PM, two-and-a-half hours after it went out, the RFI was officially recalled, the parties asked to disregard it. (p. 266) The NOC’s duty director agreed to “follow-up with Boston tomorrow and let them know the sensitivities with the RFI.” (p. 268) One person on the thread sent an email apologizing for the confusion and indicating, “I have modified the RFI to reflect only a request for points of contact within the fusion centers listed to ensure it is not viewed as a request for information on a named group.” The “New Language” avoids mention of Occupy. (p. 259)