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March 26, 2012

Defending the Wall Street Bull
Posted by Teresa at 01:23 PM * 43 comments

This came out a few days ago from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund:

How Homeland Security Is Hiding the Feds’ Role in Occupy Crackdown

A trove of documents released today by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to a FOIA request filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee reveal that federal law enforcement agencies began their coordinated intelligence gathering and operations on the Occupy movement even before the first tent went up in Zuccotti Park on September 17, 2011.

On September 17, 2011, a Secret Service intelligence entry in its Prism Demonstrations Abstract file records the opening of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. The demonstration location that the Secret Service was protecting? The “Wall Street Bull.” The name of the Protectee? The “U.S. Government.”

American taxpayers might find it odd to learn that the Secret Service was on duty to protect the Wall Street Bull in the name of protecting the U.S. Government …

I certainly do find it odd.

First, the Wall Street Bull was never in jeopardy from anyone.

Second, the Wall Street Bull belongs neither to Wall Street nor to the Federal Government. Who does own it is a good question, but the two main contenders are sculptor Arturo Di Modica, and the City of New York.

Third, the U.S. Government was neither in peril, nor the focus of the protest. If we’ve gotten to the point where a protest aimed at Wall Street is perceived as putting the U.S. Government in jeopardy, then Houston, we have a problem.

Fourth, the Department of Homeland Security is supposed to prevent or respond to terrorist attacks, man-made disasters, and natural disasters. It has no authority to act as a general police force, and certainly doesn’t have the authority to interfere with legitimate citizen protests. This has enormous potential implications. The DHS has way too much power and way too little scrutiny when it’s just going after terrorists. Imagine the whole country operating under airport rules.

Fifth, the same goes for the Secret Service, which was also involved. If the DHS has zero jurisdiction in these matters, the Secret Service has less than zero. Their official job is to (a.) protect the president and vice president and their families, plus presidential candidates, foreign embassies, and visiting heads of state; and (b.) to safeguard the Treasury and national financial systems, which used to mostly mean counterfeiting, but these days includes financial institutional fraud, computer fraud, electronic transfers and money laundering, and other criminal activities of that sort. They should not had had anything to do with the Occupy Wall Street protests.

I find it disturbing that the Secret Service didn’t even bother to invent a bllsht link between their involvement and some hoked-up threat OWS might present to national financial institutions. It tells me that acting completely outside their constitutional powers is nothing new for them.

If the Secret Service is supposed to go after financial institutional fraud, they’re one of the primary institutions that failed in their duty to protect us from the financial chicanery that brought down the economy. Now we see them acting illegally as Wall Street’s defenders and enforcers. I cannot believe that these circumstances are unrelated.

Sixth, it appears from the documents that these federal agencies began acting against the Occupy Wall Street movement before the first protests even happened. This, if you don’t mind my saying so, is a complete fckng outrage, a violation of numerous constitutional rights, an extremely dangerous precedent, and — judging from the actual documents — not at all unusual.

I object to this, strenuously and without cease. It’s exactly the kind of Secret Police bllsht the Constitution explicitly prohibits — and with good reason. If you don’t know why, ask the thread.

Addendum, because SamChevre reminded me:

My seventh objection is to the paragraph which follows the one I initially quoted:

These documents, many of which are redacted, show that the highest officials in the Department of Homeland Security were preoccupied with the Occupy movement and have gone out of their way to project the appearance of an absence of federal involvement in the monitoring of and crackdown on Occupy.
Operational security is justified in legitimate investigations. This isn’t operational security. DHS is trying to cover up the fact that they’re acting way outside their already overbroad authority. That kind of secrecy is not legitimate in a government whose authority is derived from the consent of the governed.
Comments on Defending the Wall Street Bull:
#1 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 03:09 PM:

I'm somewhat curious exactly how much the 24/7 police presence protecting the wall street bull is costing. Seems like a massive waste of resources to me.

#2 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 03:16 PM:

My guess is that the DHS is functioning exactly as intended. For a great many powerful people, scary brown Muslims far away are several orders of magnitude less dangerous than angry and engaged citizens right here at home.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 03:25 PM:

Robert West, I'm not aware of any 24/7 police presence at the Bull, and if there were, it would be NYPD. I'm pretty sure that "protecting the Bull" is just an excuse.

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 03:28 PM:

"Bull" would seem to be an appropriate term for what is being protected, both literal and metaphorical.

#5 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 03:29 PM:

I'm not able to figure out from the press release or the links: is the DHL and Secret Service involved in policing the protests, or just in intelligence gathering? The first seems to me problematic, but the second seems pretty clearly necessary. (I expect--maybe I'm just paranoid--that any large protest will be subject to some amount of intelligence-gathering just to determine how likely it is to turn violent.)

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 04:27 PM:

SamChevre: Thank you! I knew there was another point I was forgetting. Keeping tabs on protest groups is legitimate. Having the Secret Service and the DHS taking the lead on anti-OWS information gathering before the protests started is not. Having the DHS trying to downplay or even cover up federal involvement is much worse.

Law enforcement operating within its normal bailiwick is subject to normal scrutiny. Law enforcement operating outside its authority is pretty much by definition a dangerous thing.

#7 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 04:34 PM:

Teresa - I've walked past the bull half a dozen times since the start of the year (one of my favorite recreational walks is down the Hudson waterfront from Columbia, then back up Broadway). There's been a police cordon around the bull, every time.

#8 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 04:45 PM:

Since my anecdotal evidence isn't quite data, please see also this report in a Staten Island newspaper:

The iconic "Charging Bull" sculpture on Lower Broadway, emblematic of Wall Street and seen daily by scores of Staten Island Ferry commuters, remains caged, apparently for security reasons, more than six months after the NYPD first cordoned it off.

A favorite Big Apple destination for tourists, the sculpture has been enclosed behind a police barricade at Bowling Green Park ever since Occupy Wall Street protesters first set up shop in a downtown park, back in September, amid fears of vandalism.

#9 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 05:18 PM:

I suspect they saw the original Occupy Wall Street poster, and took it literally.

#10 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 06:12 PM:

Kevin Marks @ 9:

That would make them a bunch of Cretans.

#11 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 06:17 PM:

DHS has been way outside its original remit for a long time now. I still haven't seen a rational justification for their being involved in copyright violations and website takedowns. My suspicion is that they're doing it to gain experience in controlling portions of the internet, and that at some point they'll try to arrogate all government oversight, control, and censorship of the net to themselves as an anti-terrorist action. The turf war with the NSA and the FBI should be amusing (for values of amusing that approach "really damn scary" in the limit).

#12 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 06:43 PM:

Bruce #11: Wait, weren't the FBI, NSA, and so forth subsumed as departments of the DHS?

#13 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 10:34 PM:

The FBI is still part of the Department of Justice and the NSA is still part of the Department of Defense.

It looks like the Secret Service PRISM entry started on 9/18/2011 was created by the Risk Management Branch. That's part of Protective Service, so I'd guess that they wanted to monitor protests in an area a protected VIP was likely to visit. That the other OWS PRISM entry was for a visit by George W. Bush to Goldman Sachs IMO would support that guess.

Having bow read the emails they for the most part look like DHS communications people freaking out in response to media questions about the DHS coordinating with local governments and trying to find out what was going on. They found that DHS Cybersecurity was monitoring OWS because Anonymous hackers were threatening attacks in sympathy with OWS. The Portland Federal Protection Service, a part of DHS, also worked with local law enforcement to evict OWS protesters. As the protesters in question were on federal property this fell squarely within DHS jurisdiction.

I've seen some websites making out out of the statement “We have held standard coordination calls and face-to-face meeting with our partners to ensure that the proper resources are available for operations such as street closures, etc.” However, in context it looks to me that wording was to cover the FPS working with local law enforcement in places where OWS is on or adjacent to federal land, as is the case of Occupy DC.

What started all of this was this article included in the DHS online newsletter Tripwire. The emails indicate that on the same day as publication it was recognized as inappropriate and was removed from the net as much as that is possible. Why it was even written in the first place is a good question that isn't answered in the documents released. OTOH, I'm not sure the intelligence work in it involved more than having someone do some websurfing, as the sources listed are newspapers and Daily Kos.

I am not remotely an expert, so I encourage people to go read the docs so they can point out how wrong i am :).

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 12:49 AM:

heckblazer, your link to the article is borked.

#15 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 06:45 AM:

Huh. The link is indeed borked. Here it is again: IP Special.pdf

#16 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 11:41 AM:

#9 Kevin Marks, #10 Bruce(StM): and since all Cretans are liars...

#17 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 12:31 PM:

um, no
If it's not rhetoric, and you really are surprised that the SS-wannabes made up some gibberish excuse to immediately totally surveil (no, I'm not sure it's a "legitimate" word) Occupy, please see a doctor. You may have had a severe blow to the head you don't even remember.

I remember learning about COINTELPRO, not to mention Project MKULTRA or Operation Paperclip (which was probably not as savory as this wikipedia version).

Heck, I've heard parts of the story of the murder of Fred Hampton which never made the record.

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 12:41 PM:

Robert West: I stand corrected. In my feeble defense, there've been a great many people around, including police, the last few times I was in the area.

You're right: a permanent police cordon is a big waste of resources. It also blocks access to the statue, which is sad because people generally like the thing. It's not a very ideological bull. The city didn't commission it. The artist just trucked it in and installed it in front of the New York Stock Exchange around Christmas of '89. It was later moved to its current spot, where Broadway divides at Bowling Green.

As far as I'm concerned, the real point is that the spot where it stands is four blocks south of Zucotti Park, the main Occupation site. Things that are closer to Zucotti Park than the bull: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Wall Street. The offices of various badly behaved financial firms. Federal Hall National Memorial, a very historic spot that actually belongs to the Feds. The New York Stock Exchange itself. Trinity Wall Street. The World Trade Center, a.k.a. Ground Zero. How come none of those are used to excuse the Secret Service/DHS involvement?

I can think of one reason to focus police presence at the bull: it's a natural chokepoint for traffic flow to and from the Zucotti Park area. That does make sense if you're thinking in terms of street battles (cue up Le Temps de Cerises), which does seem to be the case with that article Heckblazer linked to. As he said:

Why it was even written in the first place is a good question that isn't answered in the documents released. OTOH, I'm not sure the intelligence work in it involved more than having someone do some websurfing, as the sources listed are newspapers and Daily Kos.
I have to agree. The main impression I get from the article is that it was written by an amateur reporting to amateurs, and was patched together out of recycled material originating in the mass media. It doesn't state its purpose, and at no point does its language reflect any special knowledge or experience. It reads like a student paper.

The DHS was hastily cobbled together, and it notoriously has one of the worst HR/Personnel systems in the federal government. As of last year, it employed more outside contractors than civil servants. In a situation like that you're bound to get amateurs hiring amateurs, and many of those will be people who are personal contacts of one sort or another.

Proverbially there's nothing so corrupting as unchecked power; but in my experience, unsupervised incompetence runs a close second.

#19 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 01:28 PM:


How fortunate, then, that the DHS has both unchecked power and unsupervised incompetence going for it.

#20 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 01:37 PM:

It's interesting that the article referenced by heckblazer refers twice to potential threats to "critical infrastructure", but doesn't define that term or enumerate the parts of the infrastructure threatened by OWS in general or the Wall Street demonstrations in particular. Since the Bull is the only bit of "infrastructure" that has gotten a full-time security corden, I have to conjecture that DHS thinks that it is somehow connected magically (by the Law of Similarity?) to the economic well-being of the country.

#21 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 07:51 PM:

My immediate thought was that the bull statue was cordoned off to prevent vandalism. It's gotten lots of publicity lately, and all it takes is one jerkhole.

#22 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 08:15 PM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) See Exodus 32 iv.

#23 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 12:33 AM:

I think anyone who's spent any time on lower Broadway would find it hard to believe that the bull was in danger of vandalism. It's a big goofy piece of art and it's one of the only interesting-looking things in the area. Also as Teresa pointed out, it's not as if it's in front of Morgan Stanley or even that close to Wall Street, so it'd be an odd place to make a violent statement against the financial industry.

I'd venture to say that the nearly universal feeling people have about the bull is that it's fun to have your picture taken near its prominent and anatomically correct hind end.

#24 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 12:42 AM:

(I should've added: Just because that may be a dumb idea doesn't mean it's not exactly what the city has in mind.

One of the most dangerous, if accidental, terrorist events to occur on that stretch of Broadway happened while I was working across the street from the bull, and it was sponsored by the city: a victory parade for the Yankees that generated so much confetti that the street was piled high with flammable kindling which then caught fire, briefly but very dramatically, melting newspaper boxes all down the block.)

#25 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 01:27 AM:


Hmm ... all I ever took away from that part of Exodus was that Moses had a serious anger management issue. Cost us some Commandments, which might explain why our modern legal systems aren't working quite right.

#26 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 03:11 AM:

Heckblazer @21,

That's a fair point, but in terms of counter-terrorism, the Bull isn't the most obvious target. We had a few attacks on London, and financial industry targets, from the IRA.

See, for example, the 1993 Bishopsgate bombing. If you can drive a truckload of tarmac into Wall Street, who needs to worry about the Bull?

I'll let somebody with experience of New York comment on whether that's a practical attack mode. You have your own truck bombing as an example in the USA, it doesn't need an organisation as big and as experienced as the Provisional IRA.

#27 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 08:45 AM:


ObMelBrooks: "I have here these 15...(*crash*)...ten, ten commandments,,,."

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 09:18 AM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) #25: Theissue of worshipping the Golden Calf (okay, I know the Wall Street Bull is bronze) rather than the appropriate deity is that it's the Wrong Thing to Do.

#29 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 09:47 AM:

Another interesting tidbit in the continuing counterterrorism follies.

#30 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 11:37 AM:

Dave Bell #26
Not from around here, are you? We can do fine by ourselves.

#31 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 12:42 PM:

albatross @ 29:

Would that Gilbert and Sullivan were alive today to make operatic light of the FBI's shenanigans. Although maybe Mack Sennet, producer of the Keystone Kops movies, would be a better choice.

#32 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2012, 07:44 AM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers0 #31:

You did say G & S?

When I was a lad (this is no lie)
I was a Special Agent of the F-B-I!
I watched the negroes, and I watched the press,
And I smoothed the creases of J. Edgar's dress.

Chor: He smoothed the creases of J. Edgar's dress.

I smoothed those creases in a special way,
So now I am the leader of the T-S-A!

Chor: He smoothed those creases is a special way,
So now he is the leader of the T-S-A!

As Special Agent I lived so large
That soon enough I was an Agent-in-Charge;
On so many things I had to keep my eyes
That I became known as the Prince of Spies.

Chor: On so many things he had to keep his eyes
That he became known as the Prince of Spies

I said all the things J. Edgar said to say,
So now I am the leader of the T-S-A.

Chor: He said all the things J. Edgar said to say,
So now he is the leader of the T-S-A.

Now civvies all, wherever you may be,
Here's how you climb to the top of the tree.
Be guided all by this golden rule,
For whoever isn't, is a veritable fool.
Open all letters, dish all the dirt,
And if you can, iron Edna's skirt.
Obey the boss, that's the highest way,
And you can be the leader of the T-S-A!

Chor: Obey the boss, that's the highest way,
And you can be the leader of the T-S-A!

#33 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2012, 08:22 AM:

Neil, if this is Making Light, then Dave Bell is from around here.

#34 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2012, 01:40 AM:

Fragano @ 32:

Yep, that's exactly what I was hoping for. Thank you.

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2012, 09:38 AM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers): #34:

Since, apparently, nothing I say about sonnets is valid, I thought I'd try my hand at patter songs instead.

#36 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2012, 12:24 PM:

Extremely unfair snipe, Fragano.

#37 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2012, 01:51 PM:

Fragano, I have great respect for your opinions on sonnets. I didn't mean, by disagreeing with some of your points, to be disrespectful.

#38 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2012, 03:37 PM:

Lenora Rose #36:

I take the rap for the hard words I utter
and will walk on; my head is still held high
since there is more to me than meets the eye.
Although I speak to this day with a stutter
I may have set a heart or two aflutter
with verses I have written on the fly.
So when you give my honest words the lie
I say that you should go back to the gutter.
Besides, if you decide to be the judge
of who can say what is or ain't a sonnet
you're saying, as an arbiter of art,
just what is good and what is merest fudge.
That is a fact, and what I say upon it
is frankly, madam, I don't give a fart.

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2012, 03:40 PM:

Xopher #37: You certainly haven't been disrespectful.

#40 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2012, 08:52 PM:

Fragano Ledgister #38: Dude, a poetic sulk is still sulking.

#41 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2012, 01:00 AM:


A) Well expressed.

B) Regardless, I still think there's something to be said for snarking about an incident in one thread in another one entirely, about another subject entirely. It's not a very nice something, and it seems beneath you.

Since it HAS persisted here, though, I will continue with what I considered saying then, and opted not to, based upon a lack of time/energy, and a hope I misread your one line of response there as lighter snark than it seemed.

C) I never meant to offend you. I thought I'd left room in my comment to make that clear, but the internet flattens tone.

D) I did not say I had more expertise, and certainly not that nothing you say is valid. If you're reading that into it, that reading comes from within you. I thought I said rather clearly that I can't write the things, only that I've studied them. IMHO, that would make you more expert. Still, I've gotten enough decent critique from sufficiently perceptive non-writers on prose that I presumed to think I might have a contribution. All I meant was that if nobody said Sir Thomas Wyatt's sonnets of occasionally stretched scansion* and rhyme were not sonnets, it seemed to me the form is slightly more flexible than given credit for. Thus your "it's a nice poem but not a sonnet" seemed to me to be making the same kind of arbitration of art that seems to have got your back up when I did it.

D) The question of whether the rhymes were or weren't sufficiently rhyming has led to an interesting conversation about accent and dialect. Light was made of heat.

E) Yes, many of your poems are excellent. And yes, your sonnets are perfect sonnets. This may or may not be tangential, but it is undeniable.
* Technical note: his lines, and not just his, were always pentametric, IE with 5 stressed beats, but not always Iambic: the unstressed syllables were sometimes missing or doubled. Any near-rhymes are debatable due to changes in time and pronunciation; certainly I don't say Walter and Water the same, and a certain Sir Raleigh made several puns on his own name. But they exist to the modern ear.

#42 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2012, 12:34 PM:

Lenora Rose #41: Very well said.

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