Above photo: U.S. federal agents disperse protesters at the Multnomah County Justice Center in Portland, Ore., on July 23, 2020.Ankur Dholakia/AFP via Getty Images.
In an email message, Betsy Reed, the editor-in-chief of the Intercept reports, “Hundreds of thousands of files from the FBI and local police departments have been leaked, exposing serious abuses of power by law enforcement.” She writes, Blue Leaks “are like the Pentagon Papers for U.S. law enforcement.” The leaks show how political activists are targeted and monitored on social media, that there is widespread racial bias by police and that police exaggerate threats by antifa to justify violence against protesters.
Micah Lee, a DDoSecrets’ advisory board member, wrote about the Blue Leak documents on July 15, describing it as 269 gigabytes of law enforcement data with 116 million rows of data taken from 251 different law enforcement websites by the hacktivist collective Anonymous. The data was mostly taken from fusion center websites. Some of the hacked websites are from “local police departments, police training organizations, members-only associations for cops or retired FBI agents, and law enforcement groups specifically dedicated to investigating organized retail crime, drug trafficking, and working with industry.”
The documents cover from 2007 to June 14, 2020, exposing 700,000 law enforcement agents. In response to the leak, Twitter permanently suspended the DDoSecrets Twitter account and blocked all links to ddosecrets.com, then Reddit banned the r/blueleaks forum and German authorities seized a server belonging to DDoSecrets that was hosting BlueLeaks data.
The Intercept has only begun to write stories on these massive leaks. Excerpts from the stories are published below. The stories reveal law enforcement officers targeting political activists in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd and how police exaggerated threats from protesters to justify violence.
The Blue Leaks series is one example of internal documents involving police being exposed. Last week, ProPublica published documents involving thousands of civilian complaints against police in New York City that had been kept secret for decades. The documents had been ordered to stay secret by a NYC judge but ProPublica was not a party to that litigation so they were not restrained by the court. The documents have enabled reports that let the public know who are the NYPD officers with the worst records of abusive actions. This is a new era where people are seeking transparency regarding police actions and if the government is not transparent, then the democratized media will force transparency.
The summaries below from the Intercept only present highlights. We urge people to read the original articles and to follow this developing story on The Intercept. Popular Resistance will continue to report on the Blue Leaks documents and other documents showing police abuses.
On July 25, Ryan Devereaux wrote “Before Portland, Trump’s Shock Troops Went After Border Activists.” The subheadline explained the story:
“The purported threat of antifa was long used to justify militarized targeting of immigration activists. Now it’s being used against protesters in Portland.”
The article begins with a focus on Kaji Douša of the New Sanctuary Movement, a senior pastor at Park Avenue Christian Church in New York City, who describes how the images seen in Portland of troops in unmarked vans seizing protesters is not new to her.
Douša “has a growing stack of internal DHS documents, produced in ongoing litigation surrounding the agency’s surveillance of her and dozens of lawyers, journalists, and asylum advocates who were targeted in a sweeping DHS spying operation during the 2018 midterm elections. ‘We were perceived to be radicals,’ Douša told The Intercept. ‘A lot of white people turned away because it wasn’t them, but now that it’s them in Portland, everybody’s like, ‘Oh, this is crazy.’”
The article goes on to describe “a trove of law enforcement documents that were recently hacked and posted online under the title Blue Leaks. The leaked documents reveal several instances in recent years of the Department of Homeland Security and its subagencies circulating warnings about a dangerous anarchist or antifa element constituting a domestic terrorist threat . . . which set the stage for the federal law enforcement campaign the president is now seeking to take nationwide.”
Anarchists have long been presented as a dangerous terrorist threat in the United States going back more than a century. President Trump used the term as a 2020 election tool for his ‘law and order’ image campaign, which has actually spread chaos and disorder. The Intercept describes how the antifa threat has been built out by federal law enforcement in a public relations campaign, writing, “Last May, the FBI circulated a report, later leaked to Yahoo News and included in the BlueLeaks cache, titled ‘Anarchist Extremists Very Likely Increasing Targeting of US Government Entities in Arizona, Increasing Risk of Armed Conflict.’ As Yahoo News noted in its coverage, which included interviews with individuals included in the document, ‘almost all of the evidence cited in the report involved nonviolent protest activity.'”
The Intercept continues, “The antifa-anarchist boogeyman that has haunted the minds of the nation’s border and immigration agencies for the past three and a half years has now gone national. According to a leaked DHS document obtained by Lawfare, the same office of intelligence and analysis that described ‘anti-fascist (ANTIFA) anarchist extremists’ as domestic terrorists in 2018 is now collecting intelligence for federal law enforcement operations in Portland.”
Ten days before that article, Devereaux wrote, “Leaked Documents Show Police Knew Far-Right Extremists Were the Real Threat at Protests, Not ‘Antifa.'” The article shows the police manufactured antifa-fear even though they were well aware that the real problem was violent, right-wing protesters like the boogaloo movement, which seeks armed confrontation with police to trigger a civil war.
As the national uprising against race-based police violence grew, President Trump and Attorney General Barr put out a false story claiming that “antifa” were domestic terrorists and threatened to use law enforcement against them as was done in the failed ‘war on terror.’
The Intercept analyzed nearly 300 Blue Leak documents that reference “antifa.” Devereaux summarized the truth found in the Blue Leak documents writing, “while the White House beat the drum for a crackdown on a leaderless movement on the left, law enforcement offices across the country were sharing detailed reports of far-right extremists seeking to attack the protesters and police during the country’s historic demonstrations, a trove of newly leaked documents reveals.”
The article quotes Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project who told the Intercept, “Throughout the documents you see counterterrorism agencies using extremism so broadly as to mean virtually anything that encompasses dissent. There are instances in which people engaging in white supremacist violence get the benefit of the doubt as potential lone offenders, while people of color and those who dissent against government injustice are smeared as threats with guilt by association.”
This faulty analysis by law enforcement reinforces the view that police are racist, i.e. they assume Black protesters are violent even if they do not display violence, but armed white protesters are nonviolent. It is this upside-down world that has led to the nationwide uprising against racist police violence.
Examples of the biased view of law enforcement were stories about bricks being planted alongside march routes of protesters. The Intercept reported that the Department of Homeland Security circulated a tweet to law enforcement agencies across the country that claimed antifa was stashing bricks to “fuel protests.” Many of us in the movement who saw videos of bricks being planted assumed it was provocateurs trying to push protests toward property damage and violence.
Our reaction was it was infiltration by police or right-wingers. The protest movements are mostly nonviolent and property damage typically comes from infiltrators. In fact, there is a long history of police infiltration of antifa. And, this week it came out that a white supremacist was very likely behind the property damage during the protests in Minnesota after the killing of George Floyd. This is not surprising as infiltration is the norm against US political movements, usually by police but also by corporate interests and right-wing groups.
The brick-planting intelligence made its way to a law enforcement fusion center in Maine. The Intercept reports, last week, “Mainer magazine tracked down the original source of the tweet: a far-right, pro-Trump biker who goes by the name ‘the Wolfman,’ who claimed that Facebook kept deleting his brick-planting evidence ‘because they are BLM supporters.'”
Despite the lack of evidence, Trump continues to push the false story of antifa as terrorists, not the white supremacists, e.g. Trump tweeted a quote from “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade: “I don’t see any indication that there were any white supremist [sic] groups mixing in. This is an ANTIFA Organization. It seems that the first time we saw it in a major way was Occupy Wall Street. It’s the same mindset” on June 1 when Trump added “TRUE!” in his retweet. That day, Trump said he would mobilize the military against protesters and federal militarized police used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear Lafayette Park so Trump could walk across the street to hold a bible upside down in front of St. John’s Church.
While Trump and Barr were falsely calling antifa a terrorist organization (not only does it not use terror tactics, it is not an organization but an ideology against fascism), the Intercept reported thatHomeland Security shared with the White House and federal and local law enforcement agencies information on the actions of armed right-wing groups:
“’A series of Telegram accounts linked to a wider network of paramilitary far-right extremists have indicated that ongoing disturbances are spreading America’s police forces thin, making this the ideal time to strike with a strategic attack,’ the agency reported in a round-up of intelligence reports coming in from around the country, published the following morning. ‘One account, with thousands of followers and links to several neo-Nazi terror groups like The Base and the Nordic Resistance Movement, called for attacks on critical infrastructure.’ The agency noted that Twitter had recently removed a fake antifa account “created by a known white supremacist group” that had issued a call to violence.”
Trump and Barr ignoring these reports on violent and armed right-wing organizations has led to a misdirection of police resources and the creation of false news in the media that antifa is the problem. This serves Trump’s political needs for a left-wing boogeyman to scare voters but it does not serve the purpose of creating security or smart policing.
Writers Mara Hvistendahl and Sam Biddle wrote, “Homeland Security Worries COVID-19 Masks Are Breaking Facial Recognition, Leaked Document Shows.” The subheadline describes how COVID-19 public health measures undermine the ability of police to identify people,
The rapid global spread and persistent threat of the coronavirus has presented an obvious roadblock to facial recognition’s similar global expansion.
The article begins by highlighting the contradiction between doctors and pandemic experts urging people to wear face masks to stop the spread of the pandemic-virus, noting that Homeland Security has the “opposite concern, according to an ‘intelligence note’ found among the BlueLeaks trove of law enforcement documents: Masks are breaking police facial recognition.”
With protesters suddenly covering their faces to avoid illness, facial recognition is failing. The technology already has limitations and problems with accuracy. Some cities banned the technology because of its inaccuracy especially when it comes to people from communities of color.
The article describes a May 22 intelligence note from the “DHS Intelligence Enterprise Counterterrorism Mission Center in conjunction with a variety of other agencies, including Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, [which] ‘examines the potential impacts that widespread use of protective masks could have on security operations that incorporate face recognition systems — such as video cameras, image processing hardware and software, and image recognition algorithms — to monitor public spaces during the ongoing Covid-19 public health emergency and in the months after the pandemic subsides.'”
The Minnesota Fusion Center distributed the notice on May 26 as the uprising in response to the killing of George Floyd was developing. The notice exposed the warped analysis of law enforcement agents about “adversaries” of the United States avoiding facial recognition writing, “We assess violent extremists and other criminals who have historically maintained an interest in avoiding face recognition are likely to opportunistically seize upon public safety measures recommending the wearing of face masks to hinder the effectiveness of face recognition systems in public spaces by security partners.” It is almost laughable that police analyze face masks in this was while they concede “we have no specific information that violent extremists or other criminals in the United States are using protective face coverings to conduct attacks, some of these entities have previously expressed interest in avoiding face recognition and promulgated simple instructions to conceal one’s identity, both prior to and during the current Covid-19 pandemic.”
Another counterterrorism note dated May 22 states, “We assess face recognition systems used to support security operations in public spaces will be less effective while widespread public use of facemasks, including partial and full-face covering, is practiced by the public to limit the spread of Covid-19.” Protesters wearing facemasks before the pandemic faced arrest in some local jurisdictions for violating laws that banned face masks. Some of these laws were designed against the Ku Klux Klan but were used against protesters exercising First Amendment rights, so you can imagine how the pandemic has turned the tables on law enforcement and their new facial recognition technology.
Ironically, the Homeland Security memos also point to people in the US using tactics from the Hong Kong protests where people shined lasers into cameras and wore face masks to prevent police identification. This is ironic because the Hong Kong protest movement, which seeks independence from China, is heavily funded by the US National Endowment for Democracy and is allied with far-right anti-China US politicians. The leaders of it have been exposed as US political tools but liberals in the US are still confused. Other lessons that US protesters have learned from the NED-funded Hong Kong movement are using umbrellas and leaf blowers to protect from pepper spray.
Facial recognition technology is flawed, controversial and many believe it should be banned. Homeland Security and Customs have been pushing for it to be used more widely but in December, following public outcry, they walked back plans to make facial recognition mandatory in airports.
The rampant police violence against people exercising their First Amendment rights and people of color needs to be understood. Getting to the truth will require transparency, which law enforcement and government officials oppose. They keep this information secret because if people knew the truth, then the uprising against militarized and racist police violence would escalate. There is an urgent need to get control of policing in the United States. Police need to be transparent, de-militarized and controlled by the people in the communities that they operate in.