Assassination Plot Records Won’t Be Released
Photo By Cody Duty/Houston Chronicle Occupy Houston protestors lay in the exit ramp of Loop 610 at the Port of Houston Authority Monday, Dec. 12, 2011, in Houston. The event, Occupy The Port, was part of a nationwide movement targeting the nation’s ports. About 20 of the more than 100 protestors were arrested according to the Houston Police Department.
Details of a plot to kill Occupy Houston leaders won’t be released after a federal court upheld the FBI’s claim that the documents are legally exempted from the Freedom of Information Act.
The FBI argued information was withheld, including 12 of 17 relevant pages, to protect the identity of confidential sources who were “members of organized violent groups,” according to Courthouse News Service.
A heavily-redacted FBI document first revealed a Houston plot “to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.”
However the plotter’s identity is redacted.
Ryan Shapiro, a graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and historian, filed several requests for documents pertaining to the Houston plot in 2013. In response, the FBI said they had no such relevant records, so Shapiro sued, accusing the bureau of an inadequate search.
The lawsuit forced the FBI to reveal 17 pages of relevant records, and five heavily-redacted pages were released to Shapiro. Shapiro sued again, demanding access to all pages, and a federal judge ordered the FBI to explain why information was withheld.
The bureau claimed several exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), primarily that the withheld information was gathered through cooperation with local law enforcement agencies investigating matters of national security surrounding the Occupy movement. The FBI argued that releasing data gathered on protesters constituted: interference with ongoing law enforcement proceedings, interference with personal privacy of law enforcement personnel, interference with law enforcement proceedings involving confidential informants and disclosure of enforcement techniques not generally known to the public–all exemptions under FOIA.
Shapiro pointed out that the FBI had denied any engagement with law enforcement over the Occupy protests, and that no major laws were broken by protesters, putting into question the existence of ongoing law enforcement proceedings. Nonetheless, a judge upheld the bureau’s claims last week, allowing the names of the plotters and any further information about the plot to remain unreleased.
The documents with mention of the Houston plot were obtained by reporter Jason Leopold, who filed a 2011 public information request to the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, seeking all records pertaining toOccupy Wall Street. That year, Houstonians joined demonstrators in dozens of American cities who occupied public places to decry collusion between financial and political powers in the United States.