POLITICS
01/08/2013 08:06 pm ET Updated Jan 08, 2013

FBI Occupy Wall Street Memos Skip Infiltration Of Occupy Cleveland

WASHINGTON -- Connor Stevens was sentenced to eight years in prison in mid-November for taking part in a plot to blow up an Ohio bridge. The 20-year-old's sentence was the culmiation of work by an FBI informant, who pushed the bridge idea, and furnished Stevens and his associates with jobs, drugs, and ultimately explosives. The informant's operation began at Occupy Cleveland, where he met the would-be bombers.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI for all documents related to the agency's work monitoring Occupy Wall Street. It was a request likely to have produced materials related to the Cleveland sting.

Just before the New Year, the FBI released internal documents showing a coast-to-coast surveillance of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In the memos, federal agents review possible protests against banks in the South, ports in the West, and activities on Wall Street. The documents make only a glancing mention of Occupy Cleveland.

Neither the informant's work nor his reason to infiltrate Occupy Cleveland turn up in the FBI's response to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund document request.

This did not escape the notice of Gail Stevens, Connors' mother. She still has unanswered questions about her son's case -- questions the documents do not come close to solving. "Why was the FBI sending someone into Occupy in the first place?" she asked. "There was never an answer, a satisfying answer."

Shaquille Azir, ex-con, bank robber, forger, passer of bad checks, and FBI informant, first visited Occupy Cleveland the night the activists were evicted from their camp. The young men were homeless, looking for a cause and a paycheck. At best they were failed gutter punks.

It took months of convincing by Azir to get the plot in motion. After the camp folded, Azir gave the penniless Occupy activists construction jobs, and plied them with beer while they worked. He sent them home, according to a Rolling Stone magazine account, with more beer, weed and prescription drugs. At first, the activists rebuffed Azir's arms-dealer friend, who was an FBI agent. Azir continued to press them.

When the Occupiers waffled, Azir pushed back. Eventually, Stevens and the others gave in. "They were kind of hooked into this guy," Stevens' attorney, Terry Gilbert, told HuffPost. "When Occupy disbanded, it took a chunk of meaning out of their lives -- to the point where they were kind of dangling out there with nothing to do. They were disaffected. ... One day it's all over and it's like where do I go now. That's when they started really working on these kids -- the FBI."

After the activists attempted to set off the fake bombs, agents swooped in on April 30. Four of the five defendants, including Stevens, pleaded guilty. The fifth defendant's case has been delayed for a psychological evaluation.

Gail Stevens said she wants to know how deep the FBI's involvement went. What did agents know about Azir and drugs? What instructions did the FBI give? What was documented in the hours when the recording equipment failed?

"I just want to shake people and wake them up," Stevens said. "Do you not realize what the FBI is doing? The power that they have?"

So far, at least when it comes to Occupy Wall Street, the FBI has the power to withhold and redact documents. "All FBI documents responsive to the request have been processed and released," bureau spokesman Christopher Allen told HuffPost in an email.

Tim Russo, a member of Occupy Cleveland who filmed the group's activities, said his group's scant mention in the FBI release proves the existence of more documents.

"The FOIA release is incomplete on its face," Russo told HuffPost. "If you ask for info about the FBI's involvement in the Occupy movement and not one word in the release mentions this plot -- it's like 'really?' It doesn't pass the smell test."

Said Russo: "Follow the money and there's your terrorist. These guys didn't have enough money to buy lunch at an Olive Garden. Any FOIA release would have some discussion of where this money came from."

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund who filed the FOIA request, said she agrees. She told HuffPost an appeal for more FBI documents is in the works.

"There are references throughout [the documents] to monitoring reports, other information that they obtained, discussions that themselves would have generated other written materials that we do not have," Verheyden-Hilliard explained.

Those 100 or so pages, Verheyden-Hilliard said, were "the tip of the iceberg."

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

PHOTO GALLERIES
Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?

CONVERSATIONS