Officials with the State University of New York at Oswego say they never assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other federal agency to monitor an Occupy Wall Street encampment on campus, despite a recent report. SUNY Oswego's administration claims it was more worried about uncooperative anti-abortion protesters.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund recently released a batch of documents obtained through a Freedom Of Information Act request showing how the FBI kept tabs on the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011.
Naomi Wolf, writing in The Guardian, said the documents show "a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations' knowledge." But the only college named in the documents is SUNY Oswego, and according to school officials, Wolf's assertion doesn't hold true for their campus.
"At no time during the Occupy sit-in and encampment at SUNY Oswego, or since, was there any surveillance, monitoring or spying on the group by representatives of the college — or any other agency to our knowledge," Julie Harrison Blissert, director of public affairs at SUNY Oswego, told The Huffington Post in an email. Blissert said they "maintained a positive and cooperative relationship" with the students and faculty in the Occupy encampment and even assisted finding an indoor location for them when temperatures fell in late fall 2011.
Indeed, in October 2011, Blissert said they gave the Occupy protesters clearance to camp out and said it "isn't really something new and unusual at the college."
According to SUNY Oswego, University Police Chief Cynthia Adam received a standard email from the FBI Syracuse office on Oct. 24, 2011, notifying them they'd be "forwarding messages to local university law enforcement contacts as necessary to provide public safety information." It made no mention of Occupy Wall Street.
At the time, SUNY Oswego was concerned about a group of anti-abortion protesters whom the administration insists was uncooperative. The group had reportedly told school police officers it did not intend to follow university rules for on-campus demonstrations, Blissert said.
Adam asked if the FBI agent had any information about "the anti-abortion group that had come to the Oswego campus (he did not)." During that brief conversation, Adam referenced a "small, peaceful Occupy movement at SUNY Oswego on which the outside [anti-abortion] group had intruded." The FBI didn't ask for any more information about the Occupy group.
The FBI documents have a similar take on the exchange:
[The anti-abortion group is] apparently trying to 'latch on' to the existing OCCUPY WALL STREET protesters. The unrelated group was from a religious/evangelistic group known as LIVING WATERS. They had an anti-abortion campaign entitled '180' and demonstrated on campus. Members of the LIVING WATERS protest group were not cooperative with campus public safety officials and repeatedly disregarded the stated rules for protesting.
Though many pages were deleted or not included by the FBI in the release by PCJF, and some featured heavy redaction, there was no significant redacting on the pages pertaining to college campus protests.
The SUNY administration didn't know about any contact with the FBI until documents were released by PCJF in December. SUNY Oswego's president has requested a full and complete report from Chief Adam on the scope and purpose of her contacts in this matter, Blissert said.