FBI DOCUMENTS REVEAL SECRET NATIONWIDE OCCUPY MONITORING

Re: FBI DOCUMENTS REVEAL SECRET NATIONWIDE OCCUPY MONITORING

Postby admin » Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:58 am

FBI Surveillance Of Occupy Wall Street Detailed
by Huffington Post
01/05/2013

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WASHINGTON -- Was Tim Franzen stockpiling weapons? What was Tim Franzen's philosophy? What was his political affiliation? Did Tim Franzen ever talk about violent revolution?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted to know. In late 2011, an agent or agents -- Franzen still isn't quite sure -- began trying to find out. It was during this time that Franzen became a well-known and central presence in Occupy Atlanta. He helped start the Occupy Wall Street offshoot, and had been arrested when police razed their encampment in a downtown Atlanta park.

After the first police sweep of the park, Franzen told The Huffington Post that the FBI began interviewing his fellow Occupy Atlanta activists about whether Franzen might have a cache of weapons for a future violent revolution. He said the feds interviewed three different activists at their homes about his activities and beliefs.

"It definitely rattled my cage to have these kids getting knocks on their door," Franzen said.

Here's what the feds would have found out in the course of a background check on the activist: Franzen had a criminal record related to teenage drug use and robberies that supported his habit. But he last spent time in prison when he was 19. Franzen, now 35, went on to found a chain of halfway houses to help people make the transition from addiction to recovery. He later became a community organizer with the Quaker social justice organization American Friends Service Committee, a position he continues to hold while working within Occupy Atlanta.

During one interview, an FBI agent gave one of Franzen's fellow activists a business card, which was handed over to Franzen, who decided to call the agent and have a little fun.

"I have an expert on all things Tim Franzen," Franzen remembers telling the agent over the phone. "I said, 'I'm Tim Franzen.' ... He was sort of dumbfounded. He didn't know what to say."

Franzen chastised the federal agent for scaring his younger activist friends. "At first he started denying it," he said. "He tried to write it off as not a big deal, as sort of protocol."

At the end of December, the FBI released internal documents that revealed a coordinated -- if quixotic -- surveillance of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Just about every law enforcement agency gets a cameo in the correspondence: Homeland Security, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, an entity known as the Domestic Security Alliance Council -- and even the Federal Reserve. But the extremely limited disclosure makes it difficult to assess exactly with whom the government agencies were coordinating, or why. Was the FBI attempting to infiltrate and undermine the Occupy movement, or simply trying to keep tabs on protesters who were hoping to spark political change?

Of the 110 pages released -- first obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund through a Freedom of Information Act request -- dozens are heavily redacted. The documents state that 287 additional pages on the FBI's Occupy activities were "deleted" from the release by the agency for various reasons, including nine labeled "outside the scope" and 14 tagged "duplicate."

At times, the documents are contradictory and show FBI agents spreading false information. The earliest memo erroneously describes Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that came up with the idea behind Occupy, as a "self-identified American revolutionary anarchist group." In another, OWS is lumped in with the "Aryan Nations (sic)" and hacker-activists Anonymous as "domestic terrorists."

In response to a request for comment, FBI spokesperson Christopher Allen replied via email, "The FBI cautions against drawing conclusions from redacted FOIA documents." He continued, "While the FBI is obligated to thoroughly investigate any serious allegations involving threats of violence, we do not open investigations based solely on 1st Amendment activity. In fact, DOJ and the FBI's own internal guidelines on domestic operations strictly forbid that."

If there was a unified mission behind the Occupy surveillance, it appears the purpose was to pass information about activists' plans to the finance industry. In one memo from August 2011, the FBI discusses informing officials at the New York Stock Exchange about "the planned Anarchist protest titled 'occupy Wall Street', scheduled for September 17, 2011.[sic] Numerous incidents have occurred in the past which show attempts by Anarchist groups to disrupt, influence, and or shut down normal business operations of financial districts."

The documents reveal that the FBI met with officials from four banks and one credit union, and spoke over the phone with a representative from a fifth bank. The FBI also talked with officials from the Richmond Federal Reserve, a branch of the central bank that covers much of the American South. If the FBI communicated with any of the trillion-dollar banks that were the primary subject of Occupy Wall Street's economic critique, however, those discussions have been redacted from the documents.

Citigroup, for example, is not mentioned anywhere the documents, while Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are each mentioned once in passing. No documents show coordination between the FBI and any of those banks -- although it would be conspicuous for the FBI to have communicated with smaller banks that were not a major focus of the Occupy movement while ignoring the much larger institutions that were recipients of the 2008-2009 bailouts.

The few direct communications with banks that are detailed in the documents reveal little evidence of improper behavior. On Oct. 6, 2011, the FBI called Zions Bank to inform the bankers that "Anonymous hactivists" had distributed the personal phone numbers of "the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase" online, implying that Zions executives might also be subject to such treatment per an impending Occupy rally in Salt Lake City, where Zions is headquartered. Zions declined to comment on the call for this article, but the bank -- which has about 2 percent of the total assets of JPMorgan -- has not been a target of Occupy rhetoric before or since the FBI call.

The only other banks named in the FBI documents are Hancock Bank, Peoples Bank, Bancorp South and Regions Bank -- all of which declined to comment for this article. The FBI attended a Nov. 16, 2011, meeting of officials from those banks in Biloxi, Miss., where someone from Hancock Bank warned attendees to expect an Occupy protest on Dec. 7 that could include a "sit-in" or efforts to "lock the bank doors."

None of the banks mentioned in the FBI file would comment on whether the FBI met regularly with bank officials. Bank robbery is a federal crime, which gives FBI jurisdiction.

All of these banks would have been small-ball for a protest movement that targeted massive income inequality and outrageous executive pay. But if the FBI was issuing warnings to and meeting on security issues with these smaller banks, they were almost certainly having talks with bigger New York banks -- meaning the portrait of the FBI's activities around Occupy, insofar as the internal documents are concerned, is likely incomplete in a significant dimension.

Recent FBI investigations have at times put big banks in a negative light, but have yet to result in major actions against financial institutions. In July 2012, an FBI probe found that Bank of America had allowed a Mexican drug cartel to launder money through the bank. While BofA has yet to face any fines for the episode, the head of the FBI in Charlotte, N.C., BofA's headquarters, recently left the law enforcement agency for a job at Bank of America.

While the FBI communicated with the financial sector about Occupy, it's unclear the degree to which they engaged with actual Occupy activists like Franzen.

Kevin Zeese was one of the founding organizers of Occupy Washington, D.C., which set up camp just blocks from FBI headquarters and the Department of Justice. Zeese told HuffPost that infiltration by law enforcement agents or informants was an issue, but whether much of it was just shadowy conspiracy or serious agitating remains a mystery.

In one exchange he had with a Homeland Security officer, Zeese said the agent knew a key detail about a scheduled protest at the Environmental Protection Agency. Zeese joked that the officer knew more than he did about what was going on.

Zeese did remember one FBI agent who would bike over to the camp. Some of the younger activists talked regularly with the agent. "He was open about it," Zeese said. "He would ride through on a bike with the FBI thing on his back." The agent ended up spending a weekend at the camp and even donating funds to help pay for security.

Whether law enforcement had a hand in breaking up camps, Zeese said, "I can't tell." To which he added, "Down the road, there may be proof."

Franzen suggests that federal agents conducted more clandestine activities than simple Internet searches and protest monitoring. Occupiers frequently complained that the more outspoken activists within their ranks appeared to be targeted by police for arrest. Franzen said there is a connection between the agent who inquired about him among his friends and his subsequent arrest at a protest. He chronicled the incident on his blog a year ago:

Before the police officers warned the crowd to disperse from the street I had already gotten onto the side walk. One of the police Lieutenants yelled to his officers, 'Get him' and pointed at me. The police had to worm their way through the crowd in order to grab me and drag me into the street.

When I was dragged into the street, I asked the lieutenant what he was doing and he said, 'arresting you.'

'For what,' I asked.

'For being in the street,' he said.

'But I was on the sidewalk,' I replied.

'You're not now,' he said with a smile.
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Re: FBI DOCUMENTS REVEAL SECRET NATIONWIDE OCCUPY MONITORING

Postby admin » Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:59 am

FBI Occupy Wall Street Memos Skip Infiltration Of Occupy Cleveland
by Huffington Post
01/08/2013

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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 culmination 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."
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Re: FBI DOCUMENTS REVEAL SECRET NATIONWIDE OCCUPY MONITORING

Postby admin » Wed Jan 13, 2016 8:01 am

How FBI Entrapment Is Inventing 'Terrorists' - and Letting Bad Guys Off the Hook
by Rick Perlstein
RS Politics Daily
MAY 15, 2012

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Rolling Stone

This past October, at an Occupy encampment in Cleveland, Ohio, "suspicious males with walkie-talkies around their necks" and "scarves or towels around their heads" were heard grumbling at the protesters' unwillingness to act violently. At meetings a few months later, one of them, a 26-year-old with a black Mohawk known as "Cyco," explained to his anarchist colleagues how "you can make plastic explosives with bleach," and the group of five men fantasized about what they might blow up. Cyco suggested a small bridge. One of the others thought they’d have a better chance of not hurting people if they blew up a cargo ship. A third, however, argued for a big bridge – "Gotta slow the traffic that's going to make them money" – and won. He then led them to a connection who sold them C-4 explosives for $450. Then, the night before the May Day Occupy protests, they allegedly put the plan into motion – and just as the would-be terrorists fiddled with the detonator they hoped would blow to smithereens a scenic bridge in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park traversed by 13,610 vehicles every day, the FBI swooped in to arrest them.


Right in the nick of time, just like in the movies. The authorities couldn’t have more effectively made the Occupy movement look like a danger to the republic if they had scripted it. Maybe that's because, more or less, they did.

The guy who convinced the plotters to blow up a big bridge, led them to the arms merchant, and drove the team to the bomb site was an FBI informant. The merchant was an FBI agent. The bomb, of course, was a dud. And the arrest was part of a pattern of entrapment by federal law enforcement since September 11, 2001, not of terrorist suspects, but of young men federal agents have had to talk into embracing violence in the first place. One of the Cleveland arrestees, Connor Stevens, complained to his sister of feeling "very pressured" by the guy who turned out to be an informant and was recorded in 2011 rejecting property destruction: "We're in it for the long haul and those kind of tactics just don't cut it," he said. "And it's actually harder to be non-violent than it is to do stuff like that." Though when Cleveland's NEWS Channel 5 broadcast that footage, they headlined it "Accused Bomb Plot Suspect Caught on Camera Talking Violence."

In all these law enforcement schemes the alleged terrorists masterminds end up seeming, when the full story comes out, unable to terrorize their way out of a paper bag without law enforcement tutelage. ("They teach you how to make all this stuff out of simple household items," one of the kids says on a recording quoted in the FBI affidavit about a book he has just discovered, The Anarchist Cookbook. Someone asks him how much it says explosives cost. "I'm not sure," he responds, "I just downloaded it last night.") It’s a perfect example of how post-9/11 fear made law enforcement tactics seem acceptable that were previously beyond the pale. Previously, however, the targets have been Muslims; now they’re white kids from Ohio. And maybe you could argue that this is acceptable, if the feds were actually acting out of a good-faith assessment of what threats are imminent and which are not. But that's not what they're doing at all. Instead, they are arrogating to themselves a downright Orwellian power – the power to deploy the might of the State to shape a fundamental narrative about which ideas Americans must be most scared of, and which ones they should not fear much at all, independent of the relative objective dangerousness of the people who hold those ideas.

To see how, travel with me to rural Florida, and another arrest that occurred at almost exactly the same time. On April 28, members of American Front, a white-supremacist group labeled "a known terrorist organization" in the affidavit justifying the arrest, took a break from training with machine guns for a race war in order to fashion weapons out of fake "Occupy" signs which they planned to use to assault May Day protesters in Melbourne, Florida. No script, no choreography for maximal impact on sensation-hungry news broadcasts, no melodramatic press conference with a U.S. attorney and FBI Special Agent in Charge; this arrest only went down after an informant working with state law enforcement fled in fear for his or her life after being threatened by the group's leader Marcus Faella with a 9mm pistol. And though the media reported the involvement of a "joint terrorism task force of FBI and local law enforcement" the arresting affidavit does not even mention federal law enforcement; the charges filed were state, not federal. A circuit court judge scrawled a bail amount of $51,250; that was accidentally knocked down to $500. The Cleveland anarchists were held without bond.

The contrasts are extraordinarily instructive. When federal law enforcement agencies take an affirmative role in staging the crimes, the U.S. Justice Department then prosecutes, leaving more clear-and-present dangers relatively unbothered, the State is singling out ideological enemies. Violent white supremacists are not one of these enemies, apparently – because, as David Neiwert, probably the nation’s top journalist on the subject, told me, the federal government has much less often sought to entrap them, even though they are actually the biggest home-grown terrorism threat. That is unconstitutional, because law enforcement’s criterion for attention has been revealed as the ideas the alleged plotters hold – not their observed violent potential.

Who else are we supposed to be afraid of? Certainly animal-rights and environmental radicals. In 2006, when FBI Director Robert Mueller announced the indictments of Animal Liberal Front activists who burned down a horse-rendering plant in 1997, harming no humans, he called such property destruction one of the agency's "highest domestic terrorism priorities." We're supposed to be afraid of Muslims, of course – though not even necessarily Muslim militants. In a sting stunningly anatomized on a Pulitzer-worthy This American Life episode from 2005 the target, British citizen Hemant Lakhami, known as "Habib," was an Indian-born Willy Loman, so dumb he referred to night-vision goggles, which he’d never heard of, as "sunglasses" and so broken down and desperate for attention he told the federal informant he had full-sized submarines to sell. He was egged by the informant into selling him Stinger missiles (Lakhami had approached him hoping to sell him mangoes). Upon Lakhami's terrorism conviction then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie stepped up to the press conference microphones to announce, "Today is a triumph for the Justice Department in the war against terror. I don't know that anyone can say that the state of New Jersey, and this country, is not a safer place without Hemant Lakhani trotting around the globe attempting to broker arms deals."

But don't worry your pretty little heads over the epidemic of far-right insurrectionism that followed the election of Barack Obama: all told, according to a forthcoming data analysis by Neiwert, there have been 55 cases of right-wing extremists being arrested for plotting or committing alleged terrorists acts compared to 26 by Islamic militants during the same period. The right-wing plots include the bombing of a 2011 Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane and the assassination of abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009. Neither of their perpetrators, it goes without saying, had been arrested before they attempted their vile acts; neither required law enforcement entrapment to conceive and carry them out. It's just too bad for their victims they did not fit the story federal law enforcement seeks to tell.

I use the word "story" advisedly. Entrapment is the most literary of abuses of power: Investigators and prosecutors become as unto little Stephen Kings, feeding into, and feeding, the fear centers of our lizard brains in order to manipulate their audience. Unsurprisingly, the tactic crops up whenever the powers that be are themselves most frightened for their power, such as during the 1960s, when instigation of criminal acts by agents provacateurs infiltrating the anti-war movement became extremely prevalent. When one of the accused Chicago 7 left the courtroom just as a witness for the prosecution left the stand, the other six became horrified when it became clear that the guy who had just got up (actually to go to the bathroom) was a plant about to testify against them.

The antiwar movement soon learned whom to be afraid of: people who don’t quite fit in, who always seemed ready to volunteer for anything (if you’re on the FBI payroll, you don’t need a job), people pressing violence when everyone else in the room preferred peace. In the 1972 "Camden 28" trial of Catholic left conspirators who tried to steal and destroy registration records from a local draft board, the star witness got his breaking-and-entering training from the FBI and swore in court that the accused never would have raided the building absent his leadership. Although the people the FBI preferred to recruit were the sort who had trouble keeping jobs anyway. They were frequently mentally unstable: the agent provocateur whose recordings got twenty-three members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War indicted for supposedly conspiring to attack the 1972 Republican National Convention with "lead weights, 'fried' marbles, ball bearings, cherry bombs ... wrist rockets, slingshots, and cross bows" had received a psychological discharge from the Army. And they were usually criminals. In the Harrisburg 7 trial of in 1972 (in which the feds fantastically claimed that a pacifist priest, some nuns, and their confreres intended to blow up the steam tunnels beneath Washington, D.C.) the prosecution's star witness had offered himself to the FBI as an undercover New Lefty from the jail cell where he was serving time for so many crimes the U.S. Attorney had classified him as a "menace to society."

The entrapment game still works the same. In the case documented on This American Life, informant "Habib" was such a notorious liar, thief, and con man that the feds deactivated him – until after September 11, when suddenly "different FBI bureaus were fighting" for his services. The key informant in the Animal Liberation Front arrests was a truck thief and heroin addict. The dude in the Cleveland anarchist case, identified by thesmokinggun.com as a Donald Trump fan named Shaqil Azir, had convictions for cocaine possession, robbery, and passing bad checks – and was also under a current check-fraud indictment the FBI covered up in its affidavit. They also neglected to mention his frequent appearances in bankruptcy court.

Such choices are a feature, not a bug: Criminals with cases pending are able to act more convincingly as, well, criminals, and will do anything the government asks to reduce their sentences; sociopaths are better able to manipulate the emotions of macho young men. The play's the thing. Although sometimes the play becomes too convincing: In the Watergate hearings in 1973, some of the witnesses testified that hearing about VVAW's violent plans to disrupt the Republican convention were what convinced them it was OK to break laws on behalf of their president.

Not everything is the same since the 1970s, of course. The media has changed: Newsday editorialized in 1972 of the Camden case, "We have come to expect such tactics from totalitarian nations that have no respect for individual rights permitting dissent. They have no place in American and those who advocate them have no place in this government." You don’t see that sort of language much any more. Indeed, Newsday appears not to have covered the arrest and trial of Hemant Lakhami at all. "Such tactics" are just not a very big deal any more.

You know what else has changed? You and I – to our shame. Entrapment is illegal – but the question of whether law enforcement set up a legal sting or illegal entrapment is for a jury to decide. Entrapment was why juries acquitted the defendants in the Camden, VVAW, and Harrisburg cases. "How stupid did those people in Washington think we were?" a Harrisburg juror told a reporter. The feds don’t have to worry about folks like that any more. Not a single "terrorism" indictment has been thrown out for entrapment since 9/11 – not the Liberty City goofballs supposedly planning to blow up the Sears Tower who had no weapons and refused them when offered; not the Newburgh, New York outfit whose numbers included a schizophrenic who saved his own urine in bottles. (Even the judge who sentenced them said "the government made them terrorists.")

The civil liberties of the Florida white supremacist Marcus Faella, at least, have been honored. He was out on bail the day he was arrested. There’s no police informant to monitor his activities any more, but not to fear. His experiments in attempting to produce the deadly toxin ricin, according to the Florida affidavit, have not so far been successful. And Connor Stevens, heard on the menacing video shown on Cleveland news saying that his favorite part of Occupy protests "is meeting people walking down the street, average people, talking to them, hearing about how they're affected by the economy, by the justice system, things like that"? He is safely behind bars. So, for the rest of his life, is Hemant Lakhami, the hapless Stinger missile salesman. The man who put him there, Chris Christie, is now the celebrated governor of New Jersey, and was all but begged by his fellow to run for president. Republicans think he tells a good story.

Rick Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus and Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. He writes a weekly column for RollingStone.com.
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Re: FBI DOCUMENTS REVEAL SECRET NATIONWIDE OCCUPY MONITORING

Postby admin » Wed Jan 13, 2016 8:04 am

The Plot Against Occupy: How the government turned five stoner misfits into the world's most hapless terrorist cell
by Sabrina Rubin Erdely
Rolling Stone
SEPTEMBER 26, 2012

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Image
The Plot Against Occupy, Illustration by John Ritter, Photo in Illustration by David Maxwell/EPA Landov

Thunder rumbled and rain pattered on the leaves as Connor Stevens tramped through the darkness down a wooded path to the base of the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge. A sad-eyed 20-year-old poet from the Cleveland suburbs, Stevens was crouched in the foliage, his baby face obscured by a bushy lumberjack's beard. Beside him ducked two friends from Occupy Cleveland – the group that had come to define Stevens and his place in the world – both as gaunt and grungy as Stevens himself. Farther up the trail, Stevens knew, three other comrades were acting as lookouts. Gingerly, the young men opened the two black toolboxes they'd carried down from their van. Inside were eight pounds of C4 explosives.

They were actually going through with it. The six of them were going to blow up a bridge.

That they were on the brink of something so epic was surprising, even to the crew, a hodgepodge of drifters plus a pair of middle-class seekers: quiet Stevens and puppyishly excitable Brandon Baxter, also 20. Anarchists who had grown disenchanted with the Occupy movement, which they considered too conservative, they yearned to make a radical statement of their own – to send a message to corporate America, its corrupt government and that invisible grid underlying it all, the System. They'd joined Occupy Cleveland in the fall, but over the winter they'd waited in vain for the group to pick a direction before finally taking matters into their own hands. For weeks they'd fantasized about the mayhem they'd wreak, puerile talk of stink bombs and spray paint that had anted up to discussion of all the shit they'd blow up if only they could. But the grandiosity of their hopes stood in stark contrast to their mundane routine. They spent their days getting stoned at their Occupy­subsidized commune in a downtown warehouse, squabbling over dish duty and barely making their shifts at the Occupy Cleveland info tent; when they managed to scrounge up a couple of cans of Spaghettios for dinner, it was celebrated as an accomplishment. If not for the help of their levelheaded comrade Shaquille Azir, who at this critical moment stood as lookout, hissing, "How much longer is this gonna take?" the plot might never have come together.

Inside Occupy Wall Street

The boys anxiously fiddled with the safety switch on one of the IEDs. Even on this April night, as they planted two bombs, the plan felt slapdash. No one knew how to handle the explosives. They had no getaway plan. At one point they'd discussed closing the bridge with traffic cones to minimize casualties – 13,000 vehicles crossed the bridge daily – but there was no mention of that now. Some of the accomplices weren't even clear on the evening's basic agenda. "Do we plant tonight and go boom tomorrow?" Baxter had asked in the van. "No, we're going to detonate these tonight," someone had clarified.

The red light on the other IED winked on, signaling it was armed. "One is good to go," Stevens announced. "We just gotta do this one." A night-vision camera mounted nearby captured the boys' movements as they hunched around the second IED until its light shone. Then all six jogged back to the van, relief in their voices. "We just committed the biggest act of terrorism that I know of since the 1960s," Stevens said, as a recording device memorialized every word. All that was left now was for the boys to pick a location from which to push the detonators and go boom. They were feeling pretty good. They decided to go to Applebee's.

Nothing was destined to blow up that night, as it turns out, because the entire plot was actually an elaborate federal sting operation. The case against the Cleveland Five, in fact, exposes not just a deeply misguided element of the Occupy movement, but also a shadowy side of the federal government. It's hardly surprising that the FBI decided to infiltrate Occupy; given the movement's challenge of the status quo and its hectic patchwork of factions – including ones touting subversive agendas – the feds worried it could become a terrorist breeding ground. Since 9/11, the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force has been charged with preventing further terrorist attacks. But anticipating and disrupting terrorist plots require both aggressive investigative techniques and a staggering level of collaboration and resources; to pull together the Cleveland case alone, the FBI coordinated with 23 different agencies. The hope, of course, is that the results make it all worthwhile: The plot is detected and heroically foiled, the evildoers arrested, and the American public sleeps easier. The problem is that in many cases, the government has determined that the best way to capture terrorists is simply to invent them in the first place.

"The government has a responsibility to prevent harm," says former FBI counterterrorism agent Michael German, now the senior policy counsel for the ACLU. "What they're doing instead is manufacturing threatening events."

That's just how it went down in Cleveland, where the defendants started out as disoriented young men wrestling with alienation, identity issues and your typical bucket of adolescent angst. They were malleable, ripe for some outside influence to coax them onto a new path. That catalyst could have come in the form of a friend, a family member or a cause. Instead, the government sent an informant.

And not just any informant, but a smooth-talking ex-con – an incorrigible lawbreaker who racked up even more criminal charges while on the federal payroll. From the start, the government snitch nurtured the boys' destructive daydreams, egging them on every step of the way, giving them the encouragement and tools to turn their Fight Club-tinged tough talk into reality. To follow the evolution of the bombing plot under the informant's tutelage is to watch five young men get a giant federal-assisted upgrade from rebellious idealists to terrorist boogeymen. This process looks a lot like what used to be called entrapment. And yet

Before 9/11, German says, the FBI would have considered the idea of advancing terrorism plots just to defuse them as "laughable. But what was justified as an emergency method has become a normalized part of regular criminal-justice work." All too often, agents rely on informants who pump up criminal plans to comic-book-villain proportions. It's a tactic that's been used repeatedly to convict Muslims of being domestic Islamic terrorists, like the four men in Newburgh, New York, convicted in 2010 of a plot to shoot down military jets – a plot engineered by an informant who provided them with a fake Stinger missile.

Now this same strategy is being used to ensnare homegrown political activists. Environmental crusaders have fallen prey, including Eric McDavid, sentenced in 2008 to 20 years for conspiring to blow up a dam, even though it emerged at trial that a driving force behind the scheme was an FBI informant named "Anna." And anarchists are increasingly in the crosshairs, especially as they've become more visible with the rise of Occupy Wall Street. In a May sting at the Chicago NATO summit, three anarchists were charged with plotting to use Molotov cocktails on police stations and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home – accusations that defense attorneys call "propaganda," contending the bomb ingredients were provided by undercover agents.

Obama, Occupy Wall Street and the Rebirth of the Left

"These tactics are beyond the pale for what could be seen as a legitimate anti-terrorism operation," says Green Is the New Red author Will Potter, who tracks government crackdowns on activists. "But this is how the Bureau is spending their counterterrorism money, and thousands of man-hours: creating the terrorism plots that they are ostensibly preventing."

When Connor Stevens arrived at Occupy Cleveland's tent city on October 9th, 2011, it was with the electric knowledge that he was exactly where he belonged. Wearing a secondhand sweater he'd found at the donation tent, he gazed with amazement around the encampment of 100 people, swept up in the camaraderie: Everyone here was an ally, working for a common goal. The mood was infectious. His friend Brandon Baxter from nearby Lakewood, as hyper as Stevens was introverted, was rushing around the plaza, already Occupy's most eager evangelist. "Hi, I'm Brandon!" he'd say, approaching every onlooker in sight. "Can I talk to you about Occupy Cleveland?" For the moment, Stevens was content to stand on the sidelines and beam his gaptoothed grin, taking it all in.

From the minute he got there, Occupy consumed his life," recalls his sister Brelan. "He wanted to fix the whole world."

Stevens had long been smitten with radical ideology – inspired by the Communist Manifesto and the Black Panther Party, concerned for the plight of the poor – and he was determined to cultivate an appropriate political identity. To that end, he had recently decamped from his mom's home in the Cleveland suburb of Berea to a Christian-anarchist commune in the rough neighborhood of Detroit-Shoreway, shedding his bourgeois trappings to live as Jesus did: with few possessions, serving others, and questioning the establishment. His sister attributes Stevens' independent spirit to their parents' influence: "They're Christian, but adamant about us having our own thoughts and opinions, being aware of the world outside."

Serious and thoughtful, Stevens called himself the Bearded Bastard, projecting an air of mellow masculinity with his facial hair, flannel shirts and a pipe he smoked semi-ironically. With his Hemingway-esque image, it took people by surprise to discover that Stevens was gay (though he politely insisted on the more properly radical term "queer"). More readily apparent was that Stevens was a walking wound with an aura of sadness, who wrote poetry as his way of grappling with "the meaning of suffering." He was a welcome addition to the commune, which called itself Agape House: a condemned building with graffiti-covered walls, where residents stayed up after Bible study drunkenly discussing the works of Howard Zinn and hosting rowdy punk-rock shows. Stevens spent his days as a guerrilla gardener, coaxing greenery from the city's vacant lots as a form of populist protest. "No war but grass war," he'd say, pulling weeds.

Agape, pure love devoid of any ape-nature, yet love in an entirely sexual sense, is the innermost kernel of the doctrine of Jesus. Only in this way can the otherwise theologically inexplicable pagan portrayals of the lust-filled revels (agape-feasts, Eucharists = love between men and women), cupids, and couples embracing in love found in the catacombs be explained. Our blond-haired baby Jesus is certainly no one other than Bacchus, Cupid and Skeaf! Cupid and Psyche (Fig. 38) are even seen quite often in primitive Christian iconography and between them is usually the basket (kepos) with Sodomite bread which they have refused (while the lascivious naked woman in Fig. 37 cannot separate herself from the Sodomite basket in her lap.

So let us lay off playing the harps of Sodom and play the harps of men (Clemens Al protrept.), so that Apollo's holy swans can return and we can again become a congregation of Gods. German men, play on "human harps," love the strong loyal, Nordic woman in whom the divine electron still slumbers. Knowledge, Gnosis, is very valuable, but more valuable still is love [Ger. Minne] devoid of ape-like nature. Gnosis plants, but Agape builds the house (I. Cor. VIII.1). In Agape all the elect of God will be brought to full maturity (I Clemens Rom. ad Cor. XLIX). We must guard our bodies as temples of God. If we all love [minnen] one another among ourselves we will all come into the Kingdom of God (IT Clemens Rom. ad Cor. IX). Agape is the path that leads us to God (Ignatii ep. ad Ephes. IX). Jesus is Cupid, is Frauja, the Bridegroom of the Soul (Psyche). "God is love devoid of the ape-like nature (agape). He who abides in love devoid of the ape-like nature (Minne), abides in God. and god in him." (I Jn. IV.16).

-- Theozoology, or the Science of the Sodomite Apelings and the Divine Electron, by Dr. Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels


In 1939, Jack Parsons became involved with Crowley's OTO through the Agape Lodge of California, then being run by one W. T. Smith, who had been a Thelemite since 1915 via the Vancouver Lodge under Charles Stansfeld Jones ("Frater Parzival"), an accountant and a very early member of the OTO from the first days of Crowley's rulership of the Order's English-speaking world community. In 1942 -- a significant year as we shall see -- Crowley removed Smith from leadership of the Agape Lodge and installed Parsons as its chief.

The Agape Lodge was run from Parsons's home in Pasadena, where rituals were held daily and from where Parsons would collect membership dues, etc. and forward them to Karl Germer on the East Coast, who would send them on to Crowley in London. In other words, this OTO Lodge was being run more or less openly during the war by a man -- magickal name "Frater 210" -- simultaneously involved in critical work for the war effort, under the spiritual guidance of a former concentration camp inmate who corresponded regularly with a man accused of being a former German spy, now living in London!

-- Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult, by Peter Levenda


According to Hopsicker, "many of the flight trainers who had trained the Arab terrorist pilots had also flown missions out of the Venice-Sarasota airport for such Christian missionary services as televangelist Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing." One of the pilots who did the training at Huffrnan was Mike Mikarts, also a pilot for the fundamentalist "Agape Flights" of Sarasota which runs air missionary activity with obvious destabilization overtones in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. After Venice, Atta and Shehhi rented planes from Kemper Aviation at North Palm Beach Airport near Miami in August 2001. Owner Joe Kemper spent 20 years in Peru and Bolivia as a "missionary pilot" for the evangelical-run SAMAlR (South American Mission Air) which worked to bring fundamentalism to Andes mountains Indio tribes. SAMAIR is a part of an international evangelical/Pentecostal air wing, often drawing on former military pilots, who are not accidentally often found in areas in the middle of civil wars, drug gangs, and mercenary intelligence operations in Third World countries. Additionally, Joe Kemper's chief pilot trainer between 1989 and 1999 was Jean-Francois Buslik, who was later arrested on murder charges filed in Belgium, Buslik was implicated in the 1982-85 Brabant killings, a wave of serial killings and de facto strategy of tension which claimed the lives of over 30 victims at supermarkets in the Brussels suburbs. These were no ordinary flight schools. (Mad Cow Morning News 41; EIR, October 26, 2001)

-- 9/11 Synthetic Terror Made in USA, by Webster Griffin Tarpley


"Heute die Welt" all repeated, "Morgens das Sonnensystem!")

But two days earlier, as the Leif Erikson left the Atlantic and entered the underground Ocean of Valusia beneath Europe, George Dorn was listening to a different kind of chorus. It was, Mavis had explained to him in advance, the weekly Agape Ludens, or Love Feast Game, of the Discordians, and the dining hall was newly bedecked with pornographic and psychedelic posters, Christian and Buddhist and Amerindian mystic designs, balloons and lollypops dangling from the ceiling on Day-Glo-dabbed strings, numinous paintings of Discordian saints (including Norton I, Sigismundo Malatesta, Guillaume of Aquitaine, Chuang Chou, Judge Roy Bean, various historical figures even more obscure, and numerous gorillas and dolphins), bouquets of roses and forsythia and gladiolas and orchids, clusters of acorns and gourds, and the inevitable proliferation of golden apples, pentagons and octopi.

The main course was the best Alaskan king crab Newburg that George had ever tasted, only lightly dusted with a mild hint of Panamanian Red grass. Dozens of trays of dried fruits and cheeses were passed back and forth among the tables, together with canapes of an exquisite caviar George had never encountered before ("Only Hagbard knows where those sturgeon spawn," Mavis explained) and the beverage was a blend of the Japanese seventeen-herb Mu tea with Menomenee Indian peyote tea. While everyone gorged, laughed and got gently but definitely zonked, Hag-bard—who was evidently satisfied that he and FUCKUP had located "the problem in Las Vegas"—merrily conducted the religious portion of the Agape Ludens.

-- The Illuminatus! Trilogy, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson


Instead of their missions to search and destroy, but still searching, we looked for a unifying principle that would magnetize the disparate fields of politics, the arts, and the spirit into a solid-state approach; one that would ease our outrage and pain.

When all you suddenly want is to stop participating in the hurt created by others for you to live in, you start asking a lot of questions. Why this? Why that? We became like children woozy with agape. Why clothes? Why marriage? Why work? Did you really have to eat meat? Eat at all? And why did the sky have to be blank or blue when it could be purple and populated with avatars and Alpha Centurions. What if C-A-T spelled "dog"? "WOW" became the first guileless retort in a new Esperanto. Language was becoming less than slang, it was becoming epiphanic, almost placental.

-- The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck, by John Steinbeck IV & Nancy Steinbeck


In the 18th century, representatives from witch-cults all over Europe made their way to a fertility and death ritual on this mountain and some were alleged to have been Masons. Masons were believed to have been able to communicate in some voiceless way which was called telepathy by some and empathy by others. Empathy can be described as the feeling of entering into the spirit of a person or thing and so empathy is synonymous with the Rapport of Mesmeric Masonry. The witches at the Hartz Mountain festival came together in sympathetic understanding (Rapport) and were in non-verbal communication. In fact, at a given signal, the occult gathering began to cling together in a sort of "Epoxy" of "Agape" ("Love-In", if you will) that became a rite of magica sexualis and ritual intercourse.

-- King Kill 33, by James Shelby Downard & Michael A. Hoffman II


"Connor is the gentlest, sweetest person around," says his friend Katie Steinmuller.

His demeanor hadn't always been so chill. Before dropping out of Berea High School in 10th grade, intent on "unschooling" himself, he'd founded a militant student group called Fighters for Freedom, disrupted a job fair where the Army was recruiting, and e-mailed a sergeant to call him a "fascist pig." His loathing of law enforcement had begun at age nine, when his father was arrested for touching the breasts and buttocks of two 10-year-old girls; Dad pleaded guilty, served seven months in state prison, and remains a registered sex offender. Young Connor became enraged not at his father, but at the men who had taken his daddy away. "I developed a keen hatred for authority, 'order' and especially 'law,'" he later wrote. "The simple fact that they can put you in handcuffs and haul you off was enough for me to hate them at that adorable age."

His father's conviction changed everything for the fracturing Stevens family. Connor's mother, Gail, who had been a stay-at-home mom to her five children, suddenly had to support them, and her absence while working long hours as a medical assistant further stoked Connor's fury. Police in their town of 19,000 finally decided to have a chat with his mom after fielding a complaint about 15-year-old Connor's MySpace page, where he'd posted the Unabomber's Manifesto and screeds urging readers to "KILL COPS! YEA, THE PIGS IN BLUE ARE THE FASCISTS WE HAVE TO FIGHT!!!" "Gail says Connor is not a violent person but has very strong beliefs and is immature about it," the police report noted. "She is working with him about how he comes across." He evidently listened to his mother, coming to embrace pacifism. "One of our major principles was nonviolence," says Zachy Schraufl, who shared a room with Stevens at Agape House. "We became brothers in Christ and all that shit."

It was while living at the commune and working at the anti-war kitchen Food Not Bombs that Stevens met fellow volunteer Brandon Baxter, who was hurling himself into the activist life with the energy of someone discovering a cool new band. With his bright blue eyes, earnest intensity and radical garb – camo jacket, biohazard patches, black bandanna around his neck – Baxter looked like a post-apocalyptic Boy Scout as he stood on the corner of 25th and Lorrain shouting, "Free food!" Baxter was psyched to be doing something constructive – psyched, really, just to be out of his hometown of Lakewood, an inner-ring suburb where he'd been rudderless since finishing high school. His quest to fit in somewhere had already taken one reckless turn when, wanting to connect with his German heritage, he briefly joined a neo-Nazi group. ("Brandon doesn't know anything about the world," says his sister Rachael Garcia. "He's very impressionable.") He'd been just as enthused upon realizing that his father, absent much of his childhood, was infatuated with Native American culture; Baxter had attended powwows and absorbed the culture so fully that new friends believed him to be part Indian. His newest incarnation as anarchist do-gooder suited him fine. Hearing about Occupy Cleveland's dawning days, Baxter had encouraged Stevens to check it out with him. "Let's have a revolution!" Baxter crowed.

Few places in America were in as dire need of change as Cleveland. In 2010, Forbes named it the country's most miserable city; its recession had been under way for a decade, with jobs vanishing and unemployment and homelessness skyrocketing. Stevens and Baxter were ready to be part of the solution, and they vigorously dived into Occupy. They attended study groups on horizontal decision-making and the principles of anarchism. It was a lot to absorb. "Within the first day it was so much information that my mind was boggled," Stevens told a documentary filmmaker who showed up at the tent city.

The boys' inexperience and political naiveté were instantly apparent. "They were not well-informed," says Sam Tylicki, a longtime anarchist in Cleveland. "Their hearts were in the right place, but they were new to everything. They saw the world not making sense but didn't know exactly what to do about it." Stevens and Baxter were stung to find themselves relegated to grunt work – kitchen duty, night watch. Deepening their hurt, the old-guard liberal contingent swiftly took the reins of Occupy Cleveland's discussions, rejecting the suggestions of the younger, more radical crowd. A suspicious rift opened between the two groups. Anarchists complained about Occupy's timidity, and jealously referred to its core members as the Power Circle.

Tensions came to a head when the city gave Occupy Cleveland an October 21st deadline to remove its tents, and the two factions clashed over how to proceed, with liberals tempted to comply and radicals like Stevens and Baxter insisting on standing their ground and getting arrested en masse. At 10 p.m. on the appointed night, as a crowd of 500 gathered and police arrived in riot gear, a staged bit of symbolic protest unfolded: Eleven volunteers preapproved by the Power Circle were peacefully arrested. Then everyone packed up their tents and dispersed. "This is bullshit – fuck this!" the radicals grumbled, stalking off in a huff. The glory days of Occupy Cleveland had lasted less than three weeks. For Baxter and Stevens, the movement that had jolted them with optimism and purpose felt like a crushing disappointment.

Someone else was there the night of the arrests. Shaquille Azir stood in the crowd, checking out the scene. He was 38, with ears that jutted from his bald head, a double chin and an imposing presence – six feet five, 350 pounds – a physique he described on his MySpace page as having "some extra baggage." Azir homed in on the mad-looking, bandanna-clad dudes waving anarchist flags. He approached one, a 26-year-old with a black mohawk and a pitted face named Doug Wright. Wright was a lifelong train­hopper who told friends he'd hitched his way across 40 states and once worked as a roadie for the garage band the Scurvies; his status as a real-deal gutterpunk inspired respect among younger Occupiers.

Wright was fired up that night. He bragged to Azir that his missing teeth and crooked nose were from past riots. He added that if he went back to jail, he wouldn't be out for a while. (In fact, Wright did have a history of violence, having served time in New Orleans for aggravated assault.) Soon Azir was listening to Wright bitch about Occupy.

Occupy Wall Street: A Timeline

Wright confided that he suspected the Power Circle was in cahoots with the government; he'd already told them so, shouting, "You're gonna get us sent to FEMA camps!" He was ready to start some real shit – like detonating a smoke grenade as a diversion, then pulling down the bank signs from the tops of Cleveland's towers. "Wright was still in the planning phase and was unsure how they would go about bringing down the signs," an FBI report reads. "Wright stated that . . . they need to make sure everyone knows that the action was against corporate America and not just some random acts."

Azir listened with studious sympathy. It was a technique honed over the course of his devious, dishonest life. His name had once been Kelvin Jackson, before he'd spent three years in state prison for robbing a bank, using a toy gun, while his girlfriend and their baby waited in a cab outside. His rap sheet also included cocaine possession, receiving stolen property, forgery, theft and passing bad checks. That was Azir's thing, writing worthless checks – a "crime of dishonesty," as it's known, a conviction used as evidence of a person's untruthfulness, the sort of thing that can cripple your job prospects or undermine your credibility in a court of law. In the eyes of the FBI, however, Azir's crimes had posed no impediment. Months earlier they had hired him as an informant, finding his leads fruitful enough that they'd opened several investigations, paying him $5,750, plus $550 in expenses.

Azir needed the cash. He owned a construction company that rehabbed houses, Desdy Property Group, which he bragged earned him $75,000 a year. But in reality he had been fending off foreclosures, the state tax department and lawsuits from stiffed contractors and people to whom he had written worthless promissory notes; he had been on the losing end of tens of thousands of dollars' worth of civil judgments. Seeking financial shelter, Azir had filed nine attempts at bankruptcy. Now, as he sat across the table from boastful Doug Wright, Azir was on the verge of being busted in two more bad-check cases – placing him on probation, for which the FBI would take him off its payroll. Azir needed to prove his value to the feds, and fast.

Which might explain why over the next three months, Azir kept in touch with Wright, even when Wright showed no sign of action. In February, Azir and Wright met for breakfast to discuss the issue: Did Wright still want to bring down those bank signs? Sure, Wright answered. Explaining that he had drifted away from his Occupy friends, he told Azir he wanted to touch base with them first and see what they thought. He would begin with his buddy Brandon Baxter.

By this time, Baxter wasn't doing so well. Even though he'd been trying his hardest to play his role as Occupy Cleveland's slogan-shouting cheerleader, the group was rapidly disintegrating. One big reason was that its members had nowhere to meet: Since the loss of the encampment, Occupy's presence had been reduced to a single information tent on Public Square – too chilly a gathering space in winter, especially when the gusts coming off Lake Erie whipped through the plaza and caught the tent like a windsock. For a short time, Occupy had rented a 10-by-15-foot office in a downtown high-rise, but Baxter and others had swiftly moved in with their sleeping bags and got the group evicted.

Therein lay Occupy Cleveland's other problem: Its thinning ranks were dominated by homeless teenagers. "They had no place to go," says Leatrice Tolls, a veteran activist who became Occupy Cleveland's maternal figure. "These were kids that were very lost, and needed a place to get fed and sleep." Still, homeless teens were better than no members at all, and Occupy was anxious enough to keep them that there was talk of renting a space for them to live – like a new incarnation of Agape House, which had disbanded for lack of funds.

"It's just so hard to sleep outside," Baxter complained to his friends. He was loath to return to Lakewood, the site of his traumatic childhood, where a restraining order barred him from his mother's house. Such a constant font of positivity was Baxter that few realized he had grown up in a household his sister Rachael Garcia calls violent. "He was very fragile as a child," she says. "He was so sensitive. He'd come to me every day, crying," given to nervous tics, doodles of people hanging in nooses and writing violent poetry. "In my deepest darkest fantasys [sic] I see myself as evil," he wrote, "lacking all reason and empathy spilling the blood of the innocent."

When Baxter was 17, the stress had reached an apex. Believing his stepfather had beaten his mother, Baxter pulled a kitchen knife. "Cut me if you're going to cut me!" the stepdad urged, before Baxter sliced the knife across his chest. Baxter did a stint in a psych ward, says Garcia, after which he was legally forbidden from coming within 500 feet of his stepdad, and maintained little contact with his mom. Instead, he'd moved in with his biological father, a tense, out-of-work roofer whom he barely knew.

Occupy had been Baxter's escape hatch. Now he reluctantly returned to his father's home, which the bank was trying to foreclose on. Dad was scraping payments together by selling Native American handicrafts online. Baxter continued to faithfully walk or bike the seven miles into Cleveland for Occupy's meetings. Late one February night, furious with himself at his inability to somehow repair a broken world – or even his own broken life – Baxter had what he called a "mental break." He leapt in front of a moving car, shouting, "Kill me!" Police responding to the driver's 911 call found Baxter standing on the railing of the Hilliard Bridge, looking down onto the lanes of traffic below and screaming incoherently. The cops talked Baxter into coming down, then tackled him as he tried to flee. He had a 10-and-a-half-inch knife in his coat and a smaller one in his pants pocket. Charged with carrying a concealed weapon, he was sent to Lakewood Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. On his way out of the police station, Baxter gave officers the finger, yelling, "Fascists!"

Days later, Wright and Azir picked Baxter up from his dad's house and took him to lunch at a Lakewood restaurant. They wanted to talk about fucking shit up – for Occupy's sake. Baxter was in.

They brainstormed and discussed possible targets, like a bank. Or Cleveland's new casino, during its grand opening. Or what about the G8 in Chicago, or the Republican convention? At one point Wright mentioned explosives, but dismissed it as too costly. They kept on talking.

Flash-forward a month to late March. The group was still dithering. It had made only one decision: That its action should coincide with May Day, when Occupy was calling for a national day of protest. Wright had finally downloaded The Anarchist's Cookbook, which he'd been talking about doing forever, and which he hoped would jump-start their imaginations: "We can make smoke bombs, we can make plastic explosives," Wright said in his gravelly voice, laughing. "It teaches you how to pick locks. It does everything."

At the word "explosives," Azir perked up. "How much do we need?" he stammered. "How much money we need to make explosive – make the plastic explosives?"

"I'm not sure," Wright said. "I haven't read too much yet."

"Well, you gotta get with me," Azir persisted. "If we gonna be trying to do something in a month, you need to get with me as soon as possible on how much money we gonna need, and the materials that we gonna need. Tell me what all we need to make the bombs." 
The very next day, Azir met with Wright to float a remarkable proposal: Now that they were broaching the topic of explosives, was Wright determined to make the bombs from scratch – or should they just buy some C4 from a guy Azir knew?

Days later, Wright and Baxter were standing with Azir in the kitchen of one of his vacant properties, agog as Azir's arms-dealer friend laid out an array of batons, tear gas and gas masks before them. Wright and Baxter excitedly asked about ordering some riot gear. The arms dealer – in reality, an undercover FBI agent – pointed to a picture of explosives and asked if they would need "the heavy stuff."

"Yeaaaah, we're gonna wait on that," Wright sidestepped. He repeated his disinterest in explosives two days later, when the undercover agent phoned – and then again the next day, when Azir prodded him about it. Wright explained that they were flat broke, without money to afford even the riot gear, much less the explosives.

Azir had a solution. He gave them jobs.

Everybody at the warehouse – Occupy Cleveland's commune where anyone who worked a shift at the information tent earned a space – agreed that Baxter and Wright's boss sounded way cool. Since the boys didn't have a car, Azir picked them up for work each morning and drove them to the day's construction site. He gave them beers all day long. And when he dropped them off at the Warehouse each night, they came in bearing cases of beer, baggies of pot and Adderall – all procured with the help of Azir, they said.

Stevens had joined the conspirators not long after they met with the arms dealer, in part because of the lure of a job. "Scratch my back, it hurts!" Stevens would cry out as he burst through the door of the Warehouse, skin burning from handling fiberglass insulation. He was proud to be employed for the first time, even if his pay was only five bucks an hour. "Just getting home, boss is gonna get here at nine to start it all over again," Stevens would text his sister near midnight, before zipping into his winter coat to get some sleep.

Rest was near impossible in their freezing-cold living space. The Warehouse was a cavernous indoor tent city for a dozen or so residents – mostly young men – who stayed up till all hours drinking 40s, playing guitar and arguing over cigarettes. There were no rules, no respect for personal space, no working stove and almost no heat. The place was filthy, with dishes stacked so high in the kitchen that someone just moved the pile into the bathroom.

The chaotic atmosphere wore down Stevens. "I don't feel spiritually right," he complained to a friend. He was frustrated with the stagnancy of Occupy Cleveland, whose entire existence was now staked to round-the-clock staffing of a tent that no one even visited. Stevens was attending church weekly. He told his sister he thought God might be calling him to the ministry.

And yet at the same time, Stevens was also busy trading ideas with Baxter, Wright and Azir about what to bomb. Some friends wonder if Stevens initially joined to talk his comrades out of the plot: "He's a deeply moral guy," says Occupier Joe Ziff. "I have a hunch that he may have gone along in the hopes that he could stop it." Whatever Stevens' reasons, from the moment Azir had brought his arms-dealer friend into the picture, the conversation had definitively shifted to talk of explosions. The friends discussed attacking a KKK headquarters, then dismissed the plan as lacking a deeper message about the one percent. Baxter mentioned blowing up a bridge, which earned a vote from Azir – "Gotta slow the traffic that's going to make them the money" – but then Baxter backpedaled, concerned that the media might not portray the action in a positive light. Stevens suggested targeting mines or oil wells. Wright joked that if he got drunk enough he might wear a suicide vest; Baxter confided that once he would have been willing to do that, but no longer. He'd gotten himself a girlfriend now – fellow Warehouse-dweller Justine Strehle, an 18-year-old who wore fuzzy hats with animal ears – and was moony with new love.

Azir implored them to decide. "What are we going to do with the stuff we got?" he asked. "We're on the hook for it."

"We've got eight fucking pounds of C4," Wright said in disbelief.

It was true. The "arms dealer" had been remarkably flexible about payment, allowing them to place an order for eight bricks of C4 plastic explosives, vests, tear gas and gas masks for $900, only half of which would be due upon receipt; if they couldn't come up with the additional $450, the dealer would even allow Wright to work off the debt. Stevens was worried that the C4 salesman could be a cop, but Azir vouched for him, saying if it made Stevens feel better, he'd personally meet with the guy when it came time for the buy. Now, as Azir wouldn't stop reminding them, they needed to come up with something to blow up in time for May Day: "We're 10 days away – if you guys are going to do something, let's put together a plan!"

The guys in the crew put on their thinking caps. They could turn the C4 into depth charges and throw it into a river to sink a ship. Would that work? Or they could blow up the Cleveland Justice Center. Better still: They would blow up the Federal Reserve Bank. But wait – where was the Federal Reserve, anyway? Discussions were endless. So fantastical did their schemes seem to Baxter that he proposed they throw tacks out the window of their getaway car, to foil would-be pursuers.

Azir was fed up with their bumbling indecision. "Did you follow up on anything? What are we doing? Because as usual you got me on a stupid-ass holding pattern," he scolded. "Every time we meet, we leave saying we're going to do some research and then we get back together and we're back to square one!"

The boys had come to look up to Azir, one of the few adults in their lives. "This guy portrayed himself as a father figure," says Occupy's Sam Tylicki. "He provided them work, provided them drugs, provided them with alcohol, provided them housing." Azir, aware of their miserable living situations, had offered to let the guys squat in one of the empty apartments he was rehabbing, an opportunity that Wright and Stevens took him up on. They were grateful to Azir, who even proposed to pay for identical tattoos for all of them, branding them as their own little gang for life.

The buy, which took place on April 29th, was simple. Azir, Wright, Baxter and newly drafted crew member Tony Hayne – who had a rap sheet for theft and domestic violence – drove to a hotel room in nearby Warrensville, where they snapped on latex gloves and blasted the TV in an attempt to foil any recording devices in case the guy was a cop. Wright threw $450 in cash on the bed. The undercover agent handed over a duffel bag full of riot gear, along with two black boxes containing decoy bombs that looked like real IEDs. He explained how to arm them and how to detonate each with a cellphone. Then they were on their way.

Driving back to Cleveland, Azir asked if they were all in for the plan, which would take place the next night. Wright replied yes, except for Stevens, who had skipped out on the buy for a reason: He didn't want to go through with it after all. Azir told Wright to have Stevens call him.

Later that day, amid performances and speeches at an Occupy festival next to City Hall, Stevens was even quieter than usual. He'd been acting weird for a few weeks – by turns depressed, aggravated, antsy and either drunk or high as hell. But now, during a Native American shaman circle in which everyone took turns congratulating an Occupy friend about to become a father, Stevens burst out crying. And at 8:00 the next night, when Azir pulled up in a van to pick him up with Wright and Hayne, Stevens hung back. The others were already inside: Baxter and one last-minute member, 23-year-old Josh Stafford, a stoned street rat and devoted Juggalo who told a friend he was schizophrenic.

Stevens looked haggard, his normally trim beard and hair grown out grizzly wild. He said he wasn't coming. He asked Azir whether his decision to bail would affect his construction job; early in his employment, Azir had told Stevens that if he wasn't "good" with the plan, he didn't want Stevens around. Azir now replied that the van still had space for one more, but that tonight's plan and the job were separate issues. It was all up to Stevens.

Wright rolled down a window. "There's still space if you want to join."

Stevens looked at his friends in the van. He got in.

So here they were at Applebee's, wet and bedraggled as they took their seats around the table. The operation had gone smoothly: Wright, Stevens and Stafford had planted the bombs under the bridge while Baxter, Hayne and Azir had acted as lookouts. Although it had taken mere minutes, the tension and the rain had made it feel like forever, and the mood in the van afterward had been one of adrenaline-charged bonhomie. "If you do this stuff together, you're basically family," Wright had said, adding, "I'm glad you came, Connor." Stevens had agreed he was glad, too.

In the cheery restaurant, Wright scanned for cameras; Azir had suggested going to a place with surveillance video, to establish their alibi. As another red herring, the guys volunteered to their waiter that they were a touring rock band en route to a gig in Lakewood. As soon as the waiter left the table, Wright and Stafford each hunched over a detonator phone.

Wright tried punching in the code first. Back in the van he had joked, "I guess if we call and the FBI picks up, we know it didn't work." Then he added, "Something like that happens, I'm just going to swallow a razor blade." But now, when Wright dialed the number he'd been given, a voicemail picked up. Stafford tried too: voicemail. Each tried calling again, then texting; they tried entering multiple codes.

Stevens snickered. "What kind of group did I get involved in?" he asked.

"This is serious," Wright said. "We need to figure it out." They called the arms dealer to ask whether they had the correct code. Then Wright and Stafford tried sending the codes at the same time. For more than 10 minutes, they tried unsuccessfully to detonate the bombs. Then they all got up and left the restaurant. The FBI was waiting in the parking lot.

"The public was never in danger from the explosive devices," read the U.S. Attorney's Office statement to the media the next morning, announcing the arrests. "The defendants were closely monitored by law enforcement." All five were charged with conspiracy and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction. The trial is scheduled to begin on September 17th – if convicted, the boys could get life in prison. Hayne has already cut a deal, pleading guilty and agreeing to testify in exchange for a sentence of up to 19 years.

It's difficult to characterize five young men who may have been willing to detonate a bridge – killing an untold number of people in the process – as innocent. The pivotal question is not how sincere they were, but whether they could ever have managed to put together and act on such a plan on their own, without the pressure, funding and resources provided by Shaquille Azir. Consensus among friends and family is unanimous. "I hate talking about them like this, but they weren't smart enough for something like this," says Strehle, Baxter's girlfriend, echoing the prevailing opinion. "They were clueless."

The crux of the Cleveland Five's defense will likely rest on whether Azir's aggressive role in the crime constituted entrapment – a strategy which Baxter's defense attorney John Pyle foreshadowed at an early court appearance. "They couldn't blow their noses, let alone blow up a bridge," he said of his clients, "were it not for what this provocateur did." Yet the government has had no problem overcoming the entrapment defense to win convictions in similar cases. The legal definition of entrapment is actually rather narrow: Even though enticing people into committing crimes might seem unjust, that doesn't make it unlawful. Prosecutors typically argue that defendants' histories show they were predisposed to commit the crime. And juries frightened by the magnitude of the foiled plots are inclined to bring down the hammer.

In the case of the Cleveland Five, defense attorneys have also signaled their intention to reveal Azir's extensive criminal history, which could undermine his credibility. Azir has been causing prosecutors plenty of headaches since the arrests. After his identity was outed by the Smoking Gun, the FBI scuttled him into the witness-protection program, reportedly in response to a threat. But living life under federal protection hasn't kept him out of trouble. In May, Azir – who still faces two outstanding bad-check cases he picked up during his time with Occupy – was arrested in Cuyahoga County for theft. He's out on $5,000 bail.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Five, denied bail, have remained in prison since their arrests. (All declined comment for this article.) Each is adjusting to prison in his own way. Baxter has been stalwartly upbeat, saying that what he's read so far of the FBI transcripts of Azir's recordings are "not bad." Wright, by contrast, is lashing out, having been put into solitary confinement for breaking minor prison rules, including "hoarding Personal Hygiene." "I didn't know you could have too much soap . . . WTF?!" he wrote to a friend, signing off, "Freedom or Death, Down with the Fascist Pigs." He recently declared a hunger strike in protest of his treatment.

But it is Connor Stevens who has blossomed behind bars, writing zealous, rambling diatribes from jail, warming to his new role of political prisoner. "More and more of the truth will come out during the trial. What's done in the dark will be brought to the light," he wrote in one letter. "They can stone me to death tomorrow and I will die with dignity on the righteous side of the People." Stevens has been bowled over by the letters of solidarity pouring in from friends and strangers, and is relishing the embrace of the anarchist brotherhood. He often gets swept away by his own rapturous outrage. "The Fascists have not merely imprisoned the May Day 5," he wrote. "They have, in effect, declared war on any life which even QUESTIONS their hegemony." It's as though Stevens, in his rhetorical fervor, forgot the part where he tried to blow up a bridge.

From the loving yet angry kid with half-baked political ideals, Connor Stevens has morphed into someone who sounds like the fiery radical the government has painted him to be. Perhaps in the end, after all their efforts, the feds really did get the terrorist they wanted. But Stevens got something, too. With his legit cred as a political dissident, he has finally found a life-defining mission and, at last, a sense of belonging and identity – the fulfillment he was searching for all along.

This story is from the September 17th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.
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