By ANSEL HERZ of The Stranger:
Former Washington State Patrol (WSP) officer Kim Triplett-Kolerich now works for Bank of America as the company’s “West Region” Senior Crime and US Intelligence Analyst. She’s based in downtown Seattle.
Here’s what she does with her time, according to an email she wrote to WSP in November, unearthed by public records activist Andrew Hendricks:
From time to time I will see items that I believe will be of use to my friends at WSP – especially during session. May Day I will pick your brain for intel and I will give you a lot also – the Public-Private Partnership worked great last year and hopefully being ahead of the Anarchists will protect all of you from the protests/arrests/injury.
If you find any intel on Anarchists or Occupy Protesters please let me know – I will most likely find it first as Social Media trolling is not what the WSP does best – Bank of America has a team of 20 people and that’s all they do all day and then pass it to us around the country!!”
This isn’t the first time Bank of America has been accused of hiring private “intelligence” agents to identify, track, and undermine political activists. In 2011, the New York Times and other publications wrote about leaked documents showing that tech-security firm HBGary drew up a proposal for the bank to engage in “counterespionage work“—digging up dirt, planting fake documents, etc.—against WikiLeaks and its supporters, including journalist Glenn Greenwald. The bank denied any relationship with HBGary. But Triplett-Kolerich is a Bank of America employee. Company representatives, including Triplett-Kolerich herself, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
When law-enforcement agencies engage in this kind of surveillance and disruption, there is at least a presumption of public benefit—to protect and to serve. But a bank doesn’t even pretend to serve any interest beyond its own.
“When corporations or volunteers spy on people’s political associations and report to police, they sidestep the primary way we have to control what police do with that information,” Hendricks told me by phone. “I can’t file a public records request with the Bank of America to see what they are doing with this information.” And he says he wouldn’t put it past them to use the “intel” they’ve gathered against him as a customer.
The Washington State Patrol doesn’t come out of this looking very good either. This all started, Hendricks says, because he “noticed this guy videotaping the proceedings”—a November 5 gathering of several dozen Anonymous demonstrators in Olympia for what they called the Million Mask March. A Facebook post described the event as a protest of “the billionaires who own banks and corporations who corrupt politicians.” Hendricks wanted to know why the “guy”—a police officer—was filming them.
Turns out, the officer shot over an hour of continuous footage of the activists, at times zooming in on faces, and the patrol used an aircraft for additional surveillance. According to a WSP activity log, multiple undercover officers were deployed at the event and an after-action report says the agency spent $28,707 and 602 man hours responding to the march, including a joint briefing with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The report points out that “there was no property damage, injuries, or arrests,” but attributes this to the success of the WSP’s actions, not to the fact that the activists were merely there to “hold teach-ins and rallies.”
Why the surveillance and concern about terrorism?
“Non-peaceful individuals or groups may attach themselves to this group,” the patrol’s after-action report says. WSP Sergeant Jason Hicks tells me they were concerned about “outside agitators”—he refused to get specific about who these people were, and praised the organizers for their emphasis on peaceful protest. “On the off chance that some criminal activity takes place, we wanted to make sure that we had as much we could get.”
As for Bank of America’s Triplett-Kolerich, Hicks confirmed the authenticity of the emails and defended her collaboration with the patrol. “Of course we’re going to take as much information as we can glean,” he says.