One of the SWAT officers from the first weekend of protests in Dallas. Miles Hearne

Local News

What a Leaked Trove of Police Documents Tells Us About the First Weekend of Protests

The so-called "BlueLeaks" information doesn't have a lot of insight, but does detail how police responses elsewhere can influence local law enforcement agencies.

We could’ve been Portland. A Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) situation report, dated 5:27 p.m., May 31, notes that Gov. Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration—proclaimed hours before, after “violent protests” in cities across Texas on May 29 and May 30—enabled him to designate federal agents as Texas law enforcement officers. This was after Abbott had deployed over 1,500 state troopers to Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, according to another CISA situation report, dated 5:35 p.m., May 30.

Meanwhile, a DHS intelligence note, dated June 1, and a Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC) bulletin, dated June 2, report that “violent opportunists” and “unknown actors” disrupted the Dallas Police Department’s “unencrypted radio communications” using music on May 31. An FBI Dallas Division potential activity alert elaborates, reporting that the hackers produced a “constant, squelching noise,” which they eventually replaced with music, and that the hackers might have compromised and jammed DPD’s communications with a ham radio.

These documents, along with 269 gigabytes’ worth of other law enforcement agency documents, were stolen by the hacktivist collective Anonymous and released by the WikiLeaks-like transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets. The dataset, dubbed BlueLeaks, doesn’t tell us much about the first four days of protests in Dallas, much less much new. (Before the documents were leaked, Abbott himself had stated that he could designate federal agents as “Texas Peace Officers”; the Texas Tribune had already reported the number of troopers sent to cities across the state; and the Associated Press, NBC, the Star Tribune, and CBS had already reported on the comms compromise.)

BlueLeaks does tell us, however, how high and how far law enforcement intelligence, analysis, and predictions disseminate. For example, next to the information about the Texas National Guard deployments, in the May 30 CISA report, was information about Wisconsin National Guard activation and Minnesota National Guard deployments; next to the information about Abbott’s disaster declaration, in the May 31 CISA report, was a list of 15 states that had activated, or planned to activate, their national guards.

So that BlueLeaks also illustrates how intelligence gathered on one coast or border affects decisions made on the other. Take, for instance, Micah Johnson’s July 7, 2016 assassination of five Dallas police officers. A few weeks ago, Sr. Cpl. Larry Bankston told me that the landmark tragedy “greatly influenced” DPD’s aggressive, proactive, and provocative response to the first four days of protests.

DPD’s after-action report (not part of BlueLeaks) concurs: “As a result of lessons learned during the July 7, 2016 attack on protestors and officers in downtown Dallas,” the report reads, DPD’s SWAT Unit provided “departmental support” for the Next Generation Action Network’s Friday, May 29 march—such as snipers on the roofs of DPD’s headquarters building and the South Side on Lamar apartment building. “These positions provide an immediate response capability utilizing Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) to mitigate high-threat situation such as an active shooter or other acts of violence targeting the protesters or officers,” the report continues.

In turn, a brief of the shooting was broadcast across the country in DHS intelligence notes dated May 29 and May 30, as an example of the anti-police and “racially motivated violent extremist” violence law enforcement agents could face in retaliation for the “in-custody death” of George Floyd and the “officer-involved shooting” of Breonna Taylor in her home.

Law enforcement agencies focused on the possibility of domestic terrorists hijacking protests. Dallas police’s after-action report notes that “positive identifications were made on individuals who affiliate with the Boogaloo Movement” as well as others “believed to sympathize with ANTIFA.” Law enforcement agencies acted aggressively, proactively, and provocatively instead of reacting to the situation on the ground. Further muddying the waters is the after-action report’s claim that there were no clear rules of engagement, which guides whether officers make arrests in group settings.

How the information is shared is simple. After 9/11, as the Intercept reported in July, “Congress directed the newly formed Department of Homeland Security to form ‘fusion centers’ across the country, collaborations between federal agencies like DHS and the FBI with state and local police departments, to share intelligence and prevent future terrorist attacks.”

For example, a DHS intelligence note, dated Sunday, May 31, and a JRIC bulletin, dated May 31, too, (and titled “Tactics Used to Injure Officers Responding to Protests, Riots”), both report that the Chicago law enforcement radio communications were compromised and disrupted with music. The Dallas Fusion Center received information—perhaps the aforementioned documents—on intentional efforts to disrupt Chicago police radio communications that same Sunday, according to DPD’s after-action report (the report reads “Sunday morning, May 30” but Sunday was May 31).

That same Sunday, DPD’s radio communications were hacked. So that the Monday, June 1 DHS note and the Tuesday, June 2 JRIC bulletin both report DPD’s hack. A local law enforcement agency notified national intelligence, which broadcast the information back to other local law enforcement agencies across the U.S.—there is continuous feedback, or, an echo chamber.

BlueLeaks reveals other things about the first four days of protests and DPD’s response. Although FactCheck.org reported that no evidence confirmed that the infamous pallets of bricks had been planted or staged in downtown Dallas, a JRIC snapshot suggests that the bricks were of “legitimate purpose” and “unknown origin.”

And although, in its after-action report, DPD claimed that their Helicopter Unit’s coordination with Air Traffic Control obviated the need for “additional temporary flight restrictions,” the May 31 CISA situation report notes a temporary flight restriction in place in Dallas until May 31. (DPD’s Helicopter Unit only issues a temporary flight restriction only when their helicopters cannot operate “safely and effectively.”)

The after-action report also records that DFW Gun Range, on Mockingbird Lane, and Modern Outfitters, a firearm store on Irving Blvd., were both burglarized. Chillingly, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives bulletin about the break-ins, dated May 31, states that burglaries and attempted burglaries of federally licensed firearm dealers (FFLs) in DFW spiked on the last weekend of May—the first weekend of protests.

More chilling are the BlueLeaks documents dealing with White supremacy, neo-Nazism, anarcho-capitalism, and fascism in North Texas. Fort Worth Intelligence Exchange “INTEX Monthly” reports, dated December 2019 and January, February, and March 2020, reveal the presence of a neo-Nazi gang, the Aryan Circle, throughout the state. In February, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas announced that 64 White supremacist gang members had received “a combined 820 years in federal prison” on charges including “drugs, firearms, kidnappings, [and] threatening and assaulting people” who they believed had stolen drug money (the name of the convicts’ gang or gangs were not announced in the report).

The reports also reveal that the Fort Worth Intelligence Exchange keeps its eyes both on incarcerated Sovereign Citizens (right-wing anti-government extremists) and on the Boogaloo Boys (a decentralized anarcho-capitalist paramilitary).

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that a FBI Houston Division potential activity alert, dated May 30, reports an “identified male” in the DFW area stating that “he could easily lead a small guerilla army” against banks, law enforcement officers, and the government; or that a Fort Worth Intelligence Exchange officer safety bulletin, dated June 2, profiles a 16-year-old who vaguely threatened to drive their truck into a protest (we redacted their identifying information). I spoke with the teenager via Facebook Messenger. I wanted to know if they knew that law enforcement agents had compiled a dossier on them, including info down to their height, weight, and eye color.

“I know law enforcement was alerted,” they told me. “And I received a visit from two agents from the FBI. We met with them at my personal house. They questioned me for about 15 minutes, and then said they should be able to close the case.”

“I wasn’t personally threatening anyone, I was worning [sic] friends and family that I had seen several posts that were threatening protesters,” they continued. “I knew my friends and family were attending protests and I felt for them.”

I asked if they were making a joke—a demented joke.

They were not joking, they insisted, rather, they were warning friends and family. The ordeal scared them, they added, but had not changed their diehard back-the-blue—and pro-Trump—stance.

An FBI emerging intelligence report, prepared by the Dallas Field Office in February 2020, states: “The FBI assesses some individuals who express extremist rhetoric online likely will claim they were engaged in role-playing, referring to their activities as live action role-playing (LARPing), to obfuscate malicious or illegal activities. This assessment is made with medium confidence.”

When Dallas police officers and state troopers kettled and detained 674 people on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, on June 1, FBI agents fingerprinted protesters without IDs—and, according to Humza Khan, a volunteer medic who was detained, interviewed other protesters about antifa affiliations. And yet, at the end of the day, according to DPD’s after-action report, the Boogaloo Boys—one of whom I saw in the protests, late-Friday, May 29, and 15 or 20 of whom I saw at DPD’s headquarters, late-Friday and early Saturday, May 30—proved to be the more concrete boogieman than antifa.

But that’s all folks. BlueLeaks reveals little about the first four days of protests, and reveals less about DPD’s response. But with City Hall’s and DPD’s open records departments “unable” to access their documents and fulfill Public Information Act requests, due to the pandemic, it’s the best raw information we can get.

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