Indigenous water protectors and their non-Native American allies — who camped in North Dakota in close proximity to the Missouri River to oppose construction of the disputatious Dakota Access Pipeline — were likened to violent jihadist fighters by dubious mercenary international security firm, TigerSwan.
Obtained by The Intercept, internal TigerSwan communications “describe the movement as ‘an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component’ and compare the anti-pipeline water protectors to jihadist fighters,” that outlet reports.
Worse, TigerSwan repeatedly described water protectors as “terrorists” — yes, literally.
Reports the Intercept:
“One report, dated February 27, 2017, states that since the movement ‘generally followed the jihadist insurgency model while active, we can expect the individuals who fought for and supported it to follow a post-insurgency model after its collapse.’ Drawing comparisons with post-Soviet Afghanistan, the report warns, ‘While we can expect to see the continued spread of the anti-DAPL diaspora … aggressive intelligence preparation of the battlefield and active coordination between intelligence and security elements are now a proven method of defeating pipeline insurgencies.’”
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes engendered the support of thousands of Indigenous Peoples and their supporters in encampments near Cannon Ball in an heroic effort to thwart Energy Transfer Partners’ Bakken pipeline project — but, for their prayerful, peaceful, and largely nonviolent actions to be equated with violent militants is, well, inexplicable.
According to the Intercept, a TigerSwan employee leaked more than 100 internal documents proving the firm led a multi-fronted campaign of pernicious surveillance of activists and water protectors. Over 1,000 documents given the outlet upon public records requests affirm in detail the colossal surveillance program.
TigerSwan — in obeisance to fossil fuel colossus ETP — employed a “militaristic approach to protecting its client’s interests but also the company’s profit-driven imperative to portray the nonviolent water protector movement as unpredictable and menacing enough to justify the continued need for extraordinary security measures. Energy Transfer Partners has continued to retain TigerSwan long after most of the anti-pipeline campers left North Dakota, and the most recent TigerSwan reports emphasize the threat of growing activism around other pipeline projects across the country.”
Between September 2016 and May 2017, TigerSwan regularly fed ETP ‘situation reports’ containing comprehensive updates by operatives in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Texas, including surveillance of activists and their planned protests — as well as detailed notes culled from social media.
Documents “also provide extensive evidence of aerial surveillance and radio eavesdropping, as well as infiltration of camps and activist circles,” the Intercept notes.
Water protectors and independent journalists indeed recounted extensive surveillance and communications breaches while in Standing Rock camps and at the Tribe’s Prairie Knights Casino — especially pertaining to social media and two-way radios — so much so, newcomers to the area were immediately warned they would be watched.
Beyond the internal TigerSwan communiqués, documents evincing coordination and shared intelligence between the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Justice Department, the Marshals Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and a veritable cadre of state and local police — collectively deeming itself the “Intel Group” — reveal the real-time monitoring of the #NoDAPL movement on social media.
“Daily intelligence updates,” generated by TigerSwan and obtained by public records requests attest to this chimerical government-private alliance amongst the various law enforcement agencies and the adumbral security firm — whose “operatives comment frequently about their routine coordination and intelligence sharing with law enforcement.”
In an ominous portent for future protest actions, as the Intercept asserts, “The intel group went so far as to use a live video feed from a private Dakota Access security helicopter to monitor protesters’ movements. In one report, TigerSwan discusses meeting with investigators from North Dakota’s Attorney General’s Office.”
Names of ‘dozens’ of “well-known activists” — and even those thinly associated with opposition to Dakota Access — appear in the documents.
Reports shared by TigerSwan with the lengthy list of agencies read more like a comprehensive, collective, psychological evaluation — parsing out information such as the dynamics in the various camps, morale, infighting, and speculation on whether or not planned actions would be illegal or violent, including the potentiality weapons would come into play.
Photographs, license plates, and additional information identifying water protectors can also be found in the cache — along with a list of “persons of interest.”
Unsurprisingly, the Intercept notes, records exhibit attempted counterintelligence operations by TigerSwan, in the dissemination of posts to social media condemning actions by water protectors. Reports the outlet,
“TigerSwan’s internal files describe its utilization of aerial surveillance, including use of helicopters and drones to photograph and monitor the pipeline opponents. The September 12 situation report notes that an operation by construction workers was ‘over-watched by a predator on loan to the JEJOC from Oklahoma.’ The TigerSwan contractor who provided the Intercept with the situation reports said he did not believe the company ever operated a predator drone, but metadata in images he shared pointed to a camera used by a commercially available Phantom 4 drone. One of the daily intelligence updates notes plans to obtain night-vision goggles, LRADs, body armor, and FLIR (forward looking infrared) cameras.
“The reports also reveal a widespread and sustained campaign of infiltration of protest camps and activist circles. Throughout the leaked documents, TigerSwan makes reference to its intelligence-gathering teams, which infiltrated protest camps and activist groups in various states. TigerSwan agents using false names and identities regularly sought to obtain the trust of protesters, which they used to gather information they reported back to their employer, according to the TigerSwan contractor.”
An October 3 report states,
“Exploitation of ongoing native versus non-native rifts, and tribal rifts between peaceful and violent elements is critical in our effort to delegitimize the anti-DAPL movement.”
Then, on February 19, plans for infiltration appear:
“TigerSwan collections team will make contact with event organizers to embed within the structure of the demonstration to develop a trusted agent status to be cultivated for future collection efforts.”
A terrifying report, dated May 4, evidences “a TigerSwan operative describes an effort to amass digital and ground intelligence that would allow the company to ‘find, fix, and eliminate’ threats to the pipeline — an eerie echo of ‘find, fix, finish,’ a military term used by special forces in the U.S. government’s assassination campaign against terrorist targets.”
Unapologetically, if farcically, militaristic language in the communications from TigerSwan paint the peaceful water protector movement as a finely-oiled machine on par with counterterrorism operations undertaken by nation-states — a tactic telling of brazen hostility by the firm toward activists whose sole concern continues to comprise protection of the water supply from contamination with noxious fossil fuels.
“At times, the military language verges on parody,” note the Intercept journalists, “as when agents write of protesters ‘stockpiling signs’ or when they discuss the ‘caliber’ of paintball pellets. More often, however, the way TigerSwan discusses protesters as ‘terrorists,’ their direct actions as ‘attacks,’ and the camps as a ‘battlefield,’ reveals how the protesters’ dissent was not only criminalized but treated as a national security threat. A March 1 report states that protesters’ ‘operational weakness allows TS elements to further develop and dictate the battlespace.’”
While the Intercept report goes into far greater detail on these phenomenally revealing communications, the fact TigerSwan — and, thus, the law enforcement and intelligence agencies making use of its reports — literally characterized water protectors as “terrorists” should not be blithely ignored.
Protest is and inarguably must remain a constitutionally-protected activity — period.
When myriad insidious government agencies partner with a firm known for shady, violent, and potentially illegal actions confronts a movement dedicated solely to nonviolent, prayerful actions, the ability to redress grievances through demonstration stands directly threatened.
Whatever your particular position on the Dakota Access Pipeline — and the fossil fuel industry, in general — to qualify activists as terrorists prognosticates the coming end to protest and resistance in the U.S.
This war on dissent, in all its fetid ugliness, leads only to resounding totalitarian rule; thus — if you value the shreds of freedom and liberty still clinging to existence in the United States — resentment toward the #NoDAPL movement and other protesters must, instead, be turned toward the arrogant rulers convinced The People are Enemy Number One.