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Military-Style Counterterrorism Measures Were Used Against DAPL Protesters, Leaked Documents Show

"Water protectors" face a police barricade in Cannon Ball, N.D., in November 2016. (Donald Kaufman / Truthdig)

“Water protectors” face a police barricade in Cannon Ball, N.D., in November 2016. (Donald Kaufman / Truthdig)

More than 1,000 documents obtained by The Intercept expose how Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), worked with a private security firm to suppress anti-DAPL activism. The security firm, TigerSwan, cooperated with police in five states to collect intelligence on self-named “water protectors” and use this intelligence to defeat the #NoDAPL movement.

TigerSwan, which also worked with the State Department to carry out the war in Iraq, compared the peaceful water protector movement with jihadist terrorism. The Intercept reports:

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. 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.” …

The leaked documents include situation reports prepared by TigerSwan operatives in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Texas between September 2016 and May 2017, and delivered to Energy Transfer Partners. They offer a daily snapshot of the security firm’s activities, including detailed summaries of the previous day’s surveillance targeting pipeline opponents, intelligence on upcoming protests, and information harvested from social media. The documents also provide extensive evidence of aerial surveillance and radio eavesdropping, as well as infiltration of camps and activist circles.

The pipeline, which is now operational (and already has had a minor leak), was the object of extreme opposition by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allied water protectors. As months passed, tensions rose between police and water protectors, especially when private security contractors joined the fray. Video was taken of these private guards using dogs to attack water protectors, and after that footage went viral, Energy Transfer Partners turned to TigerSwan for reinforcement.

“The leaked situation reports indicate that during the company’s first weeks working on the pipeline, TigerSwan operatives met with law enforcement in Iowa and North Dakota, including Sheriff Dean Danzeisen of Mercer County, North Dakota, who ‘agreed to sharing of information,’ ” The Intercept reports. The story also notes that TigerSwan worked with prosecutors to build legal cases against water protectors.

The Intercept goes on to detail how TigerSwan engaged in covert surveillance of protesters, concentrating on those of Middle Eastern descent, and even infiltrated activist camps.

Much of the opposition to the DAPL gained traction online, and TigerSwan in turn focused on social media. In the documents, TigerSwan agents “stressed the need to change the public narrative established by [protesters] and to swing public support in favor of the pipeline,” The Intercept says.

“As accounts of protest repression garnered nationwide support for the NoDAPL movement, the firm’s agents painstakingly collected and analyzed media coverage, warning their client about how certain incidents might be received by the public,” The Intercept continues.

The Intercept gained thousands of documents via public records requests and more than 100 from a TigerSwan contractor. The North Dakota attorney general’s office and Energy Transfer Partners declined to comment on the story, and TigerSwan did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.

Read the full story and look at the documents obtained by The Intercept here.

—Posted by Emma Niles

Emma Niles
Assistant Editor
Emma Niles, an assistant editor at Truthdig, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a degree in political science. She has worked for the National Women’s Law Center and Ms. Magazine.…
Emma Niles

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