The Intercept has obtained internal documents showing that Energy Transfer Partners employed mercenary firm TigerSwan to surveil, infiltrate, and undermine Dakota Access pipeline protestors in North Dakota and all along the controversial pipeline’s route. The leaked documents also show local, state, and federal agencies coordinating their law enforcement effort with these private hired guns. This corporate fascism began under the Obama Administration.
According to The Intercept, TigerSwan gathered drone video surveillance and other evidence to aid law enforcement with arrests and prosecutions, expressed frustration when law enforcement gave protestors leeway, and pushed for “more punitive tactics” like quicker arrests and fines and higher bail.
Referring to pipeline protests as “insurgencies” and “attacks”, TigerSwan resorted to military-style counterterrorism tactics like infiltration and psychological warfare against civilians exercising their First Amendment rights:
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.
…In an October 3 report, TigerSwan discusses how to use its knowledge of internal camp dynamics: “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.” On February 19, TigerSwan makes explicit its plans to infiltrate a Chicago protest group. “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,” the report notes, later repeating its intent to “covertly make contact with event organizers” [Alleen Brown, Will Parrish, and Alice Speri, “Leaked Documents Reveal Counterterrorism Tactics Used at Standing Rock to ‘Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies’,” The Intercept, 2017.05.27].
TigerSwan ascribed to Energy Transfer Partners’ opponents “a strong religious component” and a “jihadist insurgency model.” In a September 22 situation report to ETP, TigerSwan pointed out the presence of Palestinians at a Mandan protest and raised concerns about “the movement’s involvement with Islamic individuals”:
TigerSwan’s subcontractor Silverton maintained three security teams, based in Aberdeen, DeSmet, and Sioux Falls, to conduct roving patrols along the Dakota Access route in South Dakota. TigerSwan tailed activists and journalists in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa. The September 11 situation report notes that Silverton security personnel would stage for a protest in Sioux Falls on Monday, September 12. The November 5 situation report says, “Operations were conducted to intercept Gary Tomlin, a reported free-lance reporter in the South Dakota sector.”
TigerSwan also produced counter-propaganda for ETP:
In a report dated September 7, TigerSwan agents discuss the need for a “Social Engagement Plan.” On September 22, they discuss the development of an information operations campaign run by the company’s North Carolina-based intel team and Robert Rice, who without disclosing his TigerSwan affiliation posed as “Allen Rice” in a series of amateurish videos in which he provided commentary critical of the protests. The videos, posted on the Facebook pages “Defend Iowa” and “Netizens for Progress and Justice,” were removed after The Intercept contacted TigerSwan, Rice, and the pages’ administrators for comment. None responded [Brown et al., 2017.05 27].
As a bonus, TigerSwan appears to have lied to the state of North Dakota and operated illegally, without a license:
Records from the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board show that TigerSwan has operated without a license in North Dakota for the entirety of the pipeline security operation, claiming in a communication with the board, “We are doing management and IT consulting for our client and doing no security work.” In September, the licensing board learned about the company’s position as a Dakota Access contractor and wrote a letter to its North Carolina headquarters requesting that it submit a license application.
TigerSwan then did so, but the board denied the application on December 19. After James Reese wrote a letter objecting to the decision, the security board’s executive director responded on January 10 that “one reason for the denial concerns your failure to respond to the Board’s request for information as to TigerSwan’s and James Reese’s activities within the State of North Dakota.” Neither TigerSwan nor the board responded to questions regarding the current status of the company’s license [Brown et al., 2017.05 27].
The Intercept documents run through May, showing that even after the clearing out of the Standing Rock protest camp and the completion of pipeline construction, TigerSwan protects its profitable contract by playing up threats to ETP’s assets. Such is one of the dangers of these mercenary firms: their profit motive may drive them to encourage clients to believe they are in a constant state of war (this should sound familiar) and continue investing in private police-state efforts that infringe on citizens’ civil liberties.