While protesters and water protectors battled against the Dakota Access Pipeline throughout the second half of 2016 the public was often left aghast at the brutal tactics employed by the Morton County Sheriff’s office and supporting police. LRAD sound cannons, tear gas, batons, tasers, and “less than lethal” ammunition rounds were fired at the opponents of Energy Transfer Partner’s DAPL. Now, new documents obtained by The Intercept reveal the presence of TigerSwan, a private contractor with origins as a U.S. military and State Department client in the global War on Terror. TigerSwan was hired for their experience dealing with “insurgent” movements in the Middle East.
The Intercept obtained the more than 100 internal documents via a leak from a TigerSwan contractor. The online publication also gathered new details by combing through over 1,000 documents received via open records requests. The documents are dated from September 2016 and May 2017. They reveal that TigerSwan believes they have found a “proven method of defeating pipeline insurgencies” via “aggressive intelligence preparation of the battlefield and active coordination between intelligence and security elements.” This acknowledgement shows that local police and former military elements are confidently prepared to take on any future uprisings.
“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,” The Intercept writes. “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.”
The documents outline TigerSwan’s “multifaceted” operation involving “sweeping and invasive surveillance of protesters”. The leaked documents also highlight TigerSwan’s efforts to paint the water protectors in a negative light by portraying them as “unpredictable” and “menacing.” Daily reports from TigerSwan also expose what many onlookers have suspected; ETP and local police were heavily engaged in aerial surveillance, radio eavesdropping, infiltration of camps and activist circles.
Infiltration and surveillance were not the only tactics employed against water protectors. Dakota Access LLC and ETP also attempted to slow their opponents down by legal battles. The companies filed a lawsuit against Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault and four others, claiming the resistance to the pipeline was costing them $75,000 a day. The lawsuit sought a restraining order and monetary damages. Earlier this month, The Bismarck Tribune reported that a federal judge had dismissed the lawsuit based on a lack of claim.
“Dakota Access cannot aggregate the alleged harm from all pipeline protesters in calculating the value of an injunction against individuals acting independently,” U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland wrote.
The most recent development in the DAPL saga is the fact that water protectors and opponents of this pipeline have already been proven correct in their assessment that the pipeline would leak. CBS Minnesota reports there have been at least two different leaks since March. In one incident a feeder line leaked more than 100 gallons of oil. Another leak caused 84 gallons to spill into snow and soil. Energy Transfer Partners and the Minnesota State Health Department released statements promising there was no damage to local wildlife or the environment.
The opponents of the DAPL have long called attention to the militarization of the police, the use of the militarized police against peaceful water protectors, and the potential for damage caused by leaks. Less than a year after the battle began the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies are vindicated in their efforts. Unfortunately, the pipeline is going forth and if a larger spill comes, thousands more will suffer. Perhaps at that point, the public will finally understand that water is life.