In chilling news, members of an FBI anti-terror squad are investigating opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The FBI won’t comment on the matter.
News accounts say that members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) are knocking on the doors of water protectors and asking questions. These task forces are “our nation’s front line on terrorism: small cells of highly trained, locally based, passionately committed investigators, analysts, linguists, SWAT experts, and other specialists from dozens of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” its website says. They are based in 104 cities around the country.
Door knocking might seem innocuous to some. But how would you feel if one of these anti-terrorism experts came knocking on your door and started asking you questions about your activities, but wouldn’t say why? Now think about how that would feel to water protectors who already had experienced a hyper-militarized response to their actions, such as water cannons, mace, or rubber bullets. This surely would feel intimidating. Being labeled a suspected terrorist carries high stigma and the risk of a long incarceration. It could be a scare tactic to silence legitimate protest.
Here are more details. On Friday, the Guardian published the story: Revealed: FBI terrorism taskforce investigating Standing Rock activists.
The action is “raising alarm that an indigenous-led movement is being construed as domestic terrorism,” the story said. It also is “diverting agents charged with preventing terrorist attacks to instead focus their attention on indigenous activists and environmentalists.” It continued:
The purpose of the officers’ inquiries into Standing Rock, and scope of the task force’s work, remains unknown. Agency officials declined to comment. But the fact that the officers have even tried to communicate with activists is alarming to free-speech experts who argue that anti-terrorism agents have no business scrutinizing protesters. …
The JTTF revelation comes at a time when there have been increasing concerns at Standing Rock about law enforcement surveillance, police violence and the targeted arrests and prosecutions of activists.
The news site Colorlines also published a piece: The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is Monitoring Standing Rock Water Protectors. It said:
This isn’t the first time a JTTF has monitored a peaceful protest. The Intercept reports that agents tracked data related to a 2014 Black Lives Matter action [at the Mall of American] in Minnesota. Some people on social media see parallels between this investigation and covert FBI counterintelligence program COINTELPRO, which was used to surveil members of the Black Panther Party.
More Intimidation: Reporter Arrested Covering DAPL Protest
Reporter Jenni Monet was arrested and faces criminal charges for trespass and riot for covering the most recent DAPL conflict, the raid on the newly created Last Child Camp. Her report is very disturbing. She was arrested in spite of the fact she had her media credential and followed police orders, she said. She seems to have been singled out for arrest.
She has since been released and wrote a first-hand account: How I Got Arrested While Reporting on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
She reported on her school bus ride to the jail along Highway 1806 between Standing Rock and Mandan, a road few now travel. “[T]here was now something harsh about this serene landscape. Sharp concertina wire—razor wire—stretched across the countryside on the east side of the highway in the direction of the pipeline. It looked like a prison yard,” she wrote.
Gone were the beautiful banners and flags at the site of the first protest. Police also had erected an additional roadblock on the highway. And when she got to jail, she noticed that “Mni Wiconi” (Water is Life) is scrawled everywhere: “on cinderblock walls, paint-chipped tabletops, cold metal doors…”
Yet more important are her accounts of her arrest, which caught her by surprise. She presented her press credentials when asked, she said. She fell behind police lines when directed. She attempted to leave when ordered. Yet, while other media members who did not have credentials were allowed to leave, she was arrested.
My journalism colleague, Caroline Grueskin, who has shown stalwart performance in chronicling the months-long NoDAPL movement for the Bismarck Tribune, reports that North Dakota Highway Patrol Cpt. Tom Iverson denied that I ever presented my press pass when asked.
However, Monet said she recorded the exchange with officers where she presented her press credentials (and posted the recording with her story). This reflects a pattern of false information from law enforcement, she said:
Over the course of my reporting of the standoff at Standing Rock, I have documented several instances in which law enforcement and state officials have pedaled misinformation, only to backtrack on their statements when queried. Morton County press releases about events stemming from many of the actions that I have personally observed have oftentimes erroneously portrayed water protectors as being armed when they were not.
It’s a compelling read. Click on this link for the full story.