FBI Diverts Anti-Terror Resources to Investigate #NoDAPL Water Protectors
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is diverting agents tasked with preventing terrorist attacks to investigate Native Americans, environmentalists and other activists opposing the highly controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Guardian reports multiple agents in the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force have tried to contact at least three people tied to the #NoDAPL anti-pipeline protests. While it is not known why the FBI is probing the Standing Rock water protectors, activists and free speech advocates fear the Trump administration may come to treat the peaceful protesters as domestic terrorists.
“The idea that the government would attempt to construe this indigenous-led non-violent movement into some kind of domestic terrorism investigation is unfathomable to me,” Lauren Regan, executive director of the Eugene, Oregon-based Civil Liberties Defense Center, told the Guardian. “It’s outrageous, it’s unwarranted… and it’s unconstitutional.”
Regan said the targeted individuals — who included both Native American and non-indigenous activists — were visited by FBI agents without subpoenas or warrants in an attempt to coerce them into voluntarily submitting to interrogation. The three activists exercised their Fifth Amendment rights and did not cooperate with the agents. All three contacts were made after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, who last month signed an executive order reviving the DAPL project after it had been blocked under the Obama administration. The 1,170-mile (1,885 km) pipeline will transport crude oil from the shale fields of North Dakota to Illinois and then to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Trump is reportedly personally invested in Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline project.
In addition to environmental concerns — DAPL’s original route was rejected because the mostly white residents of Bismarck, North Dakota feared the consequences of a spill, and the Missouri River is a drinking water source for around 17 million Americans, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says DAPL threatens sacred sites and violates treaty rights. Hundreds of Native American and allied water protectors remain encamped at Standing Rock despite sub-zero temperatures and the threat of police violence. Water protectors have been beaten, shot with “less lethal” projectiles that resulted in horrific injuries and mauled with dogs — images of an attack dog with blood dripping from its teeth and snout shocked the conscience of the world and helped galvanize opposition to the pipeline.
The FBI has a long history of investigating peaceful protest groups and other non-violent activists. During the struggle for black civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, the agency under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover launched the notorious COINTELPRO campaign in which leftist, civil rights, black power, anti-war, feminist and other groups were targeted, often illegally, in an effort to monitor, infiltrate, discredit and destroy them. COINTELPRO operations ranged from inciting deadly violence to attempting to persuade civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to commit suicide. More recently, the FBI investigated members of the peaceful Occupy Wall Street movement as domestic terrorists, while failing to inform Occupy activists of a nationwide assassination plot against them.