Grantee News From Antonia Juhasz and Grist:
Special Report By Antonia Juhasz
As people nationwide rallied last year to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s attempts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, a private security firm with experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan launched an intrusive military-style surveillance and counterintelligence campaign against the activists and their allies, according to internal company documents.
Its surveillance targets included everyone from Native American demonstrators to the actress Shailene Woodley, along with organizations including Black Lives Matter, 350.org, Veterans for Peace, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Food and Water Watch. The records label the protestors “jihadists” and seek to justify escalating action against them.
The activities of the company spanned, but were not limited to, the four states through which the pipeline passes: South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. The documents also show that its surveillance efforts continued after the breakup of the Standing Rock camps this winter, including at ongoing pipeline protests in southeastern Pennsylvania, Iowa, and South Dakota.
The internal documents from the firm, called TigerSwan, take the form of situation reports, or “sitreps,” prepared between September and April for its employer, Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners. The records detail a range of tactics that experts from the American Civil Liberties Union, National Lawyers Guild, and Electronic Frontier Foundation say would likely be illegal if conducted by law enforcement.
A private security company probably doesn’t face the same prohibitions, legal scholars say, but the close collaboration between TigerSwan and local, state, and federal authorities detailed in the firm’s internal reports raised red flags with them. Several legal experts described the contractor’s tactics as highly disturbing and perhaps unprecedented.
“It’s like a big brother society, with a private corporation — with even less restraints than the government — totally interfering with our right to privacy, free speech, assembly, and religious freedom,” said prominent civil rights attorney Jeff Haas, who works with the National Lawyers Guild and represents several of the nearly 800 people arrested while opposing the pipeline.
If the government can’t do it, he added, “Why should a private corporation working for another private corporation be able to?”
TigerSwan did not respond to requests for comment. Energy Transfer Partners said it would not answer questions related to its security procedures, but acknowledged that it had shared some information with law enforcement.
Dakota Access is expected to begin shipping oil today.
The tactics used against the self-described “water protectors” were first reported last weekend by The Intercept, which based its coverage on documents provided by a contractor who worked with TigerSwan, according to the news outlet. Grist independently obtained more than a dozen similar documents prior to The Intercept’s report.
According to the situation reports provided to Grist, TigerSwan also conducted surveillance of a church in Chicago, a 17-year-old girl in Iowa, and an AmeriCorps volunteer in Akron, among others. Reports of the actress Woodley’s arrest and the number of social media views she racked up were included in the reports.
The company specifically focused some of its most intense efforts on people of color — including Native American groups (like the Red Warrior Society and the American Indian Movement), members of Black Lives Matter, Palestinian activists, and those it labeled as “Islamists.”
Several of TigerSwan’s targets expressed surprise and outrage when informed of the surveillance against them, but also vowed to defy efforts at intimidation. “This is crazy!” said 21-year-old Alex Cohen, an Iowa activist named in the reports, which detail tracking him and his group’s movements and activities. At least some of TigerSwan’s knowledge could only have been gained through direct infiltration, he said.
A 17-year-old member of Cohen’s group was also included among the tracking reports. She was flattered when told the company considered her a threat. “I think it feels amazing that they are intimidated enough — not only by myself but by my friends — to write this!”
In addition to intrusive surveillance, the leaked documents reveal that the security firm attempted to create divisions between activists, manipulate and discredit pipeline opponents, and collect evidence that law enforcement could use to prosecute Standing Rock activists.
The ACLU’s human rights program director, Jamil Dakwar, said the records obtained by the news outlets suggest the company was painting an exaggerated picture to persuade both Energy Transfer Partners and law enforcement to take a more aggressive stance against those opposing the pipeline.
Said Dakwar: “They are operating with no transparency, no accountability.” More>
Grantee News From Inclusive Security:
The apparently ISIS-inspired attack, at a concert by Ariana Grande, whose fans are disproportionately young and female, has drawn heated argument about the roles gender and sexism play in terrorism.
We want to move past the pundits to hear what terrorism scholars and impacted communities have to say.
Today, Inclusive Security President Jacqueline O’Neill and Heather Hurlburt of New America published their piece on VOX.
What did they find? Our adversaries are exploiting gender dynamics in very sophisticated ways, and counter-terrorism needs to catch up.
We need to think harder about terrorism and gender. ISIS already is.
Was the Manchester attack explicitly an attack on girls and women — on female culture? The apparently ISIS-inspired bombing, at a concert by Ariana Grande, whose fans are disproportionately young and female, has inspired heated argument about the roles gender and sexism play in terrorism. For some, it was an explicit salvo against women’s autonomy and the value of feminine culture. Conservatives fired back that this line of commentary represented just another example of so-called Western feminists making it all about them. (Men died in the attack, too!)
Another picture emerges, though, if you bypass the culture wars and speak to scholars who focus on terrorism, or to members of communities most affected by terrorism: It’s clear to them that extremist groups bend gender dynamics to their advantage in sophisticated ways. Too often, the topic of gender, as it relates to terrorism, is treated as superfluous — a nice-to-have extra. It’s cultural analysis that you might indulge in your free time, perhaps, but, in the end, a distraction from the hard-headed work of combating terrorism. But our adversaries are exploiting gender dynamics in very sophisticated ways, and counterterrorism needs to catch up.
Whether your goal is to understand the world or protect against security threats, it’s crucial to grasp the ways in which extremist groups manipulate gender norms and gender dynamics. Here are four key ways:
First, terror recruiters customize messages to promise women a life beyond perceived victimhood. Counterterror messaging has no good answer.
While women have long been involved in violent extremist groups around the world, the proportion joining ISIS from abroad — including the US — is strikingly high. Among ISIS members who have come to the Middle East from Europe, roughly one in five is female. ISIS recruiters create messages targeted at women and girls — and far more complex than the oft-cited cliché that becoming a “jihadi bride” is a noble calling. Recruiters, often females themselves, tap into the narrative that Western societies don’t respect Muslim women. More from Vox>
Grantee News From Revolutions Per Minute:
“I want to help you but I don’t know how,” Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra sang on her Trayvon Martin tribute “Everybody Knows” back in 2014. Fortuitously, the song led her to Revolutions Per Minute, a nonprofit that quietly has helped musicians turn their good intentions into effective advocacy since 2005, when it was known as Air Traffic Control. Last year, selling “Women Are Powerful and Dangerous” T-shirts with help from RPM, the band raised more than $7,000 in just one week for Third Wave Fund, which benefits LGBTQ youth in need, and Oakland-based girls’ group Radical Monarchs. “RPM really eliminates that hopelessness you can feel sometimes when you’re like, ‘I care, but I don’t know what to do,’” Segarra tells me.
The song that first brought Segarra to RPM now finds a home on the organization’s most visible project to date: Our First 100 Days. Launched on Inauguration Day by Secretly Group’s family of labels and the folks behind last year’s 30 Days, 30 Songs, the subscription compilation benefits groups fighting President Trump’s aggressively regressive policy threats. It consists of a new song per day, through April 29, from a host of indie favorites including Angel Olsen, Will Oldham, Mitski, Toro Y Moi, Jens Lekman, and Waxahatchee, raising almost $100,000 to date from $30 subscriptions as well as charity merch from Courtney Barnett, David Byrne, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Guided by RPM, the team behind Our First 100 Days chose a wide range of beneficiaries that “really speak to the core of what is so totally fucked about the Trump administration,” says Secretly partner Phil Waldorf: pro-choice advocates All Above All, immigrant rights supporters Cosecha, and environmental activists People’s Climate Movement, plus regionally focused political organizers Southerners on New Ground and Hoosier Action. More>