(TFC) – The Electronic Frontier Foundation released a report days ago investigating questionable surveillance during Standing Rock protests. EFF’s inquiry involved numerous law enforcement agencies, from the feds to Morton County. What was gleaned only highlights the disturbingly redacted capabilities of the police surveillance state.
“Following several reports of potentially unlawful surveillance”, an EFF blog reads, “EFF sent technologists and lawyers to North Dakota.” Investigators compiled “anecdotal” reports of “suspicious cell phone behavior”, unusual battery drainage, and applications or phones crashing entirely.
“Some water protectors”, EFF noted, also observed login attempts to Google accounts. After the intrusions the IP addresses were usually linked to “North Dakota’s Information & Technology Department”, EFF reports. “On social media”, the blog continues, “many reported Facebook posts and messenger threads disappearing.” Live uploads, and uploads in general, normally failed to complete or disappeared once processed.
“While some have attributed these issues to secret surveillance technologies like cell-site simulators, also known colloquially as Stingrays, and malware, it’s been very difficult to pinpoint the true cause or causes.” – Electronic Frontier Foundation
Seeking answers, EFF filed over 20 FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) requests to law enforcement agencies deployed to Standing Rock. As of yet, EFF reports just one agency–US Marshals–responded by denying the use of Stingrays.
Other agencies issued the same FOIA requests have either yet to respond, or claim record gathering would be too “untenable and costly.” Some FOIAs issued to Hennepin County, EFF reports, have bounced aimlessly to Minnesota’s Department of Homeland Security.
“Of the fifteen local and state agencies that have responded, thirteen deny having any record at all of cell site simulator use, and two agencies—Morton County and the North Dakota State Highway Patrol (the two agencies most visible on the ground)—claim that they can’t release records in the interest of “public safety,”—even though they fail to specify what public safety interest they seek to protect or how long they expect such an interest to outweigh the public’s right to know what they are doing at Standing Rock.” – Electronic Frontier Foundation
Standing Rock’s resistance is just coming down from a recent climax of violence and political oppression. Following protesters being blasted with water cannons in subzero temperatures, President Obama again ordered that construction of the pipeline be halted. This most recent order was augmented by an Army Corps. Of Engineers denial of final permits which would secure DAPL’s cash cow.
It was around this time that a female protester’s arm was nearly blown off by a police grenade weapon. Orders to halt construction also came as a deployment of veterans–who formed human shields to protect protesters—went viral.
Surveillance reports, however, have only escalated since day one. One of the most dramatic accounts occurred during a raid on a prayer camp. Those who attempted to live stream footage reported disrupted Facebook access.
Numerous journalists–most notably Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman–have faced charges under suspicious circumstances. Goodman, for example, caught wind of her arrest warrant after filming DAPL contractors unleashing of dogs on protectors. Other journalists, such as TYT Politics Jordan Chariton, have reported being tailed and surveyed by authorities.
It was also recently revealed by The Intercept that DAPL contractors spearheaded many surveillance efforts. The job appears to have been outsourced to a Blackwater-linked contractor called TigerSwan. Founded by a former US special forces operative, TigerSwan maintains offices worldwide. Many of those happen to reside in current and former US war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
Intercept journalist Jeremy Scahill blasted TigerSwan as having “coordinating the intelligence operations against the protesters.” The company’s involvement was realized through Morton County documents pertaining to law enforcement operations at Standing Rock. Perhaps unsurprisingly, TigerSwan also has former oil industry representatives in its leadership.
What’s happened at Standing Rock has shaken many Americans to the point of waking up. Countless find graphic scenes of one-sided violence against protesters difficult to justify, or ignore.
Whereas attention is rightfully focused on police brutality, or climate adaptation, more attention needs to be directed at the surveillance state as well. Authorities pulled out their collective bag of tricks at the reservation, balancing on-the-ground shadowing with digital stalking. These are phenomenon not contained to Standing Rock, or even protests.
Law enforcement nationwide have long stockpiled surveillance technologies, while outsourcing the rest. What privacy exists in a society where social media companies can literally sell your data away to cops without a warrant?
Not only that, but when will the American public face this issue of issues rather than dismissing it as “conspiracy”? How many people–like the family of Jay Anderson, a man killed by police in Wisconsin–have to report surveillance identical to Standing Rock’s for it to be real?