The Federal Bureau of Investigation has directed agents handling terrorism prevention to investigate a number of activists involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock, The Guardian writes in an extensive new report.
"At least three people" involved in the protests, two indigenous and one non-Native, are persons of interest in the F.B.I.'s joint terrorism taskforce. Multiple officers have attempted to contact these "water protectors," as they prefer to be known. Their line of inquiries and the scope of the investigation is not yet known, and the F.B.I. declined comment to The Guardian.
“The idea that the government would attempt to construe this indigenous-led nonviolent movement into some kind of domestic terrorism investigation is unfathomable to me,” said Lauren Regan, a civil rights attorney supporting the water protectors contacted by the agency. “It’s outrageous, it’s unwarranted ... and it’s unconstitutional.”
Regan alleged that members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, or JTTF, conducted "knocks and talks," in which an agent arrives at a target's door unannounced with no subpoena or warrant, and attempts to get them to cooperate. Each protector refused to do so.
All of the visits were conducted after President Donald Trump's inauguration, Regan said. Last week, Trump signed an executive order resuming construction the Dakota Access Pipeline after protests forced the Obama administration to halt construction in 2016. On Wednesday, drilling beneath the Missouri river resumed.
Regan believes that allegations of protestor violence by the Dakota police led to the F.B.I.'s investigation, which may have began in November 2016 when F.B.I. officers visited Sophia Wilansky, an environmental activist who was severely injured at the Standing Rock protests by what witnesses claim was a police concussion grenade (police say activists set off the explosion).
The F.B.I. has a long history of persecuting civil rights and activists groups. COINTELPRO was launched in 1956 by F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover to target domestic political groups. Martin Luther King Jr. was a prolific target, and Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was assassinated in a COINTELPRO-sponsored raid. The agency was condemned after the program's dissolution in 1971 in a report from the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations. "Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that," the report read.
The FADER has reached out to the Standing Rock Camp and the Indigenous Environmental Network for comment.