Report: Counterterrorism Tactics Were Used on Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters

Photo: AP

Documents obtained by The Intercept show that TigerSwan—a security firm that originated as a contractor enlisted by the State Department and U.S. military to execute the “war on terror”—worked with law enforcement in at least five states to target Dakota Access Pipeline protesters with military-style counterterrorism tactics. More than 100 internal documents were leaked to The Intercept by a TigerSwan contractor. The Intercept also obtained an additional 1,000 documents through public record requests, according to the report, published Saturday.

TigerSwan internal communications draw comparisons between the anti-DAPL movement and jihadist fighters, and characterize it as, “an ideologically driven insurgent with a strong religious component.” A report dated February 27, 2017 reads, in part:

“[The anti-DAPL movement] generally followed the jihadist insurgency model while active, we can expect the individuals who fought for and supported it to follow a post-insurgency model after its collapse…. While we can expect to see the continued spread of the anti-DAPL diaspora … aggressive intelligence preparation of the battlefield and active coordination between intelligence and security elements are now a proven method of defeating pipeline insurgencies.”


Between September 2016 and May 2017, the firm prepared reports on TigerSwan operatives’ activity for Energy Transfer Partners (the company building the DAPL), which continues to retain the firm even though the oil profiteers and their allies won their bid to continue DAPL construction through Standing Rock Sioux Tribe land months ago.

Some documents in The Intercept’s trove show that TigerSwan conducted aerial surveillance on protesters, infiltrated activist groups, and developed a “counter-information” campaign. Others indicate extensive communications among agents from The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the U.S. Justice Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Marshals Service, and local police forces. Dozens of protesters were specifically named in early TigerSwan reports, and one report refers to a “persons of interest” list and databases chock-full of protesters’ identifying information.

Previous reports found that the FBI’s counterterrorism taskforce investigated Standing Rock protesters, but very little about the scope of this investigation was known.

You can read The Intercept’s full report, along with some of the documents, here.

Share This Story

About the author

Hannah Gold

contributing writer, nights