The FBI has been using officers from its anti-terrorism task force to contact and investigate Native American and environmental protesters opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Guardian reported on Friday. Many are concerned that the FBI’s power is reaching too far, and that it is wrongly painting the struggle against the pipeline as a terrorist movement.
According to the investigation by the Guardian, a number of officers from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, or JTTF, “have attempted to contact at least three people tied to the Standing Rock 'water protector' movement in North Dakota.”
Lauren Regan, an attorney for protestors that were contacted by the JTTF, said that agents arrived at three people's homes without a subpoena or warrant in an attempt to get them to talk. Regan said that the three contacted protesters maintained their constitutional rights and did not talk with the agents.
While Regan did not identify the protesters in question out of privacy concerns, she said the three contacted included a Native American and non-Indigenous protester who were contacted after U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Regan identified Andrew Creed as one of the JTTF officers, but he and FBI spokesman Jeffrey Van Nest declined to comment on the claims. The purpose and scope of the JTTF investigation remain unknown.
Sophia Wilansky, a 21-year-old who was seriously injured in a protest at the Standing Rock Camp, was met by a JTTF officer while she was in a Minneapolis hospital, according to her father, Wayne Wilansky.
“It was especially disturbing, because Sophia’s blood pressure was going up. She was about to be wheeled into surgery,” said Wilansky, adding that the police have portrayed the protest movement as violent, which may be why the FBI has become involved.
Demonstrators occupying camps in protest of the 1,170-mile project have frequently been targeted by militarized police and legal action, with around 700 protesters arrested so far and a number facing federal charges.
Protests Against Dakota Access Pipeline
In one of his many controversial executive orders since assuming the presidency, Trump signed an order to advance construction of the US$3.8 billion pipeline, which activists say will destroy the Native American sacred site and endanger drinking water and the local environment.
Trump’s signature overturned a decision by the Obama administration to halt construction until an environmental impact study could be completed. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has since filed an easement to go ahead with the project. Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the project, announced that it will resume construction on a previously blocked section.