Leaks: Mercenaries targeted Standing Rock water protectors with anti-terrorist tactics

Tigerswan, a secretive private mercenary company, was hired by Energy Transfer Partners to run campaigns against Dakota Access Pipeline protesters in five states, including states in which they were not licensed to operate -- the measures they deployed were developed as counterterrorism tactics.

Tigerswan prepared reports that called the indigenous-led protests "an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component" and compared them to jihadi fighters. The reports were leaked by a Tigerswan contractor to The Intercept, who supplemented the with thousands of pages of documents secured through public records requests.


Tigerswan appears to have also run an online disinformation campaign, "creating and distributing content critical of the protests on social media."

Tigerswan conducted substantial infiltration and provocateur operations against the water protectors. These infiltrators engaged in "exploitation of ongoing native versus non-native rifts, and tribal rifts between peaceful and violent elements."


Perhaps one of the most striking revelations of the documents is the level of hostility displayed by TigerSwan toward the water protectors. TigerSwan consistently describes the peaceful demonstrators using military and tactical language more appropriate for counterterrorism operations in an armed conflict zone. At times, the military language verges on parody, as when agents write of protesters “stockpiling signs” or when they discuss the “caliber” of paintball pellets. More often, however, the way TigerSwan discusses protesters as “terrorists,” their direct actions as “attacks,” and the camps as a “battlefield,” reveals how the protesters’ dissent was not only criminalized but treated as a national security threat. A March 1 report states that protesters’ “operational weakness allows TS elements to further develop and dictate the battlespace.”

In one internal report dated May 4, a TigerSwan operative describes an effort to amass digital and ground intelligence that would allow the company to “find, fix, and eliminate” threats to the pipeline — an eerie echo of “find, fix, finish,” a military term used by special forces in the U.S. government’s assassination campaign against terrorist targets.

TigerSwan pays particular attention to protesters of Middle Eastern descent. A September 22 situation report argues that “the presence of additional Palestinians in the camp, and the movement’s involvement with Islamic individuals is a dynamic that requires further examination.” The report acknowledges that “currently there is no information to suggest terrorist type tactics or operations,” but nonetheless warns that “with the current limitation on information flow out of the camp, it cannot be ruled out.”


LEAKED DOCUMENTS REVEAL COUNTERTERRORISM TACTICS USED AT STANDING ROCK TO “DEFEAT PIPELINE INSURGENCIES” [Alleen Brown, Will Parrish and Alice Speri/The Intercept]