February 11, 2019

Law Enforcement Complained About North Dakota’s Public Records Law A...

North Dakota lawmakers are considering a bill to restrict the release of records related to security operations involving “critical infrastructure” — a category that includes fossil fuel pipelines. The bill comes after The Intercept and other media outlets published stories documenting law enforcement surveillance and coordination with private security during the Dakota Access pipeline protests, many of which were based on records released under the North Dakota Open Records Act.

The bill, known as Senate Bill 2209, would amend the North Dakota Constitution to bar the disclosure of public records involving “security planning, mitigation, or threats” pertaining to critical infrastructure facilities. It specifically forbids the release of any critical infrastructure “security systems plan,” which it defines as “records,” “information,” “photographs,” “videos,” and “communications” pertaining to the “security of any public facility” or any “privately owned or leased critical infrastructure.” Among several examples of critical infrastructure systems included in the bill are “utility services, fuel supply, energy, hazardous liquid, natural gas, or coal.”

According to Jesse Franzblau, a transparency law expert and policy analyst at Open the Government, while some of the language in the bill is similar to exemptions in federal laws that restrict public access to critical infrastructure information, “several parts of the bill obviously seem very tailored toward pipeline-related construction and also, given the timing, toward keeping information on security operations against pipeline protesters a secret.”

On January 22, the 47-member North Dakota Senate voted unanimously in favor of the bill. If approved by the state’s House of Representatives, it will head to Gov. Doug Burgum’s desk.

Proponents of the bill claim it is necessary to prevent cybersecurity attacks and other dangerous intrusions. “Whether it’s utilities or whether it’s any kind of other industry that we have, all of those are ripe for cyberattacks and that information needs to be secure,” Democratic Sen. Joan Heckaman, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, stated at a January 21 hearing.

Chip Gibbons, policy and legislative counsel at the group Defending Rights & Dissent, says the cybersecurity justification appears to be a smokescreen, particularly since hackers are unlikely to rely on freedom of information requests to carry out attacks. “To me, it just seems like a silly distraction,” Gibbons said. “Instead of having a conversation about protecting the public right to know about law enforcement responses to protests, such as collaboration with private security firms paid for by the pipeline companies, it focuses the conversation on something more people can agree on.”

Neither Heckaman nor Republican Sen. Jerry Klein, another co-sponsor of the bill, responded to requests to clarify its intent. Todd Kranda, a lobbyist for the bill, left a voicemail with The Intercept saying that Klein had passed on the comment request to him. Subsequent calls and emails to Kranda went unanswered.

During the January 21 hearing, Kranda testified in support of the bill on behalf of Missouri River Energy Services, a utility provider in four Upper Midwest states. Records from the North Dakota secretary of state show that Kranda is also a registered lobbyist for the North Dakota Petroleum Council and various fossil fuel companies, including the Keystone XL pipeline builder TransCanada. In 2017, Kranda was registered as a lobbyist for Alliance Pipeline, which recently announced a major expansion in North Dakota.

Behind the Scenes

The struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline galvanized a global movement, but it also led to intensive police monitoring, violent suppression of protests, and the prolonged prosecution of hundreds of activists. The overwhelming majority of charges brought against pipeline opponents were eventually dismissed due to lack of evidence. In numerous cases, lawyers and activists drew on documents that media outlets obtained via open records requests to defend those under prosecution.

Documents published as part of The Intercept’s Oil and Water series played a significant role in the criminal defense of Standing Rock Sioux tribal member Chase Iron Eyes and Oglala Lakota Sioux water protector Red Fawn Fallis. A class-action lawsuit alleging excessive brutality by North Dakota police also relied on The Intercept’s reporting, as did a lawsuit that state regulators filed against TigerSwan, the mercenary firm that oversaw the DAPL security operation.

“I think this is clearly a response to what you learned through freedom of information requests,” Jeffrey Haas, a civil rights attorney and member of the Water Protector Legal Collective, told me. “They did not like to have to disclose that information. This is an effort to prevent that in the future.”

Behind the scenes, law enforcement officers responded to the records requests with consternation. An April 2017 intelligence bulletin co-authored by the North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center, which I obtained via a records request, bemoaned the independent media group Unicorn Riot’s use of the state’s public records law to pry out information on police activities.

“One non-credentialed media group, involved in high profile actions, would request publically [sic] available records to identify law enforcement agencies and persons involved,” the bulletin noted in a section on “observed protest tactics.”

I also obtained an internal law enforcement email exchange concerning an open records request I had filed with the city of Bismarck seeking information on intrusive surveillance of protesters. “The individual making the request was William Parrish out of California who claims to be a ‘journalist,’” Bismarck Police Lt. Lynn Wanner wrote in a May 2017 email to officials with the FBI, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. “I don’t have much information on him.”

BIA analyst Barry Cossey noted that he had consulted with an attorney about preventing the release of records I requested. “Is there a preemptive way to prevent the city of Bismarck from disclosing any law enforcement product produced by BIA personnel?” Cossey asked. An FBI agent chimed in by passing along information from the FBI’s Minneapolis associate division counsel, who asserted that the “FBI should be consulted on any emails touching on FBI equities” prior to the release of any documents.

Wanner also expressed frustration about North Dakota’s relatively strong open records law. “I’m still doing some checking on the legality of everything and what I am forced to release,” she wrote.


Email from Bismarck Police Lt. Lynn Wanner on May 4, 2017.

Screenshot: The Intercept


Email from Bureau of Indian Affairs analyst Barry Cossey on May 3, 2017.

Screenshot: The Intercept

The bill to amend the open records law comes as more than a dozen states have introduced or passed bills criminalizing protest related to fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Those bills are similar to a model created by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national network that brings together corporations and right-wing legislators to draft industry-friendly policies.

A North Dakota version of ALEC’s model, introduced nine days prior to Senate Bill 2209, is among the harshest. It would make it a felony to trespass on a critical infrastructure site such as a pipeline construction right of way, and would assess a hefty fine on any organization “found to be a conspirator with an individual” who violates the law.

Gibbons says the effort to restrict access to records like those that shed light on the police response to the DAPL protests is particularly worrisome given law enforcement’s ongoing pattern of using excessive force against opponents of new fossil fuel development and infringing on their First Amendment rights.

“One of the great tools we have for fighting back against those kinds of abuses is the Freedom of Information Act and state-level public records laws, because that way we can find out what actually happened,” Gibbons said. “If we have a vague suspicion of something but can’t actually prove it, we can’t fight back against it.”

The post Law Enforcement Complained About North Dakota’s Public Records Law Amid Reporting on Standing Rock. Now Lawmakers Want to Amend It. appeared first on The Intercept.

Police use a water cannon on protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith - D1BEUOBKNBAA
January 30, 2019

How Police, Private Security, and Energy Companies Are Preparing for a...

Minnesota police have spent 18 months preparing for a major standoff over Enbridge Line 3, a tar sands oil pipeline that has yet to receive the green light to build in the state. Records obtained by The Intercept show that law enforcement has engaged in a coordinated effort to identify potential anti-pipeline camps and monitor individual protesters, repeatedly turning for guidance to the North Dakota officials responsible for the militarized response at Standing Rock in 2016.

Enbridge, a Canada-based energy company that claims to own the world’s longest fossil fuel transportation network, has labeled Line 3 the largest project in its history. If completed, it would replace 1,031 miles of a corroded existing pipeline that spans from Alberta’s tar sands region to refineries and a major shipping terminal in Wisconsin, expanding the pipeline’s capacity by hundreds of thousands of barrels per day.

The expanded Line 3 would pass through the territories of several Ojibwe bands in northern Minnesota, home to sensitive wild rice lakes central to the Native communities’ spiritual and physical sustenance. Given that tar sands are among the world’s most carbon-intensive fuel sources, Line 3 opponents underline that the pipeline is exactly the kind of infrastructure that must be rapidly phased out to meet scientists’ prescriptions for mitigating climate disasters.

The Line 3 documents, which were obtained via freedom of information requests, illustrate law enforcement’s anxiety that pipeline opponents could galvanize support on a scale similar to the Dakota Access pipeline struggle, which drew thousands of protesters to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in southern North Dakota.

A police response like the one in North Dakota is a significant concern for Line 3 opponents. At Standing Rock, law enforcement used water cannons, rubber bullets, armored personnel carriers, and sound cannons in an operation that resulted in serious injuries. Aided by private intelligence and security firms working for the pipeline, they gathered information on protesters via aerial surveillance, online monitoring, embedded informants, and eavesdropping on radio signals. In a time of growing resistance to fossil fuel industries, the public-private partnership served as a chilling example of law enforcement agencies acting as bulwarks of the oil industry.

Police use a water cannon on protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith - D1BEUOBKNBAA

Police use a water cannon against Dakota Access pipeline protesters near Cannon Ball, N.D., on Nov. 20, 2016.

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Reuters

In 2017, Enbridge began construction on the tiny portion of Line 3 that cuts into Wisconsin. Local police reports describe two security firms, Raven Executive and Security Services and Securitas, keeping tabs on protesters and reporting their activities to law enforcement. It was the protests in Wisconsin that sparked the multistate coordination led by Minnesota. The state’s fusion center developed a reputation as “the keepers of information for the Enbridge protests,” as one sheriff’s analyst put it, receiving information on Line 3 opponents from police departments in at least three states. While fusion centers were originally established to facilitate counterterrorism intelligence-sharing, they have increasingly played a role in monitoring, interpreting, and criminalizing political activity.

Meanwhile, opposition research firms that market their services to energy companies have also singled out Line 3 as the next likely flashpoint of opposition to a U.S. pipeline project. Executives of the public relations firm Off the Record Strategies and the private intelligence firm Delve, which the National Sheriffs’ Association contracted in 2016 to dig up information on DAPL opponents, gave an overview of their work at a pipeline industry conference in 2017. “If you look at Line 3, they’re already arresting activists in Minneapolis. They’re already doing encampments in Wisconsin,” Delve CEO Jeff Berkowitz told conference attendees, according to audio obtained by The Intercept. “I think the next one is potentially going to be worse than DAPL.”

Tribal attorney Tara Houska, who is Ojibwe from the Couchiching First Nation and the national campaigns director for Honor the Earth, has been deeply involved in organizing against Line 3.

“It’s clear that Enbridge is doing everything they can to have a very highly skilled force of security and law enforcement at their fingertips to do what they can to stop any resistance to Line 3,” said Houska, who also took part in the struggle at Standing Rock. “And if anything, it seems like what they’re doing is much more coordinated than what we saw in North Dakota.”


Map: Soohee Cho/The Intercept

Tipping Off Law Enforcement

As Line 3 construction got underway in Wisconsin, protesters stalled the pipeline’s progress by locking themselves to equipment and using disabled cars to erect a blockade. Between August and September 2017, police arrested at least 13 people. Incident reports turned over by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office show that during this time, Enbridge security guards routinely contacted sheriff’s deputies to report the activities of pipeline opponents.

In July, a security guard whose LinkedIn page indicated that he worked for Raven Executive and Security Services informed a sheriff’s deputy that his company “monitors the online activities of the pipeline protesters.” Another security officer reported that the company’s excavators had mysteriously been moved, then used his audience with the sheriff’s office to mention a vague tip about Winona LaDuke, the Ojibwe former vice-presidential candidate and a staunch Line 3 opponent. LaDuke had been seen in the area recently, the security officer said, and her “boyfriend” had been heard stating that he wanted to “do something to the pipeline.”

Throughout August, Neo Gabo Benais, who is from Ojibwe country, posted the coordinates of Line 3 construction sites on social media and shared photos and videos taken from inside the sites. The same month, an Enbridge security guard reported to the sheriff’s office that he had “posted threatening messages on Facebook.” Another caller identified as a Securitas employee said he had been seen “driving slowly around the pipeline 3.”

Neo Gabo Benais told The Intercept that in 2002, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured near where he lived and fished in Minnesota, spilling 252,000 gallons of crude into a marsh. “I’m just trying to spend their money up,” he said. “It’s really a waste of time, them surveilling me.”

According to its website, Raven is “owned and operated by current and former law enforcement professionals.” In 2015, the company launched Raven Executive Unmanned Aerial Vehicle services. A filing with Federal Aviation Administration indicates that Raven intended to utilize its drones to inspect “energy pipelines.”

Securitas is an enormous, publicly traded corporation with operations in over 50 countries. It owns the nation’s oldest private security company, Pinkerton, which became notorious for its union-breaking activities and infiltration of leftist organizations at the turn of the 20th century.

Neither Raven nor Securitas responded to requests for comment. Enbridge did not respond to requests for comment.

Winona Laduke? and others demonstrate at a rally held at the Wisconsin-Minnesota border on the morning after Line 3 is approved, Friday, June 29, 2018. They're vowing to fight to keep the oil pipeline from being built across Minnesota. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Thursday determined the project is necessary and approved the Canadian company's preferred route across northern Minnesota, with modifications and conditions that Enbridge considers minor. (Dan Kraker/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

Winona LaDuke and other water protectors rally at the Wisconsin-Minnesota border on June 29, 2018.

Photo: Dan Kraker/Minnesota Public Radio via AP

“The Keepers of Information”

In September 2017, the Wisconsin Statewide Intelligence Center emailed information about recent arrestees to the fusion centers in their home states of Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.

The next month, an analyst from the Minnesota Fusion Center pledged to ensure that law enforcement in disparate counties would be “well-informed of any potential hazards relating to the Line 3 project.” In an email sent to the fusion center, a crime analyst from Minnesota’s Beltrami County noted, “There is concern about Winona LaDuke.” The analyst listed four properties that LaDuke was suspected of owning and speculated about which might be used to put up protesters.

Another email sent to the fusion center noted that Jackie Fielder, a San Francisco-based organizer with the fossil fuel divestment organization Mazaska Talks, had arrived at one of the protest camps in Minnesota. The report speculated not on criminal activity but on whether her presence could signal “increased support from Mazaska Talks and its connections.”

“A fusion center has no business keeping track of a nonviolent divestment campaign that aims to promote Indigenous rights,” Fielder told The Intercept.

LaDuke agreed. “I don’t understand why I’m being looked at as a criminal when a corporation is proposing to destroy my water,” she said. “I am not a criminal, I am a water protector.”

By May 2018, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office had established a shared web resource concerning Line 3 opposition, to which 19 police officers in eight jurisdictions had access, as well as the fusion center.

“The Minnesota Fusion Center recognizes and values citizens’ constitutionally protected rights to speak, assemble, and demonstrate peacefully,” Drew Evans, superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said in a statement. “Because public demonstrations are sometimes targeted by individuals seeking to commit crimes or promote violence, the fusion center routinely monitors public sources for potential hazards to the people of Minnesota and its critical infrastructure.”

Brendan McQuade, assistant sociology professor at SUNY Cortland and author of a forthcoming book on fusion centers, sees the Minnesota records as part of a more troubling trend. “What the police aren’t mentioning is that people will likely be living lives of terror and privation by the end of the century due to climate change, and it’s these battles right now that will decide whether that happens,” he said. “Instead, they are casting even entirely nonviolent actions as threats to so-called critical infrastructure.”

Morton County (ND) Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, left, and Cass County (ND) Sheriff Paul Laney attend a pretrial conference for defendant Chase Iron Eyes at the Morton County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Mandan, N. D. Iron Eyes is charged with felony inciting a riot and misdemeanor criminal trespass related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests on Feb. 1, 2017. (Mike McCleary /The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, left, and Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney at the Morton County Courthouse on April 4, 2018, in Mandan, N.D.

Photo: Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP

Putting “a Marker Down”

As law enforcement and emergency managers tightened their coordination and intelligence-sharing on protesters, they repeatedly turned for guidance to North Dakota officials who had been involved in repressing the Standing Rock fight.

In September 2017, Cody Schulz, then-disaster recovery chief for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, gave a quasi-scientific overview of NoDAPL at a Minnesota emergency managers conference. He claimed that at any given time, around 400 protesters at Standing Rock were “willing to commit criminal acts,” while 80 were “willing to commit dangerous or violent acts.” Other slides attempted to justify the use of fire hoses and dogs to quell protests and stressed the need for a robust public relations operation.

In late 2017 and early 2018, members of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, a major architect of the DAPL police operation, gave three more presentations on lessons learned in North Dakota to law enforcement in Wisconsin and Minnesota, including an association of SWAT officers.


At the Platts Pipeline Expansion and Development Conference in November 2017, Delve CEO Jeff Berkowitz and Off the Record Strategies CEO Mark Pfeifle gave a presentation to pipeline executives on how to prepare should opposition to future infrastructure projects develop the way NoDAPL did.

As part of law enforcement’s counterinformation campaign in response to NoDAPL, Berkowitz said, Delve developed “sort of fake ‘wanted’ posters, with the rap sheets of some of these folks.”

Pfeifle said one of his company’s goals was to deter protesters from becoming involved in the movement to begin with. “A lot of things that we were doing were being done to put a marker down for the protesters. And, ‘OK, if you’re going to go protest somewhere? There’s going to be consequences from it.’”

Prior to their work for the National Sheriffs’ Association, both executives spent years as elite Republican spin doctors. Pfeifle worked as an Iraq War public relations specialist for the George W. Bush administration, while Berkowitz directed the Republican National Committee’s multimillion-dollar opposition research operation.

Neither Delve nor Off the Record Strategies responded to requests for comment.

In an Aug. 21, 2017 photo, workers make sure that each section of the replacement Line 3 that is joined passes muster. Enbridge already has started building the 14-mile stretch of Line 3 from the Minnesota line to its terminal in Superior, Wis. In filings with the Public Utilities Commission Monday, Sept. 11, The Minnesota Department of Commerce says Enbridge Energy has failed to establish the need for its proposal to replace its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota. Instead, the department says it might be better to just shut down the existing line.  (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)

Workers inspect sections of the replacement Line 3 pipeline on Aug. 21, 2017.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune/AP

Worth Fighting For

Construction is already complete across most of Line 3’s route, and Enbridge has told shareholders that it intends to have oil flowing by November. But it awaits final approvals in Minnesota from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and several permitting agencies. This past June, despite receiving 68,000 comments opposing Line 3, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted to grant Enbridge a “certificate of need” for the project.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce filed a lawsuit challenging the approval last month — a rare instance of one state agency suing another over a major infrastructure project. Outgoing Gov. Mark Dayton made a statement opposing the project on the grounds that most of the tar sands bitumen would not meet demand in Minnesota but would instead “flow through our state to supply other states and countries.” Gov. Tim Waltz told reporters in January that he was weighing whether to drop the lawsuit.

Resistance to new pipelines has taken a major toll on the tar sands industry. In August, a Canadian judge scuttled federal permits for the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline expansion, ruling that the federal government had failed to adequately consult with Indigenous nations in the pipeline’s path. In November, responding to a lawsuit by tribal and environmental groups, a federal judge in Montana ordered the U.S. State Department to complete a new environmental impact review of the Keystone XL pipeline.

In December, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced that her government would curtail the province’s oil production, particularly from tar sands, saying that there wasn’t enough pipeline capacity to ship the crude to market, although sagging prices and market saturation are also major factors.

“Enbridge — they need this to stay alive. This is their last vampire suck of blood. I’m looking at this vampire, and I’m like, I’ll do everything I can for you not to get that,” LaDuke said. “From Lake Superior to the border to the river where the pipeline will come in if they are allowed to go forward — the majority of this area is water, 10,000 lakes. It is a beautiful place, so it is worth fighting for.”

The post How Police, Private Security, and Energy Companies Are Preparing for a New Pipeline Standoff appeared first on The Intercept.

July 13, 2018

Standing Rock Activist Accused of Firing Gun Registered to FBI Informa...

Following an emotional hearing in Bismarck, North Dakota, this week, Oglala Lakota Sioux water protector Red Fawn Fallis was sentenced to 57 months in prison on charges stemming from her arrest while opposing the Dakota Access pipeline.

Fallis was arrested in October 2016 when hundreds of law enforcement officers descended on a protest camp in the pipeline’s path to forcibly evict its residents. She was accused of firing three shots from a revolver underneath her stomach after being tackled by several officers and pinned face down in a ditch alongside the highway.

As The Intercept first reported last year, the gun Fallis was accused of firing belonged to an FBI informant named Heath Harmon who had developed a romantic relationship with Fallis in the weeks leading up to her arrest. Harmon told state and federal investigators that he met Fallis at the water protectors’ Rosebud Camp after being tasked by the FBI with serving as an “observer” of the protest movement. He said he had been recruited by his brother, Chad Harmon, a Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer.

Chad Harmon was subsequently appointed by the BIA to serve as acting chief of police of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a position he held from January to April 2018, BIA spokesperson Nedra Darling confirmed in a statement to The Intercept.

Fallis’s arrest occurred on land that would still belong to the Great Sioux Nation had the U.S. government honored the Fort Laramie treaties of 1851 and 1868. In January, after U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland rejected attempts by Fallis’s defense team to make treaty rights and the sprawling intelligence apparatus targeting pipeline opponents central to her case, Fallis pleaded guilty to felony counts of civil disorder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. As part of the plea bargain, prosecutors dropped the most serious charge against her — discharge of a firearm in relation to a felony crime of violence — which could have carried a life sentence.

University of Colorado professor Glenn Morris, a founder of the Colorado chapter of the American Indian Movement who regards Fallis as a niece, told The Intercept that her prison sentence could not be understood apart from a long history of U.S. colonization and the vastly disproportionate violence directed against Indigenous women. “They can bring thousands of guns to stolen treaty territory, and they have the audacity to charge this Native woman who is trying to protect her territory, her land, and the sanctity of her traditions with a crime of violence,” said Morris, who testified in support of Fallis at Wednesday’s hearing.

Morris and Fallis’s sister, Red Dawn Foster, both spoke of Fallis’s generous spirit and her contributions to the camps at Standing Rock and her community in Denver. University of Colorado integrative physiology professor Roger Enoka also testified that a phenomenon called “reactive grip response” can lead to accidental discharge of a firearm during a rapidly unfolding traumatic situation.

Hovland declined to consider Fallis’s intent as part of his ruling. “I’m not going to go down that path, try to determine what Ms. Fallis’s intent was when that firearm was discharged,” he said. The judge noted that he had the discretion to sentence Fallis to a lengthier prison term under the statutes in question, characterizing her nearly five-year sentence as “sufficient to the goals of sentencing and not greater than necessary.” Prosecutors had recommended a seven-year sentence, while Fallis’s defense attorneys had asked for 24 to 30 months.

Hovland said he would recommend Fallis be placed in a federal prison in Phoenix or Tucson. She will receive credit for nearly 18 months of time served. Following her release from prison, currently marked for late 2021, she will be subject to three years’ supervised release.

During brief remarks at the conclusion of the hearing, Fallis said her relationship with Harmon had been an unfortunate influence, and poor choices had hindered her decision-making, according to Frances Madeson, communications coordinator for the Water Protector Legal Collective. Fallis took responsibility for the revolver in her possession and expressed remorse for any danger caused to police officers and other community members. She told the courtroom that she would devote some her remaining time in prison to developing a project called Keepers of the Wisdom, focused on building relationships between Indigenous elders and youth.

Fallis is the second NoDAPL water protector arrested during the police raid on October 27, 2016, to be sentenced to a multiyear prison term. On May 30, Chumash water protector Michael “Little Feather” Giron was sentenced to three years in prison on a federal charge of civil disorder. Oglala Lakota Sioux water protector Michael “Rattler” Markus has pleaded guilty to the same charge in exchange for prosecutors dropping other federal felony counts. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for September.

Glenn Morris sees Fallis’s case as part of a larger Indigenous-led struggle for self-determination and protection of the earth. “This case and this issue is not about her solely,” he said. “What happened at Standing Rock was an inspiration to Indigenous people from around the world. We’re seeing that continuing up in British Columbia with the Trans Mountain pipeline, or the plans to resist the extension of Keystone XL this next year, or the resistance at Ojibwe territory with Line 3.”

Top photo: Red Fawn Fallis waves a flag symbolizing the American Indian Movement at Standing Rock on Aug. 20, 2016.

The post Standing Rock Activist Accused of Firing Gun Registered to FBI Informant Is Sentenced to Nearly Five Years in Prison appeared first on The Intercept.

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2017, file photo, Red Fawn Fallis, of Denver, stands outside the federal courthouse in Bismarck, N.D. A federal judge is refusing to delay the upcoming trial of Fallis, who is accused of shooting at law officers during protests in North Dakota against the Dakota Access pipeline. She's pleaded not guilty to federal civil disorder and weapons charges. Her trial begins Jan. 29, 2018., in Fargo, N.D. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)
January 30, 2018

A Native American Activist Followed Her Mother’s Footsteps to Standi...

After spending a year in jail awaiting trial, Oglala Lakota Sioux activist Red Fawn Fallis pleaded guilty last week to two federal felonies related to her arrest while protesting the Dakota Access pipeline. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the most serious charge against her, which would have carried a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence with the possibility of life imprisonment.

Fallis was arrested on October 27, 2016, during a large-scale law enforcement operation to evict pipeline opponents from a camp alongside North Dakota Highway 1806. After officers tackled Fallis and pinned her on the ground facedown, they allege that she fired three shots from a revolver underneath her stomach, which did not result in any injuries. Last month, The Intercept revealed that the gun in question belonged to a paid FBI informant who was in a romantic relationship with Fallis. The informant, Heath Harmon, had infiltrated the protest camps starting in August 2016 and was near Fallis’s side for much of the day leading up to her arrest.

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2017, file photo, Red Fawn Fallis, of Denver, stands outside the federal courthouse in Bismarck, N.D. A federal judge is refusing to delay the upcoming trial of Fallis, who is accused of shooting at law officers during protests in North Dakota against the Dakota Access pipeline. She's pleaded not guilty to federal civil disorder and weapons charges. Her trial begins Jan. 29, 2018., in Fargo, N.D. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)

Red Fawn Fallis stands outside the federal courthouse in Bismarck, N.D., on Dec. 8, 2017.

Photo: Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune/AP

As a condition of the plea bargain, federal prosecutors dismissed the count of discharge of a firearm in relation to a felony crime of violence, and the state of North Dakota, which had previously charged Fallis with attempted murder, agreed not to reinstate or pursue any charges related to the incident. Prosecutors have recommended Fallis receive a seven-year sentence, although U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland can still impose up to 10 years in prison based on Fallis’s guilty plea to civil disorder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Fallis’s attorneys are recommending a sentence of 21 to 27 months, including one year of time served.

In a statement explaining Fallis’s decision to accept the plea deal, the Water Protector Legal Collective cited several negative pretrial rulings issued by Hovland, as well as the likelihood of jury bias based on a survey of potential jurors revealing strong antagonistic feelings toward anti-pipeline protesters. U.S. Attorney David Hagler declined to comment for this story. A Morton County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

While law enforcement frequently cited Fallis’s case to advance a narrative of anti-pipeline protesters as violent extremists, her supporters see her legal plight as only the latest episode in the U.S. government’s long history of hostility toward indigenous people who push back against powerful government and corporate interests. More than 50 people turned out to support Fallis at her federal hearing in Bismarck on January 22; many expressed sadness and outrage about her likely prison sentence.

“As indigenous people, we’re simply not allowed to act in defense of our children, land, or traditions without incurring severe punishment,” said Eryn Wise, a member of the Jicarilla Apache and Laguna Pueblo nations who worked with Fallis at Standing Rock. “We’re horrified they took another person from us who we may not get back for a long time.”

Demonstrators cheer as armed soldiers and law enforcement officers move in to force Dakota Access pipeline protesters off private land in North Dakota on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, where they had camped to block construction. The pipeline is to carry oil from western North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Patoka, Ill. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

Law enforcement officers move in to force Dakota Access pipeline protesters off private land in North Dakota on Oct. 27, 2016, where they had camped to block construction.

Photo: Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune/AP

Unanswered Questions

Fallis’s arrest in October 2016 occurred amid a highly militarized police raid on land that would still belong to the Great Sioux Nation had the Fort Laramie treaties of 1851 and 1868 been honored. In a pretrial motion, Fallis’s attorneys attempted to raise the issue in her case, arguing that the government had a burden to establish the law enforcement operation as lawful by addressing treaty rights in court. But Hovland refused to allow consideration of this broader historical context, instead making several orders to limit the case’s scope. “This is not a complex case,” Hovland insisted in a January 2 order.

Fallis’s attorneys also filed several motions asking the government to disclose information related to the sweeping surveillance activities of public law enforcement and private security contractors hired by the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline. Drawing in part on stories and documents published by The Intercept, they argued that Fallis’s case could not be considered apart from this intrusive intelligence gathering, given that an undercover informant employed by the FBI had initiated a relationship with Fallis, and then made available the gun she was accused of firing.

As The Intercept previously reported, Harmon said he was recruited by the FBI after approaching his brother, a Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer, about “being an observer” of the protest movement. He gave conflicting accounts about the gun. On the morning after Fallis’s arrest, he filed a report with the Mandan Police Department claiming it had been stolen two to three weeks prior. Later, in an interview with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, he said he’d last seen the weapon a few days before Fallis’s arrest, having left it in her trailer at the water protectors’ Rosebud Camp.

Defense lawyers for Fallis sought additional materials regarding Harmon’s activities as an informant, contending that prosecutors had only turned over “sparse summaries” of his communications with the FBI rather than the more detailed reports that likely existed if the bureau followed its standard protocols. They also requested information on other covert operatives at Standing Rock. In a pretrial hearing, one of the officers who helped arrest Fallis had testified that law enforcement received a briefing on the morning of October 27, 2016, from either a law enforcement or private security infiltrator who was posing as a protester. Hovland ruled against these requests for discovery information.

Defense filings suggest the documents turned over by the government still included some new information on Harmon’s activities. He had been “instructed to collect information on potential violence, weapons, and criminal activity,” a defense motion noted, adding that Harmon’s FBI contacts had recommended that he receive extra compensation to keep him “motivated for future taskings.” The defense motion suggested that Harmon had been slated to testify against Fallis had her case gone to trial as scheduled.

Additional discovery requests rejected by Hovland pertained to the activities of private security agencies. Fallis’s attorneys had challenged the legality of police operations at Standing Rock due to law enforcement’s close collaboration with TigerSwan, a security firm hired to protect the pipeline. An ongoing lawsuit filed by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board alleges that TigerSwan illegally provided security and investigative services in the state after having been denied a license to do so. A civil trial in that case has been scheduled for October 2018.

Following The Intercept’s publication of a “links chart” prepared by a North Dakota fusion center identifying Fallis as a leader of the protest movement more than seven weeks prior to her arrest, defense lawyers asked the judge to compel the government to turn over all intelligence collected about Fallis and her activities. The judge ordered the government to “disclose all relevant information” concerning Fallis, including but not limited to her placement on the chart — but such disclosure will no longer be required given Fallis’s decision to accept the government’s plea offer.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10:  An activist holds a sign outside the Army Corps of Engineers Office to protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline March 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe held the event with a march to the White House to urge for halting the construction of the project.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

An activist holds a sign outside the Army Corps of Engineers’ office to protest the Dakota Access pipeline, March 10, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A Legacy of Activism

Among the water protectors who gathered at Standing Rock, Fallis was known for her work as a medic and mentor to younger activists. According to Mia Stevens, a family friend, Fallis had dedicated her work to her late mother, Troy Lynn Yellow Wood, a prominent activist with the American Indian Movement.

Founded in 1968, AIM fought for the legal rights and cultural survival of indigenous people. According to Phyllis Young, a Standing Rock Sioux tribal member and longtime AIM member, Yellow Wood was at the center of many of the group’s struggles and helped to establish Women of All Red Nations, which fought for an end to forced sterilization of indigenous women, among other causes.

By traveling to Standing Rock, Fallis was almost literally following in her mother’s footsteps. In 1974, Young said, members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe invited AIM to an area at the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers known as Sacred Stone, which would later become the site of the first NoDAPL camp.

Until the 1978 passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, it was illegal for indigenous people to practice many of their traditional spiritual ceremonies. Standing Rock traditionalists decided to carry out a pipe ceremony at the site and sought AIM’s protection to do so. Yellow Wood was among the AIM members who responded to that call, Young said.

Many of Fallis’s supporters contend that her stature as a politically active indigenous woman played a central role in drawing the attention of law enforcement. “They just could not stand for us as Indians to talk back to them, and most of all, they couldn’t stand for us as women to be talking back to them,” Young said.

In early May, Fallis was granted a three-day furlough from jail to attend a memorial in Denver for her mother and grandmother. Young, who accompanied her to the ceremony, said Fallis had a emotional reunion with family members before receiving blessings at traditional ceremonies organized on her behalf. “They honored her far into night,” Young said.

But while an older generation of AIM activists sees Fallis as having carried on the work of the organization, her case also represents a continuation of the infiltration that created fissures within AIM in the 1970s. Standing Rock Sioux tribal member Ladonna Allard, who hosted the Sacred Stone Camp, says people in the movement are “trying to deal with the whole fact of Heath Harmon and how he was able to get so close to everybody.”

After spending a year in jail following her arrest, Fallis was transferred to a halfway house in Fargo. Earlier this month, federal marshals re-arrested her after she failed to attend a mandatory adult education course and returned late to the halfway house. At the January 22 hearing, both prosecutors and defense attorneys expressed supported for returning Fallis to the halfway house with the addition of GPS monitoring.

While Fallis’s case has been one of the highest profile among the hundreds filed against anti-DAPL protesters, she is not the only one to face harsh penalties for her role in the protests. On January 21, attorneys for Michael “Rattler” Markus, another pipeline opponent charged with federal crimes related to the October 27 raid, announced that they had arrived at a plea agreement with the U.S. government. Prosecutors will drop the most serious charge against Markus — use of fire to commit a federal felony offense — in exchange for his plea of guilty to civil disorder. Prosecutors and the defense are jointly recommending a prison sentence of 36 months.

A sentencing hearing for Fallis is scheduled for May 31. Her attorneys intend to call several witnesses, defense attorney Bruce Ellison said at the hearing in Bismarck. Ellison is also a longtime attorney for Leonard Peltier, a member of AIM who was imprisoned for the killings of two FBI agents in the 1970s, in what many indigenous activists and human rights groups have labeled a wrongful conviction.

According to Eryn Wise, a member of the International Indigenous Youth Council, the young people who grew to admire Fallis at Standing Rock have only grown more determined as they’ve followed her case, particularly given the urgency of climate change and other environmental degradation, as well as the prevailing sense that their traditional lands remain under occupation by the U.S. government.

“What’s happened to Red Fawn has only inspired the youth to pursue this line of work more,” Wise said, “because they realize that without people standing up like she has, there won’t be a future for anybody.”

Top photo: Danielle Giagnoli carries a sign in support of Red Fawn Fallis during a “Stand With Standing Rock” demonstration against the Dakota Access pipeline in Santa Ana, Calif., Nov. 26, 2016.

The post A Native American Activist Followed Her Mother’s Footsteps to Standing Rock. Now She Faces Years in Prison. appeared first on The Intercept.

Red Fawn Fallis smiles outside the Federal Courthouse in Bismarck, N.D., on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Fallis was in court for a hearing on charges related to protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Tom Stromme /The Bismarck Tribune via AP)
December 11, 2017

An Activist Stands Accused of Firing a Gun at Standing Rock. It Belong...

As law enforcement officers advanced in a U-shaped sweep line down North Dakota Highway 1806 last October, pushing back Dakota Access opponents from a camp in the pipeline’s path, two sheriff’s deputies broke formation to tackle a 37-year-old Oglala Sioux woman named Red Fawn Fallis. As Fallis struggled under the weight of her arresting officers, who were attempting to put her in handcuffs, three gunshots allegedly went off alongside her. According to the arrest affidavit, deputies lunged toward her left hand and wrested a gun away from her.

Well before that moment, Fallis had been caught in a sprawling intelligence operation that sought to disrupt and discredit opponents of the pipeline. The Intercept has learned that the legal owner of the gun Fallis is alleged to have fired was a paid FBI informant named Heath Harmon, a 46-year-old member of the Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota. For at least two months, Harmon took part in the daily life of DAPL resistance camps and gained access to movement participants, even becoming Fallis’s romantic partner several weeks prior to the alleged shooting on October 27, 2016.

In an interview with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, a recording of which was obtained by The Intercept, Harmon reported that his work for the FBI involved monitoring the Standing Rock camps for evidence of “bomb-making materials, stuff like that.” Asked what he discovered, Harmon made no mention of protesters harboring dangerous weapons, but he acknowledged storing his own weapon in a trailer at the water protectors’ Rosebud Camp: the same .38 revolver Fallis is accused of firing.

Harmon spent the day of October 27 with Fallis and was nearby during her arrest. He continued to withhold his FBI affiliation from his then-girlfriend in phone conversations with her while she was being held at the Morton County jail in Mandan, North Dakota, records show. Investigators’ notes on those calls were distributed to the ATF, two local sheriff’s departments, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Bismarck, among others.

Federal prosecutors are charging Fallis with civil disorder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and discharge of a firearm in relation to a felony crime of violence — perhaps the most serious charges levied against any water protector. If convicted of discharging the weapon, she faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and the possibility of a life sentence. She has pleaded not guilty.

Attorneys for Fallis argue their client was seized without probable cause while engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment, pointing to the account of one of her arresting officers that Fallis was shouting “water is life and you’re killing Mother Earth and stuff of that nature.” Drone footage appears to show her being tackled just minutes after arriving in the vicinity of the police line. In a hearing that concluded Monday, her lawyers challenged the admissibility of any property seized or statements Fallis made immediately after the incident, arguing they represent the products of an unconstitutional arrest. Defense attorneys declined to comment or make Fallis available for this story, citing her pending trial.

Drone footage from Oct. 27, 2016, shows Red Fawn Fallis driving an ATV north alongside the highway, then parking and approaching the police line. A few minutes later, as she begins to walk parallel to law enforcement, she is tackled and arrested.

As the struggle to limit the mining and burning of fossil fuels has developed into a potent force, indigenous activists like Fallis have frequently been at the forefront. Documents and recordings reviewed for this story provide a window into federal law enforcement’s use of counterterrorism tactics to target pipeline opponents based on the threat of “environmental rights extremism” — and reveal infiltration of the water protector movement as the latest chapter in the FBI’s long history of repression of indigenous political activism.

The intelligence operation targeting DAPL opponents was based at an emergency operations center in Bismarck, as well as the North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center, known as the SLIC, a fusion center established to facilitate information sharing in the aftermath of 9/11. Although local law enforcement frequently served as the public face of the operation, federal agents played a central role soon after the first civil disobedience actions kicked off in August 2016. By early September, the operations center was hosting daily meetings involving representatives of the FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Marshals Service, and state and local police.

In his interview with the ATF and Bureau of Criminal Investigation on December 13, 2016, Harmon described how he came to be an FBI asset: He had reached out to his brother, a BIA police officer in North Dakota, to see if he could help by “being an observer” of the protest movement. “He said he knew people and they would get ahold of me,” Harmon stated. “That’s when the FBI contacted me. That’s the reason why I was down there in the first place.” By August, Harmon was regularly visiting the Rosebud Camp, which is where he met Fallis, according to his interview. He said he helped the FBI confirm the presence of specific “AIM members” at the camp, in reference to the American Indian Movement, and reported a vehicle carrying lockdown devices used by protesters to disrupt pipeline construction.

Red Fawn Fallis smiles outside the Federal Courthouse in Bismarck, N.D., on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Fallis was in court for a hearing on charges related to protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Tom Stromme /The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

Red Fawn Fallis appears outside the federal courthouse in Bismarck, N.D., on Dec. 8, 2017.

Photo: Tom Stromme /The Bismarck Tribune/AP

Fallis has a long history with indigenous movements, including AIM, according to Glenn Morris, an activist and scholar at the University of Colorado, Denver, who regards Fallis as a niece. Her mother, Troy Lynn Yellow Wood, worked with Morris and others to start the Colorado chapter of AIM in the 1970s, and Fallis began attending marches in Denver when she was 5 or 6 years old, Morris said.

Founded at the height of the civil rights era, AIM fought for religious freedom and the fulfillment of treaties the U.S. government signed with indigenous nations. Yellow Wood was part of the organization’s struggle on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. In that case, AIM famously took up arms in 1973 and occupied the town of Wounded Knee — site of the U.S. 7th Calvary’s massacre of Lakota people in 1890 — as a show of opposition to a corrupt tribal government that was working behind the scenes to sell off lands rich in uranium and other resources.

Harmon is part of a different lineage. In his interview with law enforcement, he noted that his uncle Gerald Fox had been on the “other side” of the AIM struggle at Pine Ridge. Fox was a BIA officer who stood off against AIM during the 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee, alongside members of the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI. According to a 2010 obituary in the Bismarck Tribune, Fox went on to join a BIA special operations unit, and between 1976 and 1984 “was detailed to every major Native conflict that happened in the United States.”

In the aftermath of the Pine Ridge standoff, the FBI looked the other way while a paramilitary organization known as the GOONs — whose leaders included members of the BIA tribal police force — carried out a multiyear campaign of extrajudicial killings and brutal physical assaults of AIM members and supporters.

DENVER, CO -NOVEMBER 07: Family and friends of Denver Native American woman, arrested during pipeline protest in North Dakota, hold a press conference, at 4 Winds American Indian Council in Denver, to show support, November 07, 2016. Red Fawn Fallis remains in jail in North Dakota after being arrested. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Family and friends of Red Fawn Fallis hold a news conference at the Four Winds American Indian Council in Denver on Nov. 7, 2016.

Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post/Getty Images

In recent years, as climate justice activists have taken on pipelines, coal mining, hydro-fracking, and Artic oil drilling, law enforcement agencies have established formal collaborations with the oil and gas industry in the name of preventing threats to so-called critical infrastructure, Jeff Monaghan, a Carleton University professor who studies the surveillance of social movements, told The Intercept. “That discourse has been the gateway for fusing the corporate energy sector and the national security apparatus in both the U.S. and Canada,” he said.

Sara Jumping Eagle, a physician on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation who was among the first DAPL opponents arrested in August, said the heavy-handed law enforcement response at Standing Rock was not altogether surprising. “There’s a long history of the U.S. labeling people who stand up as terrorists, so some of us figured they were gonna use those same tactics against this movement as well,” she said.

Jumping Eagle was among some two dozen activists featured on an early blueprint for the intelligence operation at the North Dakota fusion center, a “links chart on leaders of the movement,” obtained by The Intercept via public records request. The document mapped out connections between DAPL opponents purportedly affiliated with the Red Warrior and Sacred Stone camps, two of the main nerve centers of pipeline resistance on the Northern Great plains. Nearly everyone on the chart is an indigenous person.

Fallis appeared on the diagram more than seven weeks prior to her October 27 arrest. She was listed under her Facebook profile name, Luta Wi Redfawn, alongside the allegation that she had purchased pepper spray at Scheels, a sporting goods chain with a store in Bismarck.

Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Cody Hall, who served as a spokesperson for the Red Warrior Camp, also featured prominently on the chart. On September 8, 2016, around the time the document was completed, Hall was pulled over by Highway Patrol officers who served him a warrant for two charges of misdemeanor trespass. Hall recalled a disproportionate number of officers on hand for his arrest.

After he was booked into the Morton County jail, Hall said two FBI agents attempted to interview him, but he asserted his right to remain silent. After a three-day stint in solitary confinement, he was released. “The experience was “unsettling” and “completely over the top,” Hall told The Intercept. “They were treating me like I was the native Osama.”

A Dakota Access Pipeline protester is arrested and waiting transportation to the Morton County jail on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, after a large gathering of protesters tried to block a railroad crossing on Old Highway 10 and County Road 82 west of Mandan, N.D. (Mike McCleary /The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

A Dakota Access pipeline opponent under arrest awaits transportation to the Morton County jail on Nov. 15, 2016, after protesters tried to block a railroad crossing on Old Highway 10 and County Road 82 west of Mandan, N.D.

Photo: Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune/AP

In addition to mapping out connections to the NoDAPL camps, the chart linked individuals to the hacker group Anonymous and the Black Lives Matter movement and even attempted to track romantic relationships among pipeline opponents.

Rana Karaya, a Chicago resident from the P’urhépecha tribe in Mexico, was listed as having a relationship with David Vlow Rodriguez, who had been “maced by DAPL security,” the document noted. After reviewing a section of the chart, Karaya labeled it “disgustingly intrusive.”

According to Monaghan, the links analysis reflects broader trends in the policing of domestic dissent. “Since 9/11, police have more widely adopted surveillance practices to enable them to identify and disrupt protest actions,” he said. “And one technique has been the mapping of so-called persons of interest lists and then engaging in punitive, pre-emptive arrests or disruptions of people on those lists.”

Cecily Fong, public information officer for the SLIC fusion center and the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, provided a different explanation for the chart. “The primary purpose for the links chart was to attempt to identify any leaders in the protest camps that our law enforcement could approach to engage in diplomatic talks,” Fong told The Intercept. She said she was unable to find a concrete example of the chart being used for diplomatic purposes and directed The Intercept to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, which similarly failed to provide such an example.


A “links chart on leaders of the movement,” developed by the North Dakota fusion center in early September 2016, maps pipeline opponents’ purported connections to the Red Warrior and Sacred Stone camps, as well as Anonymous and Black Lives Matter.

Source: North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center

Emails and reports documenting intelligence collection on pipeline opponents, which The Intercept obtained through records requests, show a heightened focus on the threat of “environmental rights extremist violence,” while revealing a broader effort on the part of law enforcement to keep digital tabs on activists.

In an October 2016 email to federal, state, and local law enforcement, a Bismarck police officer relayed information from a North Dakota patrol sergeant about “AIM propaganda” on Facebook. “Free Peltier” stickers appeared in the posts of an individual believed to be a longtime AIM member, the sergeant noted, in reference to AIM activist Leonard Peltier, who was imprisoned for killing two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout on Pine Ridge, in what indigenous activists and human rights groups have labeled a wrongful conviction. Another purported member appeared to be “pro-violence,” the sergeant warned.

The message was part of a shared thread among law enforcement representatives affiliated with the emergency operations center who referred to themselves as the “intel group,” monitoring the DAPL protests in real time. Additional emails concerning Standing Rock operations plans were sent to multiple Department of Homeland Security and FBI addresses, including that of E.K. Wilson, a special agent with the FBI’s Minneapolis office. According to press reports, Wilson was previously the supervisory special agent for one of the FBI’s largest domestic counterterrorism operations since 9/11: a probe of the Shabab militant group’s recruitment of Somali-Americans.

Michael German, a former FBI special agent who is now a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, notes the concept of environmental extremism originated as part of the broader war on terror and is based on a model of radicalization that argues that people who develop ideas the FBI deems extremist have embarked on a dangerous path that might eventually lead them to commit an attack.

“It’s an intellectual framework that’s saying, ‘We’re only interested in using our surveillance and investigative tools on the terrorists, but the terrorists come from this specific pool of activists,’” German told The Intercept. “They can then justify surveilling the activists, suppressing the activists, and also selectively prosecuting the activists. We’ve seen that in the prosecutions of people following the January 20 protests, and we’ve certainly also seen it with Standing Rock.”

Following the breakup of Standing Rock resistance camps, the North Dakota SLIC offered information on DAPL opponents to a central Florida fusion center monitoring opposition to the Sabal Trail Pipeline, according to an April 2017 intelligence bulletin. The document, which repeatedly uses the terminology of “domestic violent extremists,” notes the migration of pipeline opponents to struggles in Minnesota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Iowa.

“Our SLIC, when asked, has provided information to other SLICs in states that are, have, or may experience protests similar to the one that occurred in North Dakota,” Fong told The Intercept. “The ND SLIC is not actively monitoring anyone associated with the NoDAPL protests.”

A May 2017 report prepared by the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and fusion centers across seven states defines “environmental rights extremists” as “groups or individuals who facilitate or engage in acts of unlawful violence against people, businesses, or government entities perceived to be destroying, degrading, or exploiting the natural environment.”

The report claims that “suspected environmental rights extremists exploited Native American anti-DAPL protests to attract new members to their movement, gain public sympathy, and justify criminal and violent acts,” a narrative later repeated in a conspiracy lawsuit DAPL parent company Energy Transfer Partners filed against environmentalist groups. Yet widely disparate individuals are included under the extremist label, including Canadian indigenous people who traveled to North Dakota and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Dean Dedman, whose “suspicious drone use” raised concerns of attempted countersurveillance. To Dedman, the extremist designation fits with police officials’ broader effort to discredit water protectors. “They’re putting it in their words to portray that we’re terrorists or we’re somehow trying to disrupt the peace, which is totally bogus,” he told The Intercept.

The document categorizes a broad range of protest activities as violent, noting that while “environmental rights extremists often consider themselves to be nonviolent because their attacks tend to be against property,” tactics such as tampering with pipeline valves and setting fire to construction equipment “carry an inherent risk of death or serious of injury, regardless of intent.” Its authors identify ominous intelligence gaps as to the existence of “training camps established to teach violent tactics” and “which camps house individuals who have an interest in using lethal weapons such as IEDs against law enforcement or pipeline entities.”

In a section describing “use of potentially lethal devices,” the report holds up Red Fawn Fallis as an example of extremist violence. Without mentioning Fallis by name, the report claims she “shot a firearm at law enforcement officers who had confronted her while taking her into custody,” echoing an allegation long since discarded by prosecutors — that Fallis intentionally shot at police.

The same section cites a November 2016 incident in which a Standing Rock protester “threw small IEDs at officers, resulting in near amputation of her arm after one of the IEDs exploded prematurely, according to law enforcement and DHS reporting.” But according to multiple sworn witnesses, the woman in question, Sophia Wilansky, sustained the gruesome injury after police shot her with “less than lethal” munition during a confrontation that saw officers spray protesters with water hoses and rubber bullets amid subfreezing temperatures, resulting in hundreds of injuries.

As The Intercept previously reported, an FBI informant played a key role in defining the version of events law enforcement promoted about Wilansky’s injury. In an email to several FBI and Department of Justice addresses after the incident, Terry Van Horn, a national security intelligence specialist with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, noted that an FBI “source from the camp reported people were making IEDs from small Coleman-type propane canisters.”

Neither the FBI nor the Department of Homeland Security would address specific questions from The Intercept related to intelligence collection. “The FBI investigates activity which may constitute a federal crime or pose a threat to national security. Our focus is not on membership in particular groups or adherence to particular ideologies but on criminal activity,” a spokesperson for the FBI said in a statement.

A spokesperson for DHS wrote, “DHS works with federal partners, including the FBI, and state and local law enforcement through the National Network of Fusion Centers to assess threats and analyze trends in activity from all violent extremist groups, regardless of ideology. DHS is prohibited from engaging in intelligence activities for the sole purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment.”

FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2016 file photo, Dakota Access Pipeline protesters sit in a prayer circle at the Front Line Camp as a line of law enforcement officers make their way across the camp to remove the protesters and relocate to the overflow camp a few miles to the south on Highway 1806 in Morton County, N.D. Members of more than 200 tribes from across North America have come to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's encampment at the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers since August, the tribe says. Estimates at the protest site have varied from a few hundred to several thousand depending on the day _ enough for tribal officials to call it one of the largest gatherings of Native Americans in a century or more. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)

Dakota Access pipeline opponents sit in a prayer circle at the Front-Line Camp as law enforcement officers remove protesters and relocate them to an overflow camp a few miles south on Highway 1806 in Morton County, N.D., on Oct. 27, 2016.

Photo: Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune/AP

The dramatic circumstances of Fallis’s arrest have frequently been used by law enforcement and fossil fuel interests to bolster the portrayal of water protectors as reckless and violent. Fallis’s attorneys have argued that it is impossible for her to receive a fair trial in North Dakota because of the intense level of negative publicity, pointing to counterinformation efforts by police and DAPL security to push an extremist narrative of the protests.

The attempted murder charges North Dakota initially filed against Fallis were dismissed within a month, but public Facebook posts by the Morton and Cass County sheriff’s departments linking her to the more serious crime have never been corrected. Both departments shared a video in which a Highway Patrol captain claimed it was lucky no officers were shot, but “it wasn’t because she was trying to aim away from law enforcement.” Meanwhile, Energy Transfer Partners singled out Fallis as a “radical eco-terrorist” in its racketeering lawsuit filed against Greenpeace and other groups.


Red Fawn Fallis, second from left, poses with members of the International Indigenous Youth Council at the Rosebud Camp in October 2016.

Photo: Provided by Mia Stevens

But those who know Fallis describe a woman who had come into her own as a camp medic and mentor to younger activists after traveling to Standing Rock at a crossroads in her own life. Fallis was grieving the recent death of her mother, said Mia Stevens, 23, a family friend. Troy Lynn Yellow Wood was “a really important woman” among indigenous communities in Denver, Stevens said. “After Red Fawn’s mom passed, she just stepped up how she cared about people and took on a bigger role. Everything her mom would say, pray about, and do — that became Red Fawn’s place.”

Fallis developed a close bond with members of the International Indigenous Youth Council, a group of adolescents and young adults at the forefront of numerous demonstrations. Lauren Howland, a 22-year-old member of the San Carlos and Jicarilla Apache tribes and Navajo Nation, who got to know Fallis through the council, described what she viewed as one of Fallis’s defining moments at Standing Rock.

On October 22, 2016, roughly 200 people conducted a prayer walk to a remote part of the pipeline’s path, where protesters had locked themselves to disabled vehicles to block the advance of construction equipment. The group was surrounded by police flanked by armored personnel carriers, Howland recalled, and officers began tackling people and using pepper spray. An officer in military gear clubbed Howland’s hand and wrist with a baton, fracturing her wrist in two places.

Howland said she was attempting to lead a 10-year-old boy away from the melee when the pain overwhelmed her and she had to sit down on a hillside far from the water protectors’ camps. Fallis, who had been riding a four-wheeler in and out of the area to assist vulnerable people, located Howland and the boy and transported them to safety.

“Red Fawn really saved my ass,” Howland recalled. “I don’t even know how many times she went back and forth helping people that day, helping elders and other people who were hurt.”

CANNON BALL, ND - DECEMBER 3: A hand painted drawing of Sitting Bull decorates the Rosebud camp Just outside of the Lakota Sioux reservation of Standing Rock, North Dakota, on December 3, 2016. Over two hundred tribes, joined by environmental activists and hundreds of United States military veterans, camp and demonstrate against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which plans to be built under the Missouri River adjacent to the reservation. The gathering has been the largest meeting of Native Americans since the Little Bighorn camp in 1876. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

A painting depicts Sitting Bull at the Rosebud Camp outside of the Lakota Sioux reservation of Standing Rock, N.D., on Dec. 3, 2016.

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images

In his interview with the ATF and North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Harmon said the reason he kept a gun in the trailer at the Rosebud Camp was for “peace of mind” — not because he felt that pipeline opponents presented a threat but “because there was rumors of DAPL security posing as protesters that were armed.”

On the morning after Fallis’s arrest, Harmon said, he called his contacts at the FBI. “I said, you know, the gun that was in that shooting, I said, that’s my firearm. They said, ‘Report it.’ So I reported it stolen.” In an interview with the Mandan Police Department the same day, he claimed the gun had been stolen two to three weeks prior. But he changed his story when talking to the ATF and BCI, saying that he’d last seen the gun a couple of days before the incident. “I left it in the trailer,” he added, “and Red Fawn knew where it was.”

Law enforcement records related to the case suggest the situation was complicated for Harmon, who had come to stay with his mother in Mandan after the downturn in the Bakken oil industry, according to comments she made to the BCI.

Hours of phone conversations recorded by the Morton County jail show Harmon and Fallis planning for their future together and Harmon offering words of encouragement as Fallis coped with the intensity of her legal situation. On one call, Harmon appears to break down as the two discussed Fallis’s uncertain future.

In December 2016, after telling investigators he had developed a relationship with Fallis after becoming a source for the FBI, Harmon added, “My judgment was wrong.”

At the conclusion of the interview, ATF Special Agent Derek Hill informed Harmon that he might be called as a witness at Fallis’s trial and noted his concern that Harmon’s affiliation with the FBI would leak. “I’m familiar with her family from Pine Ridge and in Colorado,” said Hill, who according to court testimony, spent over a decade based in Rapid City, primarily working on Pine Ridge. “If you start getting harassed in any way, shape, or form, I would like you to reach out to us and let us know.”

The Intercept’s repeated attempts to reach Harmon for comment have been unsuccessful. The FBI did not respond to questions about its use of informants at Standing Rock or Harmon’s connection to Fallis’s case. Spokespeople for the ATF and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation declined to address questions related to an ongoing case.

Edgar Bear Runner, co-coordinator of the 25th anniversary of Wounded Knee 1973, stands by the graves of Anna Mae Aquash and Joe Stuntz on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 1998, at the Little Family Cemetery in Oglala, S.D. Aquash and Stuntz were killed during the violence that followed the 71 day occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973.  The anniversary begins Friday Feb. 27 at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. (AP Photo/Jill Kokesh)

Edgar Bear Runner, co-coordinator of the 25th anniversary of Wounded Knee 1973, stands by the graves of Anna Mae Aquash and Joe Stuntz on Feb. 18, 1998, at the Little Family Cemetery in Oglala, S.D.

Photo: Jill Kokesh/AP

The FBI has long relied on informants, from COINTELPRO to the war on terror, who act not only as observers but as agents provocateur, facilitating acts for which their targets are penalized. After 9/11, according to German, the former FBI agent, the bureau adopted what it called a “disruption strategy” that involved “the use of informants as a tool to suppress the activities of targeted groups, even when there is no actual evidence of criminality.”

It was, in many ways, a new name for an old set of tactics. In the 1970s, the American Indian Movement was a target of FBI informants, most notably AIM’s chief security officer, Douglas Durham, a close confidant of the group’s leaders who was on the FBI’s payroll for two years. During that period, various other AIM members were internally accused of working for the bureau. Many have come to believe the rumors began with actual informants like Durham deploying a strategy meant to sow division.

“They had us on their list to be infiltrated and disrupted and neutralized,” said Clyde Bellecourt, who helped found AIM and survived a near-fatal shooting in 1973 he says was fomented by an FBI operation involving Durham. Nearly half a century later, Bellecourt, who is Ojibwe from Minnesota, was among those the North Dakota SLIC put on its links chart of movement leaders at Standing Rock, having traveled there on three occasions.

After the revelation that Durham had worked for the FBI, fears of infiltration would intensify, bringing about one of AIM’s most painful chapters. Some members became convinced that Anna Mae Aquash, an activist from the Mi’kmaq First Nation in Canada, was working for the bureau. Aquash was driven into South Dakota’s Badlands and shot in the back of the head.

Fallis’s mother, Yellow Wood, found herself in the middle of the controversy. She testified in one of the resulting murder trials that Aquash had been staying in her home, which served as a kind of AIM safe house, when she was convinced by a group of visitors to leave. “She said that if this occurred, if they took her back to South Dakota, that I would never see her again,” Yellow Wood stated in 2004.

Decades after Aquash’s body was discovered, two AIM members were convicted of her murder. Meanwhile, the cases of numerous AIM members and supporters believed to be killed by the GOONs have never been prosecuted.

Sunaina Maira, a professor at the University of California, Davis who has studied the effects of FBI surveillance of Muslim and Arab Americans, said a major function of such activity is to fray the bonds of trust that knit communities and social movements together. “One of the implicit, if not explicit, objectives is to try to undermine any kind of organizing, mobilization, and collective solidarity,” she said. “It creates a chilling situation, particularly when it involves the use of native informants from people’s own communities. People start having to wonder who’s who.”

More details on Fallis’s case are certain to emerge at trial, scheduled to begin January 29. After defense lawyers requested her case be transferred out of North Dakota to ensure an impartial jury pool, a judge ordered the trial moved from Bismarck roughly 200 miles east to Fargo, the seat of Cass County, where Sheriff Paul Laney helped spearhead a National Sheriffs’ Association public relations campaign to discredit DAPL opponents. Fallis will be tried in the same federal courthouse where an all-white jury handed down Leonard Peltier’s murder conviction in 1977.

After spending a year in jail, Fallis was recently moved to a halfway house in Fargo. According to Glenn Morris, she “is prepared to defend herself vigorously in court against these fabricated charges.”

Morris believes it was Fallis’s political activism that drew the attention of law enforcement — her belief in indigenous self-determination and role in the largest mobilization against a fossil fuel infrastructure project in U.S. history. “Anyone who believes in the same things Red Fawn does can become the next Red Fawn, can become the next target,” Morris said. “That’s why people need to watch what happens with her case.”

Top photo: Tires burn as armed soldiers and law enforcement officers stand in formation on Oct. 27, 2016, to force Dakota Access pipeline protesters off private land where they had camped to block construction.

The post An Activist Stands Accused of Firing a Gun at Standing Rock. It Belonged to Her Lover — an FBI Informant. appeared first on The Intercept.