News & Politics

FBI Terror Unit Questions Pipeline Protestors, Causing Predictable Rage

Last summer and fall saw much unrest over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Native Americans and environmentalists banded together to block the project; they succeeded in convincing Obama, yet President Trump quickly issued an executive order restarting the project upon taking office.

The protests were not peaceful. There were outbreaks of vandalism and clashes with police. And now, the FBI has taken an interest in the perpetrators:

The FBI is investigating political activists campaigning against the Dakota Access pipeline, diverting agents charged with preventing terrorist attacks to instead focus their attention on indigenous activists and environmentalists.

The Guardian has established that multiple officers within the FBI’s joint terrorism task force have attempted to contact at least three people tied to the Standing Rock “water protector” movement in North Dakota.

The purpose of the officers’ inquiries into Standing Rock, and scope of the task force’s work, remains unknown. Agency officials declined to comment. But the fact that the officers have even tried to communicate with activists is alarming to free-speech experts who argue that anti-terrorism agents have no business scrutinizing protesters.

“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 who has provided legal support to demonstrators who were contacted by representatives of the FBI. “It’s outrageous, it’s unwarranted … and it’s unconstitutional.”

Not mentioned in the above article? The protests were themselves criminal, taking place on private property against the property owner’s wishes.

They engaged police in violent clashes on that property. Even in the theoretical instance that police instigated the clashes, the claim that an FBI investigation conducted by domestic terrorism-focused agents is somehow unwarranted is absurd.

Despite Lauren Regan’s pontifications, there’s no information to suggest anything has or will come of the FBI inquiry. It’s warranted and constitutional.

Arguing that government investigations are an assault on free speech implies that agents should never investigate a protestor for any reason. We simply do not know what the agents are trying to contact them about or why. Outrage based on such limited information is dishonest and politically motivated. Protestors and their allies are cooking up a narrative of federal assault on civil liberties with no basis for the collective freakout.

Then again, when has the American left ever needed a reason?