North Bay’s investigative journalist Will Parrish…his recent article on “The Intercept” and a request….great work Will!
When They Change Laws to Stop Your Reporting; Speaking Tour This Week in Oregon
Dear mailing list,
Last time I e-mailed this list, I asked for your financial support to help me sustain my journalism during a trying time. I’m thrilled to say that 22 people responding to this single e-mail by collectively contributing just shy of $3,000. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed!
My goal had been to raise $3,300, and I’d like to raise the remaining $300 through this e-mail message, if possible. I operate on a shoestring budget, and even small contributions can spell the difference between having the resources I need to do this work — or not. If you are in a position to contribute, please do so through my PayPal account, Venmo, or through checks mailed to my home address. If you are interested in contributing via personal check, please hit reply to this e-mail.
In other news, I’ll be speaking at three events in Oregon this week with Lauren Regan of Civil Liberties Defense Center. The title of each event is “Political Repression and Corporate Surveillance in the Era of Climate Crisis.” We’ll be drawing on reporting I’ve done for The Intercept, The Guardian-US, and other publications, and Lauren will draw on her vast and storied work as a movement attorney.
- On Wednesday, Feb. 27th, we’ll speak at the Talent Community Center in the southern Rogue Valley (between Ashland and Medford) from 6-8 p.m. The Facebook event page is here. The event is sponsored by Rogue Climate, Southern
- Oregon Rising Tide, and the Civil Liberties Defense Center.
- On Friday, March 2nd, we’ll speak at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference from 3-4:30 p.m. From the PIELC web site: “The Public Interest Environmental Law Conference is the premier annual gathering for environmentalists worldwide, and is distinguished as the oldest and largest of its kind. The Conference historically unites more than 3,000 activists, attorneys, students, scientists, and concerned citizens from over 50 countries around the globe to share their experience and expertise.”
- And on Sunday, March 3rd, we’ll speak in Portland at Social Justice Action Center, 400 SE 12th Ave. The Facebook event page is here. This event is co-sponsored by Demand Utopia, Northwest Alliance for Alternative Media & Education Group, Demand Utopia, Oregon Jericho, The Jericho Movement, Portland ABC, Portland Prisoner Support, Portland Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, and Northwest Prisoner Support
Please spread the word to your friends in each of those areas! Now, onto two of my recent stories for The Intercept…
North Dakota Seeks to Restrict Access to Public Records After Standing Rock Reporting Exposed Law Enforcement Abuses
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 Century Code 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.
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.
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.”
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