TigerSwan — a private surveillance and intelligence gathering firm with roots in the military conflicts in the Middle East — continued to track and spy on activists from the Standing Rock Anti-Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests well after they returned home and went about their normal lives.
The Intercept reported Wednesday that a number of leaked documents from TigerSwan show that the company compared the protesters who gathered at Standing Rock Reservation to the “jihadist post-insurgency” movement that formed after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and gave rise to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.
Surveillance targets included the Answer Coalition in Chicago, anti-Trump protest movements and climate change activists. TigerSwan expanded its spying net to include locations in Arkansas, Florida, Iowa and New York.
“They’re trying to make connections where they aren’t. It’s almost like they’re trying to cast conspiracy theories across the entire progressive movement because they’re sympathetic to the NoDAPL movement,” said Answer’s John Beacham to the Intercept.
A leaked document calls the dispersing Standing Rock protesters an “anti-DAPL diaspora” and makes the case for tracking individual activists, embedding spies within protest groups and developing sources within progressive groups to enable monitoring and reporting of their plans and movements.
A document from February details TigerSwan’s plan to infiltrate the community organizing group Lifted Voices: “This would be a good opportunity for us to get someone inside, become known and gather the most current direct action [tactics, techniques, and procedures]. While Lifted Voices is not a #NoDAPL organization, Kelly Hayes has influenced organizing protest events and has spoken at the last two events in Chicago.”
Hayes told the Intercept that the group was not surprised that their might be a “rent-a-spy” in their midst and was prepared for that eventuality.
The documents also detail the vast array of spying techniques aimed at protesters during the Standing Rock protests including radio spying, infrared heat tracking, drone flyovers, distance microphones and other military spying techniques.
TigerSwan worked hand-in-hand with local law enforcement, state authorities and the National Guard against the protesters. The group also met with Republican Sen. Jodi Ernst’s husband, but Ernst declined to comment about the connection.
Throughout the leaked documents, it is apparent that TigerSwan is playing up threats of violence and creating a narrative that the peaceful protesters are in fact embryonic anti-U.S. jihadi.
“The archetype of a jihadist post-insurgency is the aftermath of the anti-Soviet Afghanistan jihad,” one report said. “While many insurgents went back to their pre-war lives, many, especially the external supporters (foreign fighters), went back out into the world looking to start or join new jihadist insurgencies. Most famously this ‘bleedout’ resulted in Osama bin Laden and the rise of Al Qaeda, but the jihadist veterans of Afghanistan also ended up fighting in Bosnia, Chechnya, North Africa, and Indonesia, among other places.”