The Bureau maintains 104 task forces around the country. The members are responsible for monitoring intelligence surrounding terrorist activities and preventing attacks, but now some have turned their attention to people in the #NoDAPL movement. The Guardian confirmed that task force officers have contacted at least three water protectors, but it did not confirm why. Agency officials declined to comment to The Guardian.
"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," Lauren Regan, a civil rights attorney who has provided legal support to people contacted by FBI representatives, told The Guardian. "It's outrageous, it's unwarranted ,,, and it's unconstitutional."
The officers approached the water protectors in person, knocking on their doors without subpoenas or warrants and asking to conduct interviews. The three water protectors reportedly refused to speak to the officers.
As The Guardian emphasizes, events at the camps appeared to be building to this move by the FBI:
The JTTF revelation comes at a time when there have been increasing concerns at Standing Rock about law enforcement surveillance, police violence and the targeted arrests and prosecutions of activists.
Since the summer, law enforcement officials have made roughly 700 arrests, in some cases leading to serious felony charges and possibly lengthy state prison sentences. Following recent indictments, at least six activists are now facing charges in federal court. Rumors about JTTF have caused further stress among the activists.
This isn't the first time a JTTF has monitored a peaceful protest. The Intercept reports that agents tracked data related to a 2014 Black Lives Matter action in Minnesota. Some people on social media see parallels between this investigation and covert FBI counterintelligence program COINTELPRO, which was used to surveil members of the Black Panther Party.
— ColorOfChange.org (@ColorOfChange) February 10, 2017
Sounds reminiscent of COINTELPRO in the 60s https://t.co/aM4gK0fJtS
— Mr. McMillan (@FullCountMedia) February 10, 2017
— Armon Ian (@SocialDischarge) February 10, 2017
— MissAnthrope (@LyssAnthrope) February 10, 2017