Emails show the latest example of environmental groups facing increased surveillance by law enforcement
Law enforcement groups, including the FBI, have been monitoring opponents of a natural gas infrastructure project in Oregon and circulated intelligence to an email list that included a Republican-aligned anti-environmental PR operative, emails obtained by the Guardian show.
The South Western Oregon Joint Task Force (SWOJTF) and its members were monitoring opponents of the Jordan Cove energy project, a proposal by the Canadian energy company Pembina to build the first-ever liquefied natural gas terminal on the US west coast, as well as a new 232-mile pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas to the port of Coos Bay.
The Trump administration has named Jordan Cove as one of its highest-priority infrastructure projects. Jordan Cove opponents have raised concerns about the projects significant environmental impacts, impacts on public lands, indigenous rights and climate change.
The emails, obtained via open records requests, reflect the increased scrutiny and surveillance to which law enforcement agencies are often subjecting indigenous and environmental groups, activists say.
It also comes amid an uptick in civil disobedience and direct actions challenging fossil fuel infrastructure projects particularly in the wake of the Native American-led struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 and 2017. They also reflect a nationwide tendency for rightwing partisans, law enforcement agencies and the fossil fuel industry to ally with one another in the suppression of such activities.
An email distribution list associated with the taskforce included addressees in the FBI, the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Justice (DoJ), the National Forest Service (NFS), Oregon state police (OSP), and various Oregon municipal police and sheriffs departments. But some of its recipients are outside any government agency, most notably Mark Pfeifle, the CEO of the political consultancy Off The Record Strategies.
Pfeifle was previously a Bush administration PR adviser on national security. More recently, Pfeifle worked with law enforcement on a counter-information operation against the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters.
When contacted by telephone about the Jordan Cove project, Mr Pfeifle said I just dont have anything for you, Im not up on it, before ending the conversation.
Emails circulated on the SWOJTF email list include activists social media posts, emails and rally announcements.
Pfeifle appeared on the distribution list of a November 2018 email from the lists apparent keeper, the Coos county deputy sheriff, Bryan Valencia, which described a recent protest action by Southern Oregon Rising Tide, a direct action climate justice group.
These are the tactics that are currently being used to forcibly insert their narrative into the conversation, Valencia wrote. He noted: There has long been a call for a Standing Rock action by the Klamath Tribe in Klamath county.
Don Gentry, the chairman of the Klamath Tribes, said Valencias characterization is false his tribe has never put out such a call. Were working through the readily available channels to get this project stopped, Gentry said.
In January 2019, Valencia circulated information on Facebook event attendance to a smaller group of SWOJTF officers, related to an upcoming Oregon department of state lands hearing, to some members of the taskforce, despite stating there was a lack of a criminal nexus.
The Coos county sheriffs office (CCSO) public information officer, Gabriel Fabrizio, wrote in response to emailed questions that SWOJTF had been set up to ensure a multi-agency approach to any and all contingencies.
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