The company that built the Dakota Access Pipeline is suing for the return of 16,000 documents held by the state of North Dakota, saying the information is private and that any disclosure presents a security risk to the line.
The documents in part show a detailed picture of how TigerSwan, which originated as a U.S. military and State Department contractor, worked for Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, to respond to the indigenous-led movement that sought to stop the project.
TigerSwan organized its surveillance work like a state intelligence agency on a smaller scale. The company divided the intelligence operation into teams focused on human intelligence, imagery intelligence, signals intelligence (intercepting communications), and open-source intelligence based on news reports or other publicly available material like social media posts.
The TigerSwan teams worked out of “fusion centers” or “sharing offices” — located in Bismarck, North Dakota; Des Moines, Iowa; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Energy Transfer and its subsidiary Dakota Access LLC are suing both the North Dakota Private Investigative and Security Board and TigerSwan, the North Carolina-based company that handled security for the pipeline while it was being built.
The state regulatory board and TigerSwan in September settled a two-year-long battle over whether the company operated illegally in North Dakota while the pipeline was under construction in the state in 2016 and 2017 — and under heavy protest by American Indian tribes and environmentalists.
TigerSwan provided the documents to the board as part of that dispute, according to the complaint that Energy Transfer and Dakota Access filed in state court in mid-October.
The developers now want the records back, saying the board recently provided some “confidential, proprietary, and privileged documents” to an unspecified third party under an open records request.
The disclosure of such material “puts the pipeline, Plaintiffs’ employees, and the citizens of North Dakota at risk,” plaintiffs’ attorney Randall Bakke wrote.
Assistant Attorney General Courtney Titus, who is representing the board, in a court filing Thursday asked South Central District Judge Cynthia Feland to dismiss the case.
“All records received by or coming into the custody, control, or possession of public officials are the property of the State and all records of a public entity are public records,” she wrote.
We await full disclosure and expect it soon.