From [HERE] and [HERE] TIGERSWAN, THE PRIVATE company behind a monthslong, multi-state surveillance operation targeting opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline, illegally provided security and investigative services to the pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, despite being denied a license to do so, a new civil lawsuit alleges. Even after oil began to flow through the contested pipeline, and long after the crowded Dakota Access resistance camps gave way once again to empty prairie, TigerSwan continued its unlicensed security operations in North Dakota. TigerSwan is just one of several security companies hired to monitor the Dakota Access Pipeline that have been targeted by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board for failing to obtain licenses.
The allegations are part of a lawsuit the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board filed against TigerSwan and its founder James Reese on Tuesday. Violating the license law is a class B misdemeanor in North Dakota, though local prosecutors have not filed criminal charges.
The complaint against TigerSwan requests an injunction against the firm and its founder, which would prevent them from continuing to illegally operate as a security company in the state. At the time of the lawsuit, TigerSwan continued to deploy personnel “armed with semiautomatic rifles and sidearms” in North Dakota and was still monitoring “persons affiliated with the DAPL protests,” according to the court filing.
Two weeks prior to the initiation of the suit, The Intercept published a selection of more than 100 leaked situation reports prepared by TigerSwan for its client ETP, as well as additional documents obtained via public records request detailing the scale of TigerSwan’s security operation and its close collaboration with law enforcement. Communications to the security board obtained via public records requests show that as late as December, Reese, a former Army Delta Force commander, declared that TigerSwan was only “doing management and IT consulting for our client and doing no security work.” But internal company reports as well as an overview of TigerSwan’s operations that was shared with law enforcement show the company had been doing much more than that since September. Both sets of documents were included in the lawsuit.
The complaint describes invasive tactics used by TigerSwan, including “flyover photography,” “surveillance of social media accounts,” placing or attempting to place “undercover private security agents within the protest group,” and coordination with local law enforcement officials. The security operations overview obtained by The Intercept and cited in the suit states plainly, “All elements are engaged to provide security support to DAPL.”
On December 19, the board notified Reese that it intended to deny his application for a license, citing “positive criminal history for one or more disqualifying offenses,” as well as failure to disclose all arrests and failure to provide sufficient information “for the Board to determine whether a reported offense or adjudication has a direct bearing on Reese’s fitness to serve the public.” Reese’s record shows numerous citations in various states, including several for traffic violations such as reckless driving and speeding, and an arrest for “assault on a female” in 2015, flagged as a domestic violence case and later dismissed. Reese’s wife, Niki, filed a restraining order against him in Florida in 2012, public records show.
According to the suit, the security board first notified TigerSwan on September 23 that it was illegally providing security services without a license. The company responded on October 4, stating, “TigerSwan is not conducting ‘private security services’ in North Dakota.” The company simultaneously submitted an application for a license “should such services, which are not present at the time, be required from TigerSwan.” [MORE]
North Dakota's governor, top law officer and military leader all said Wednesday they were unaware that a private security firm hired by the developer of the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline has been operating illegally in the state without a license.
North Dakota's Private Investigative and Security Board first notified TigerSwan in September it was unlicensed, and in December rejected its application, citing the alleged criminal history of the company's president.
Despite that, TigerSwan remained an integral part of the pipeline developer's security operation and assisted law officers. Internal company documents published by online news outlet The Intercept last month make references to planning and communication with law enforcement, the placing of a company liaison in the law enforcement joint operations center, and a meeting with the state attorney general's office's Bureau of Criminal Investigation "regarding video and still photo evidence collected for prosecution."
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, the state's top law enforcement officer, said he did not "recall being made aware" of TigerSwan's involvement or lack of a license.
"Certainly, If I had known they were operating, I would have advised them to comply with the law," he said.
The regulatory board's attorneys, Monte Rogneby and Justin Hagel, were hired by Stenehjem's office. Rogneby said neither the board nor the attorneys had "communications" with Gov. Doug Burgum, who inherited the pipeline protest issue when he became governor in December.
"I can't comment on who else the board has discussed this with because it's an ongoing investigation," Rogneby said.
Kelly Ivahnenko, a spokeswoman for Gov. Doug Burgum, said the governor-appointed regulatory board was not obligated under state law to inform Burgum of problems with the private security company.
"The governor had no knowledge or communication with the board on this issue," she said.
The regulatory board on Tuesday asked a state judge to stop TigerSwan's armed workers from continuing to monitor the pipeline system and requested administrative fines be levied against the company and its president, James Reese, for operating without a license, a misdemeanor carrying a potential sentence of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.
TigerSwan didn't answer phone calls or respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday. Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners confirmed that it uses TigerSwan for security but declined to comment further.
The pipeline this month began moving oil from western North Dakota to a distribution point in Illinois where it can be shipped to the Gulf Coast, though American Indian tribes who fear environmental harm continue to fight in court. The pipeline was delayed months by the legal battle and protests in southern North Dakota that resulted in 761 arrests between August and February.
The regulatory board alleges in court documents that TigerSwan employees with semi-automatic rifles and handguns protected workers and equipment at construction sites, conducted intelligence on protesters including placing or trying to place undercover agents within the protest groups, and even monitored traffic on a state highway. The board also says TigerSwan is still providing round-the-clock security along the pipeline in the state.
According to the board, it notified TigerSwan in September that the company wasn't properly licensed, and the company denied conducting private security in the state but at the same time applied for a license. The board denied the request in December, citing in court documents Reese's alleged criminal history without specifying the offenses. The board said Reese told the group he had never been convicted of a crime. A month later, the board rejected the application again, saying it was incomplete.