FACT CHECK: Are Law Enforcement Officials Conducting Illegal Surveillance of Activists?

CLAIM: Environmental activists and the ACLU say it is “creepy,” “concerning” and potentially illegal for law enforcement bodies to monitor extremists and to share information about planned protests at pipeline construction projects with other officials. The sharing of such information was first reported by The Guardian.




First, let’s address the “illegal” claim floated by the ACLU in Oregon:

The Oregon ACLU told OPB that the surveillance might violate Oregon’s laws that protect individuals from the type of monitoring the sheriff’s office has initiated.

“This isn’t just about local law enforcement acting all on their own, said Kimberly McCullough, Oregon’s ACLU policy director, to OPB. “They are acting in conjunction with, oftentimes, the FBI or with federal law enforcement agencies. And they follow very, very different rules than we do here in Oregon. I think activists have a real reason to be concerned.”

These allegations are unfounded. Even EcoWatch acknowledges the extent of the “monitoring” includes sharing public social media posts, rally announcements and emails sent to people announcing their plans. This does not appear to be an invasion of privacy.

Based off of recent protests, law enforcement has reasonable concern regarding pipeline activism. Some activists have even made a career out of protesting – traveling the country to oppose important development in the energy industry and utilizing digital platforms to grow their membership and garner public attention.

At times, activists have even adopted illegal and dangerous tactics that put innocent bystanders at risk:

Law enforcement have learned from previous protests how to effectively mitigate risk and protect the public to the best of their abilities. It is important that law enforcement have access to the necessary information and tools to ensure everyone’s safety, including protesters.