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NEW: How DHS fueled the Cop City Crackdown + the Dakota Access Pipeline Environmental Review

This week I published two stories that you should read and listen to. One is a podcast episode for Drilled from my trip to Standing Rock, on the shortcomings of the environmental review the Army Corps conducted of the Dakota Access Pipeline, seven years after it started pumping oil (these things are supposed to happen BEFORE a project is approved or built). The deadline for public comments on this draft environmental impact statement is December 13, so now is the time to give this a listen.

The other is a story published in the Guardian and Drilled about how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies fueled a crackdown in Atlanta, Georgia, on opponents of the police training center known as Cop City. DHS and other federal agencies repeatedly labeled the activity of project opponents as “domestic violent extremism” (the feds’ name for domestic terrorism) in communications to local officials. Months after receiving the reports, Georgia charged over 40 people with domestic terrorism and killed a forest defender known as Tortuguita.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation justified the terror charges by claiming DHS had designated the Defend the Atlanta Forest movement as a domestic terrorism group. DHS has been denying it for months. These new records are some of the only documentation we have so far of what DHS actually did say to local officials in the leadup to the crackdown. I did this reporting with the support of the Fund for Investigative Journalism’s seed grant program, which my freelance friends should def check out. For a few more big takeaways from the reporting, here’s a tweet thread that I wrote. (But really read the whole story, or if you want, the slightly shorter Guardian version.)

A lot of the power from the EIS reporting comes from the voices of people from Standing Rock that I was able to capture with my little recorder. So again, just listen here or on Spotify or Apple or whatever you use. But if you cannot, here are some big takeaways:

--> The EIS was prepared by an outside contractor called Environmental Resources Management, which is a member of the American Petroleum Institute (a strong supporter of the pipeline) as well as the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (an industry group that helped draft anti-protest laws in the wake of the Standing Rock uprising).

--> The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has already pulled out as a cooperating agency, in part because of Environmental Resources Management’s perceived conflict of interest, and in part because there are so many redactions.

--> The climate analysis is remarkably limited. It claims the pipeline does “not generate any direct greenhouse gas emissions, with the exception of a minor amount of emissions associated with pipeline maintenance activities.” That's because the Army Corps is only taking into account the emissions generated by the pipeline itself, not by the activity it enables: burning fossil fuels.

--> The statement also says that the chance of a spill is “remote to unlikely” and that there are no historically significant properties (like sacred sites) in the area that was studied. Tribal members disagree.

--> Since the pipeline is already built, the EIS is backward. It describes the severe environmental harms that would come from removing the pipeline, which one has to assume are basically the same harms that would have come from putting the thing in. It suggests that it would be more environmentally bad to take the pipeline out, than to allow it to keep pumping oil.

Three other things:

1. I helped edit this podcast episode by journalist Martha Troian about Wet’suwet’en resistance to the Coastal Gaslink pipeline in Canada. Listen!

2. I’m working with the National Writers Union on a report about retaliation against media workers who express their views on Palestine. If you or a media worker you know has faced doxing, online harassment, or retaliation, we want to hear about it. Email me at alleen.brown@gmail.com or fill out this survey.

3. Finally, this investigation is on my mind today as I think about this retaliation report. It’s by Reuters — the type of news agency that lives and dies by “objectivity.”

“An Israeli tank crew killed a Reuters journalist and wounded six reporters in Lebanon on Oct. 13 by firing two shells in quick succession from Israel while the journalists were filming cross-border shelling,” the report says. "The group of seven reporters from AFP, Al Jazeera and Reuters were all wearing blue flak jackets and helmets, most with 'PRESS' written on them in white letters."

From Issam Abdallah's obituary:

"'His passion was infectious, his professionalism without question and his humanity a shining light in the darkest places,' said Lutfi Abu Aun, foreign affairs news editor at ITN News, who as a Reuters senior producer had hired Abdallah. That passion was clear to anyone who met him. Abdallah carried a video camera and a camera for still photographs wherever he went, zipping around Beirut on his motorcycle. He was as comfortable filming stories about the quirky side of everyday life as he was covering the terror of modern warfare. His feature stories, often about Lebanon's summer music festivals and animals, hinted at the playful humour that endeared him to colleagues."

"He loved to bring colleagues together, often ordering large breakfast spreads for the entire office, and frequently pulling out his camera for a group photo, according to journalists in the news agency's Beirut bureau."