Tag Archives: Environmentalists

CSIS collected info on peaceful protests of Indigenous groups, environmentalists: documents


The Canadian Press

CSIS welcomed energy industry info about alleged threats 

Canada’s spy service routinely welcomed reports from the energy industry about perceived threats, and kept such information in its files in case it might prove useful later, newly disclosed documents reveal.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is supposed to retain only information that is “strictly necessary” to do its job, and the spy agency is now facing questions about whether it collected and hung on to material about groups or people who posed no real threat.

Details of the CSIS practices are emerging in a case mounted by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association in the Federal Court of Canada.

In a February 2014 complaint to the CSIS watchdog, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the association alleged the spy service overstepped its legal authority by monitoring environmentalists opposed to Enbridge’s now-abandoned Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

It also accused CSIS of sharing information about the opponents with the National Energy Board and petroleum industry companies, effectively deterring people from voicing their opinions and associating with environmental groups.

The review committee dismissed the civil liberties association’s complaint in 2017, prompting the association to ask the Federal Court to revisit the outcome.

In the process, more than 8,000 pages of once-secret material — including heavily redacted transcripts of closed-door hearings — have become public, providing a glimpse into the review committee’s deliberations.

During one hearing, a CSIS official whose identity is confidential told the committee that information volunteered by energy companies was put in a spy service database.

“It is not actionable. It just sits there,” the CSIS official said. “But should something happen, should violence erupt, then we will go back to this and be able to see that we had the information ? it is just information that was given to us, and we need to log it.

“Should something happen after and we hadn’t logged it, then we are at fault for not keeping the information.”

The review committee heard from several witnesses and examined hundreds of documents in weighing the civil liberties association’s complaint.

The watchdog concluded CSIS collected some information about peaceful anti-petroleum groups, but only incidentally in the process of investigating legitimate threats to projects such as oil pipelines.

Advocacy and environmental groups Leadnow, the Dogwood Initiative and the Council of Canadians are mentioned in the thousands of pages of CSIS operational reports scrutinized by the review committee

But the committee’s report said that CSIS’s activities did not stray into surveillance of organizations engaged in lawful advocacy, protest or dissent.

Demonstrators protest Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver, British Columbia June 17, 2014 Reuters

A CSIS witness testified the spy service “is not in the business of investigating environmentalists because they are advocating for an environmental cause, period.”

Still, the review committee urged CSIS to ensure it was keeping only “strictly necessary” information, as spelled out in the law governing the spy service.

The civil liberties association told the committee of a chilling effect for civil society groups from the spy service’s information-gathering as well as comments by then-natural resources minister Joe Oliver denouncing “environmental and other radical groups.”

One CSIS witness told the committee that Oliver’s statement did not flow from information provided by the spy agency. “As a service, we never found out where he was coming from, where he got this information or who had briefed him,” the unnamed CSIS official said. “So we’re not sure where he got it. But it wasn’t from us.”

The review committee found CSIS did not share information about the environmental groups in question with the National Energy Board or the petroleum industry.

The association wants the Federal Court to take a second look, given that CSIS created more than 500 operational reports relevant to the committee’s inquiry.

“The main impression one draws from the (committee) report is ‘nothing to see here, look away,’ when in fact there is a lot to see here,” said Paul Champ, a lawyer for the association.

Dozens of censored CSIS records say the reporting was further to “the Service’s efforts in assessing the threat environment and the potential for threat-related violence stemming from (redacted) protests/demonstrations.”

Some of the documents reveal that CSIS itself is questioning whether it is going too far, noting that the spy service is “pressing on the limitations of our mandate.”

The notion that information on some groups or individuals was gathered incidentally is “cold comfort to people whose names might end up in the databanks of Canada’s intelligence service simply because they expressed a political opinion on Facebook, signed a petition, or attended a protest,” Champ said.

One document refers to the Dogwood Initiative as a “non-profit, Canadian environmental organization that was established in 1999 ‘to help communities and First Nations gain more control of the land and resources around them so they can be managed in a way that does not rob future generations for short-term corporate gain.”’

The passages before and after the description are blacked out.

“This court case will take some time to play out,” Champ said. “Right now, we are focused on getting access to as much information as possible so we can properly make our main arguments about how these CSIS activities violate the law.”

[SOURCE]

CSIS gathered info on peaceful groups, but only in pursuit of threats: Watchdog

Demonstrators protest Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver. In its February 2014 complaint to the CSIS watchdog, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association alleged the spy service had overstepped its legal authority by monitoring environmentalists opposed to the now-defunct project. (Reuters)

Demonstrators protest Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver. (Reuters)

Committee concluded fears of CSIS surveillance were unjustified

Canada’s spy service collected some information about peaceful anti-petroleum groups, but only incidentally in the process of investigating legitimate threats to projects such as oil pipelines, says a long-secret federal watchdog report.

The newly disclosed report from the Security Intelligence Review Committee acknowledges concerns about a “chilling effect,” stemming from a belief that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was spying on environmental organizations.

Advocacy and environmental groups Leadnow, the Dogwood Initiative and the Council of Canadians are mentioned in the thousands of pages of CSIS operational reports examined by the review committee.

But after analyzing evidence and testimony, the committee concluded the fears of CSIS surveillance were unjustified.

The heavily censored review committee report, completed last year and kept under wraps, is only now being made public because of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association’s challenge of the findings in the Federal Court of Canada.

In its February 2014 complaint to the CSIS watchdog, the association alleged the spy service had overstepped its legal authority by monitoring environmentalists opposed to Enbridge’s now-defunct Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

It also accused CSIS of sharing this information with the National Energy Board and petroleum industry companies, deterring people from expressing their opinions and associating with environmental groups.

The review committee’s dismissal of the complaint has been known since September 2017, but a confidentiality order by the committee prevented the civil liberties association from releasing the report. As the association fights to overturn the dismissal, redacted versions of the detailed findings and related documents are being added to the public court record.

Info collected fell within CSIS mandate: review

The association, which became concerned about CSIS activities through media reports, told the committee of a chilling effect for civil society groups from the spy service’s information-gathering as well as comments by then-national resources minister Joe Oliver denouncing “environmental and other radical groups.”

A CSIS witness testified the spy service “is not in the business of investigating environmentalists because they are advocating for an environmental cause, period.”

Still, another CSIS witness spoke of the need for “domain awareness” to identify “potential triggers and flashpoints” — in part to ensure the service is aware of what is happening should a threat arise, the report says.

Ultimately, the review committee concluded CSIS’s information collection fell within its mandate, and that the service did not investigate activities involving lawful advocacy, protest or dissent. The report indicates that any information on peaceful groups was gathered “in an ancillary manner, in the context of other lawful investigations.”

The report also says there was no “direct link” between CSIS and the chilling effect groups mentioned in testimony before the committee.

The civil liberties association considers some of the findings contradictory, pointing to the 441 CSIS operational reports deemed relevant to the committee’s inquiry, totalling over 2,200 pages.

For instance, one of the largely censored CSIS records, now disclosed through the court, says the reporting was further to “the Service’s efforts in assessing the threat environment and the potential for threat-related violence stemming from (redacted) protests/demonstrations.”

Another refers to the Dogwood Initiative as a “non-profit, Canadian environmental organization that was established in 1999 ‘to help communities and First Nations gain more control of the land and resources around them so they can be managed in a way that does not rob future generations for short-term corporate gain.”‘

The passages before and after the description are blacked out.

“It’s our view that these documents demonstrate that CSIS was keeping tabs on these groups, even if they weren’t formal targets,” said Paul Champ, a lawyer for the civil liberties association.

“But we maintain it’s unlawful to keep information on these groups in CSIS databanks when they are only guilty of exercising their democratic rights.”

The committee report says CSIS should review its holdings to ensure it is keeping only information that is strictly necessary, as spelled out in the law governing the spy service.

The report cites “clear evidence” CSIS took part in meetings with Natural Resources Canada and the private sector, including the petroleum industry, at the spy service’s headquarters, but says these briefings involved “national security matters.”

The committee also concludes CSIS did not share information concerning the environmental groups in question with the National Energy Board or non-governmental members of the petroleum business.

Even so, the perception of CSIS discussing security issues with the oil industry can “give rise to legitimate concern,” the committee report adds. “This needs to be addressed.”

The committee urges CSIS to widen the circle of its public security discussions to include environmental and other civil society groups.

By Jim Bronskill · The Canadian Press 

[SOURCE]

US officials to hold meeting on Alberta Clipper Pipeline

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Pipeline expansion spurs meeting in Bemidji

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Mar. 5, 2017 — State Department officials will come to Minnesota on Tuesday to hold the only public meeting on a draft environmental review for the final segment of Enbridge Energy’s project to boost capacity in its Alberta Clipper pipeline, which carries Canadian tar sands oil across northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

The State Department’s four-year review concluded that there would be no significant environmental impacts from completing the project, which requires a presidential permit because the last remaining segment crosses the U.S.-Canadian border in North Dakota. But environmentalists and some Native American tribes dispute that and are gearing up for the meeting in the northern Minnesota city of Bemidji.

Here’s a look at some issues involved:

The pipeline

Enbridge built the Alberta Clipper, also known as Line 67, in 2009 for $1 billion. Its capacity was 450,000 barrels per day. Enbridge later decided to nearly double that to 800,000 barrels; the Calgary, Alberta-based company did most of that by adding pumping stations along the route.

Enbridge needs a presidential permit for the 3-mile segment where the 1,000-mile pipeline crosses the border. Getting the permit is a lengthy process. The Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada’star sands oilto Nebraska, for example, was derailed when President Barack Obama rejected its permit. President Donald Trump has invited Keystone XL developer TransCanada to reapply.

Enbridge is operating the Alberta Clipper at full capacity with a temporary workaround. It built a detour to and from a parallel pipeline that crosses the border nearby and already has a permit. Opponents challenged the legality of that setup in court but lost.

Why Enbridge wants it

Enbridge spokeswoman Shannon Gustafson called the Alberta Clipper “a vital piece of energy infrastructure” that bolsters America’s energy security because it lessens the need for imports from unstable nations. Midwest refineries depend on the oil that Enbridge pipelines deliver, she said.

“Pipelines continue to be the safest, most reliable means of transporting crude oil that Minnesotans and Midwesterners rely on in their daily lives,” Gustafson said.

Other Enbridge projects in the works are a proposed replacement for its 1960s-era Line 3 that would follow part of the same corridor. In fact, the Alberta Clipper detour uses an upgraded section of Line 3 to cross the border. Line 3 is also drawing opposition from tribes and environmentalists.

The opposition

A coalition of environmental and tribal groups opposes the Alberta Clipper because it carries tar sands oil, which they consider a bigger environmental threat than regular crude. The pipeline crosses the lake country of northern Minnesota, including the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac Ojibwe reservations. Opponents say it threatens ecologically sensitive areas, as well as resources such as wild rice that are important to the Ojibwe bands.

Some of the leading opponents, including Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, were also active in the fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. LaDuke said protests that drew thousands to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota have spawned new “water protectors” to oppose Enbridge.

LaDuke is organizing a “Sustainability Summit” for Tuesday ahead of the State Department meeting. Her event will highlight clean energy alternatives. Participants will then march to the meeting and hold a rally that will include traditional Ojibwe drumming and dancing.

The meeting

The State Department is holding Tuesday’s meeting as part of the public comment period on the draft environmental review, which runs through March 27. The agency will consider those comments as it prepares the final version. The president must then determine whether issuing the permit is in the national interest.

By The Associated Press

[SOURCE]

Standing Rock Chairman Asks Protesters to Disband, Trump to Review Pipeline Decision

Veterans gather for a briefing inside of the Oceti Sakowin camp during a snow fall as "water protectors" continue to demonstrate against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline adjacent to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Veterans gather for a briefing inside of the Oceti Sakowin camp during a snow fall as “water protectors” continue to demonstrate against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline adjacent to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Reuters | Dec 5, 2016

A Native American leader asked thousands of protesters to return home after the federal government ruled against a controversial pipeline, despite the prospect of President-elect Donald Trump reversing the decision after he takes office.

A coalition of Native American groups, environmentalists, Hollywood stars and veterans of the U.S. armed forces protested the $3.8 billion oil project. They said construction would damage sacred lands and any leaks could pollute the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The tribe still wants to speak with Trump about the Dakota Access Pipeline to prevent him from approving the final phase of construction, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault told Reuters.

“The current administration did the right thing and we need to educate the incoming administration and help them understand the right decision was made,” he said.Trump’s transition team said on Monday it would review the decision to delay completion once he takes office Jan. 20.

“That’s something that we support construction of and we’ll review the full situation when we’re in the White House and make the appropriate determination at that time,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said at a transition team news briefing.

 

Veterans join activists in a march just outside the Oceti Sakowin camp during a snow fall as 'water protectors' continue to demonstrate against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline adjacent to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Veterans join activists in a march just outside the Oceti Sakowin camp during a snow fall as ‘water protectors’ continue to demonstrate against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline adjacent to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Archambault said nothing would happen over the winter before Trump takes power, so protesters should leave. Many had dug in for the harsh winter of the North Dakota plains, where a blizzard hit on Monday and 40 miles-per-hour (64 kmh) winds rattled tipis and tents.

“We’re thankful for everyone who joined this cause and stood with us,” he said. “The people who are supporting us … they can return home and enjoy this winter with their families. Same with law enforcement. I am asking them to go.”

It was unclear if protesters would heed Archambault’s call to leave the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

SHORT-LIVED VICTORY

On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected an application for the pipeline to tunnel under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

The Army Corps said it would analyze possible alternate routes, although any other route is likely to cross the Missouri River.

The camp celebrated the decision, but some expressed concern their victory could be short-lived.

“I think this is just a rest,” Charlotte Bad Cob, 30, of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, said on Sunday. “With a new government it could turn and we could be at it again.”

On Monday, tribal leaders and hundreds of veterans walked to Backwater Bridge, one of the focal points of the protests, and offered prayers and chanted after the victory.

Several veterans said they had no plans to leave and suspected Sunday’s decision was a ruse to empty the camp.

Veterans listen to Arvol Looking Horse during a healing ceremony hosted by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe as "water protectors" continue to demonstrate against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, in Fort Yates, North Dakota, U.S. December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Veterans listen to Arvol Looking Horse during a healing ceremony hosted by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe as “water protectors” continue to demonstrate against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, in Fort Yates, North Dakota, U.S. December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

The company building the 1,172-mile (1,885-km) pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, said late on Sunday that it had no plans to reroute the line, and expected to complete the project.

The Obama administration’s decision was a “political action”, ETP said in a joint statement on Sunday with its partner Sunoco Logistics Partners.

The pipeline is complete except for a 1-mile (1.61 km)segment that was to run under Lake Oahe, which required permission from federal authorities.

The chief executive of ETP, Kelcy Warren, donated to Trump’s campaign, while the president-elect has investments in ETP and Phillips 66, another partner in the project.

As of Trump’s mid-2016 financial disclosure form, his stake in ETP was between $15,000 and $50,000, down from between $500,000 and $1 million in mid-2015. He had between $100,000 and $250,000 in shares of Phillips, according to federal forms.

(Writing by David Gaffen and Simon Webb; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Alan Crosby)

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-north-dakota-pipeline-idUSKBN13T0QX

Obama Exploring ‘Ways To Reroute’ Dakota Access Pipeline Amid Protests

Mike Vosburg / The Forum

Mike Vosburg / The Forum

The Washington Times, Nov 1, 2016

President Obama said Tuesday that the federal government is looking for ways to reroute the Dakota Access pipeline project, which has been paralyzed by weeks of demonstrations by environmentalists.

In an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday, Mr. Obama seemed to side with occupiers who want the pipeline rerouted or scrapped outright, citing opposition by Indian groups.

“We’re monitoring this closely, and you know I think that as a general rule my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans,” Mr. Obama told MSNBC.

Local authorities have pleaded for help in dealing with thousands of demonstrators who’ve also invaded private lands, prompting more than 100 arrests last week and at least one potentially deadly gun attack against cops.

But Mr. Obama indicated that the federal government has no intention of stepping in, despite the threat to federal lands.

“We’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and then determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to traditions of the first Americans,” he said.