The federal government sent agents to act as spies at an anti-fracking protest in May.
Under the direction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), various law enforcement authorities instructed several of their employees, both local and national, to go undercover with the demonstrators, according to emails obtained by The Intercept.
The participants of the protest were part of the “Keep it in the Ground” movement, a larger initiative to interrupt the development of drilling projects that has garnered support from organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. The group’s popularity has risen out of an effort to help curb the Obama administration’s apparent enthusiasm for fracking.
The protesters convened at the Holiday Inn in Lakewood, Colo., which was the site for a BLM-sponsored auction leasing oil and gas property on public land.
The emails were acquired by a Freedom of Information Act request and revealed that the Lakewood Police Department gathered intelligence about the specifics of the rally from the secret agents who were involved in the initial planning phase.
“Gentlemen, Here is some additional intelligence on the group you may be dealing with today,” wrote Kevin Paletta, Lakewood’s then-chief of police, on the day of the protest. Authorities worried that protesters would become directly involved and attempt to obstruct or even vandalize the event.
The emails, according to The Intercept, also showed police surveilled other supporters of “Keep it in the Ground,” including 350.org, WildEarth Guardians, Break Free Movement and Rainforest Action Network. Much of the details provided to the law enforcement were collected by Anadarko, a humongous oil and gas conglomerate.
It is not much of a surprise that federal entities were so involved, since an adviser to President Barack Obama called the movement “unrealistic” earlier this month.
Environmentally conscious groups repudiated the current administration’s statements on their collective campaign in a published release last week.
“I believe the BLM reached out to us,” said Steve Davis, the public information officer for the Lakewood police.
The BLM compensated the Lakewood P.D. for the expenses of the operation.
But BLM and the federal government in general refuse to acknowledge any espionage. “Our goal is to provide for public safety and the safety of our employees,” the BLM Colorado Communications Director, Steven Hall, told The Intercept. “Any actions that we take are designed to achieved (sic) those goals. We do not discuss the details of our law enforcement activities.”
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