By March 2017, the fight over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline had been underway for months. Leaders of the movement to defend Indigenous rights on the land — and its waterways — had a new aim: to march on Washington. The march would be called “Native Nations Rise.”
Law enforcement was getting ready, too — and discussing plans with Energy Transfer, the parent company of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Throughout much of the uprising against the pipeline, the National Sheriffs’ Association talked routinely with TigerSwan, Energy Transfer’s lead security firm on the project, working hand-in-hand to craft pro-pipeline messaging. A top official with the sheriffs’ public relations contractor, Off The Record Strategies, floated a plan to TigerSwan’s lead propagandist, a man named Robert Rice.
A security firm led by a former member of the U.S. military’s shadowy special forces, TigerSwan was no stranger to deception. The company had used fake reporters before — including Rice himself — to spread its message and to spy on pipeline opponents. The National Sheriffs’ Association’s involvement in advocating for a similar disinformation campaign against the anti-pipeline movement has not been previously reported.