Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Doing it like DAPL

Among the fruits of the recently concluded legislative session we find,
On June 19, Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill into law which will enter his state into the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).

EMAC is the compact which last year gave out-of-state cops the legal authority to flood into North Dakota during the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer PartnersThe Louisiana bill, SB 151, was signed as Energy Transfer Partners has another pipeline proposed to run through Louisiana, the Bayou Bridge pipeline. Bayou Bridge is an extension of Dakota Access, set to run from Nederland, Texas, to refinery markets and export terminals in Louisiana.

The compact, signed into existence by President Bill Clinton in 1996, was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew with the intent of expediting and bolstering natural disaster response efforts. But the federal legislation creating the compact also has language allowing for a governor of a state to issue an emergency order in the case of the rise of an “insurgency or enemy attack.”

The Louisiana legislation, which got rid of its previous membership in the Interstate Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Compact, passed unanimously in both the House of Representatives and the Senate without debate.

According to state campaign finance data, Governor Edwards received a $5,000 campaign contribution from Energy Transfer Partners during his successful 2015 run for governor, with the company serving as one of his biggest donors. In February, Edwards endorsed Bayou Bridge.
As we've noted previously, Energy Transfer Partners didn't just bring "out of state cops" into North Dakota to shut down protests. It brought in these very scary modern day Pinkertons
As people nationwide rallied last year to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s attempts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, a private security firm with experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan launched an intrusive military-style surveillance and counterintelligence campaign against the activists and their allies, according to internal company documents.

Its surveillance targets included everyone from Native American demonstrators to the actress Shailene Woodley, along with organizations including Black Lives Matter, 350.org, Veterans for Peace, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Food and Water Watch. The records label the protestors “jihadists” and seek to justify escalating action against them.
Among the concerns raised by the presence of Tiger Swan, (that's what the paramilitary spy company calls itself) and other private firms like it, is the subversion of the constitutional protections that typically limit what police and other government agencies can do.
A private security company probably doesn’t face the same prohibitions, legal scholars say, but the close collaboration between TigerSwan and local, state, and federal authorities detailed in the firm’s internal reports raised red flags with them. Several legal experts described the contractor’s tactics as highly disturbing and perhaps unprecedented.

“It’s like a big brother society, with a private corporation — with even less restraints than the government — totally interfering with our right to privacy, free speech, assembly, and religious freedom,” said prominent civil rights attorney Jeff Haas, who works with the National Lawyers Guild and represents several of the nearly 800 people arrested while opposing the pipeline.

If the government can’t do it, he added, “Why should a private corporation working for another private corporation be able to?”
As activists continue to organize in Louisiana against Bayou Bridge, it's worth asking what sort of surveillance, defamation, harassment, or worse they will be subjected to by privatized commandos operating with the blessing of Governor Edwards. 

Meanwhile it's worth continuing  just what Mitch Landrieu paid another private security firm Trident Response Group to do in New Orleans during the monument removal events. Lee Zurik looked into the Trident contract last week and found more questions there than answers.

The city signed the contract with Trident on May 4; the final monument was removed on May 19. The city's homeland security department says its representatives worked hand in hand with Trident, and monitored their work daily.

But apparently, a line-by-line account of employees' hours and duties doesn't exist. For one week, all we know is that an average of six field operators worked 345 hours - their rate, $250 an hour.

"Gary" was a strategic adviser for 68 hours - his rate, $250 an hour. And "Bob" worked 83 hours at a $275 rate. So, in seven days, "Bob" worked 83 hours as a strategic adviser at $275 an hour.

Friedman says we can't confirm whether "Bob" worked those hours. "We don't know if he did it," he says. "We don't know what he did. We don't know whether what he did was necessary or is just padding. And I'm not saying that it was improper - my point, in response to your question, is we don't know. That's the problem. It's the lack of monitoring in a situation where they're using public money when the city is strapped for funds."

"We believe that the invoices are sufficient, knowing that the homeland security office has gone over the details before processing payment," Berni tells us.
Beyond the suspiciously sparse billing items, we still have little idea what the firm was actually doing. The Advocate reported earlier this month that Trident had targeted groups on "both sides" of the monument controversy. This encompasses a large number of people and community groups who lent their voices to the Take Em Down coalition.  Landrieu's people have since claimed that they "did not spy on local groups" but refused to provide any substantiating evidence of this.  Recall that Mitch purposefully distanced himself from local grassroots movements in order to claim their share of credit for himself as he moves onto the national political stage. There's no reason anyone should have to trust him.

This morning's Advocate published an unhinged "guest column" from a crazy racist man demanding the city "take back our streets" from criminals by dumping the NOPD consent decree and beefing up security with privatized patrols.
Fortunately, there are additional steps we can take to stem this tide of senseless violence. Most importantly, we need to complement the NOPD with a private security force in the French Quarter and the Central Business District.
It's funny to me that there are people who think the anti-crime rhetoric and policies deployed by our current leaders are somehow any less authoritarian than what this guy is arguing for. Mitch and John Bel are already giving their blessing to unaccountable secret police.  How much worse do you want them to be?  But clearly someone thinks there's room to push the window further to the right. Otherwise, why would the Advocate have published this letter?

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