Standing Rock, TigerSwan & the Dawn of Officially Occupied America

[NOTE: Originally posted on November 26, 2016; disappeared from the web for five days. Background on this disruption is here. The post has been slightly updated.]

Buried in an October report by local North Dakota investigators was the disclosure that: “TigerSwan Security” is in charge of the DAPL [Dakota Access Pipeline] Intelligence and overall supervisor of the other security companies” involved with the corporations that were in the long, often violent standoff with the native Americans at Standing Rock.

Who is TigerSwan? And what does its presence at Standing Rock portend for the new post-election era Americans are about to enter?

Here is some data to consider. Let’s start with the billboard above, which I saw by a highway near Fort Bragg in North Carolina almost ten years ago.

TigerSwan was started in 2007 by a veteran of Delta Force, a secretive unit of the Special Forces. It’s one of many such private firms staffed with such veterans, and growing fast on government and private “security” contracts.

A satellite base near Fort Bragg, called Camp Mackall, is home to these Special Forces (SF) units. On and around this secluded, secretive  base they put several classes per year of SF “operators” through grueling training in covert military/paramilitary operations.

Most of the training is also secret; but some telling details about their final exam have been made public. It’s an intricate, two-week field exercise called “Robin Sage” that sends the wannabe “operators” hiking and driving through a thickly forested rural swath of south central NC.

In this area, the Special Forces have created a fictional country, “Pineland.” Pineland has a flag, money, and a fictional history, namely that is being occupied and oppressed by the Bad Guys. And each edition of the Robin Sage exercise is a variation on a theme: the “operator” trainees infiltrate into Pineland, and carry out complex guerrilla warfare schemes to mess up the Bad Guys and help set Pineland free again. Many local residents volunteer to play along as occupied Pinelanders.

This may sound merely like boys having fun in the woods, but it’s much more than that. And it has a purpose beyond toughening up the trainees, who run up and down hills, carry heavy equipment and eat what they can catch. It also reinforces an ideology, summed up in a garbled SF Latin Motto, De Oppresso Liber, which they translate as “To free the oppressed.”

This motto expresses the belief that the secret units are supposed to embody: they, fighting secretly on behalf of “we the people,” are the good guys.

Now let’s do a bit of math: Robin Sage graduates probably several hundred new “operators” per year (and there are other such programs elsewhere in the U.S. military world). The Pineland exercises have gone on for forty-plus years.

That adds ups to many thousands of high trained covert warriors. Some are killed or disabled in battle. But many do their tours, get out of the official military,  and then put their very specialized skills to work in building or joining what amount to private mercenary armies. These work for governments, corporations, or even individuals. (Filmmaker Michael Moore hired some as personal security after his movies Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 ticked off a lot of gun-lovers and Iraq war cheerleaders; but the typical individual client is more likely a mega-millionaire/billionaire.)

The private army business has mushroomed since the “War On terror”, and personally I have long thought that having a growing number of such companies “on the loose” in our society is very dangerous to whatever remains of our liberties; but that’s an argument for another post.

Which brings us back to standing Rock.

The founder and boss at TigerSwan, James Reese, is a longtime Special Forces veteran, including many secret missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other covert battle areas. He is also an astute businessman; TigerSwan is growing fast, and offering a wide range of “Solutions to Uncertainty.”

And they are indeed offering such “solutions” to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Specifics are, of course, confidential. But here are a few that are described on the TigerSwan website (a site BTW well worth exploring if one wants to be clued in to more of what protesters like those at Standing Rock can expect to face):

Government and commercial organizations operating in a globally interconnected marketplace face challenges that inject risk and uncertainty into their business processes.

Founded by former members of Delta Force, the U.S. Army’s elite tactical division, TigerSwan helps you minimize these risks by providing full-spectrum, asymmetric solutions to allow your business to operate safely in today’s global environment and provide you a strategic advantage   a global presence.

TigerSwan’s holistic service offerings include . . . . Our three 24/7/365 Operations Centers [which] are manned by former military and law enforcement personnel trained in crisis management. Continuous monitoring along with pre-set anomaly detection rules allow TigerSwan to not only detect theft, but to immediately initiate response protocols. In the USA TigerSwan is a Public Service Answering Point (PSAP) licensee and we have access to the NENA 911 Database. Our Operations Centers can dispatch the nearest emergency responders based on the client or asset location that is derived from our tracking devices. Globally, TigerSwan can provide security and response personnel anywhere in the world except for locations embargoed by the United States Government.

These small icons list TigerSwan’s “monitoring” capabilities: cell phones & apps, closed circuit TV, social media, and more.

. . . Our GuardianAngel platform is capable of integrating and tracking virtually any kind of sensor. This includes, but is not limited to, GSM beacon, Iridium Trackers, cell phone apps, vehicle trackers AIS sensors, ADS-B sensors, light sensors, tamper sensors, temperature sensors and more. Being technology agnostic allows TigerSwan to develop customizable solutions for each client irrelevant of the requirements.
TigerSwan continuously monitors meteorological and political conditions throughout the world. Keeping clients informed in real-time about acts of terrorism, crimes, civil unrest, natural disasters and weather helps streamline shipping procedures, reduce delays, and avoid potential loss of cargo.

Much of this monitoring is likely done from a distance, either via satellites or drones.

(Drones are popularly notorious for firing killer missiles. But mostly they take pictures & video, which is analyzed by such groups as the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, a little-known but huge operation based at Fort Belvoir just south of Washington DC. And this agency also works with “civilian customers.” Then the data and interpretations are fed back to operational groups, like TigerSwan.)

Now, one more point: not only is TigerSwan equipped technically to surveil the Standing Rock protectors from many directions at once, and able to “dispatch” enforcers on short notice. They are also invested with the ethos of the Special Forces from which they sprang, that they are the “good guys,” preparing to “liberate the oppressed.”

And who, in their calculus, are the “oppressed”? Who else but the ones paying them. And the “oppressors”? Of course, at standing Rock it was the interlopers in the tents who called themselves “protectors.”

Thus, while the North Dakota landscape may not have much in the way of evergreen forests, still from the TigerSwan perspective, it is “Pineland” all over again.

Moreover, not so far behind the DAPL and this point of confrontation, there is a whole new administration about to arrive, which regards virtually all such protests as oppressive, and overdue for their turn to be overthrown.

As of December 5, the Standing Rock Native American groups seem to have had a major success against the DAPL. Their courage and fortitude have been remarkable, as has the support from around the nation and internationally.

Yet I do have a prediction beyond North Dakota: given the imminent drastic regime change in Washington, the presence and activity, mostly hidden, of TigerSwan and its ilk on the domestic scene gives us a foretaste of encounters to come, which could spread to many other places.

These will not only fatten these companies’ profits, but also present protesters and resisters with a new environment of repression few of us are familiar with, equipped to recognize, or yet know how to respond to with anything like comparable sophistication. The experience of this blog could well be an example.

Much work, and many unpleasant surprises, are ahead.


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Catching Up With The Saga of TigerSwan, Standing Rock & My Blog

This is an overdue update on my Vanished TigerSwan post:  While everyone is rightly celebrating the current success at Standing Rock, I have an obscure (but not irrelevant) footnote to fit in somewhere:

Late on Saturday, November 26, I published a blog post about TigerSwan, the mercenary “security” company started and run by ex-special forces “operators”  that was overseeing the DAPL security efforts at Standing Rock. Two days later, the post disappeared, along with my entire blog.

The missing post filled in information about TigerSwan, its origins among veterans of the most secretive U.S. military units, with some context about these programs and their training programs in North Carolina. Among the “Solutions to Uncertainty” TigerSwan offers is the capability of spying on cell phones, apps, social media, and more.

All the information in the post was from public sources, yet it was not widely known, and the post quickly racked up many hits. In two days the hits were over a thousand (a lot for this blog), and still climbing. Then–nothing. Continue reading Catching Up With The Saga of TigerSwan, Standing Rock & My Blog

Why My Knees Were Knocking That Morning

First a word about my knees. They’ve been good to me for a long time, and I’m grateful. But last summer I strained the right one, trying to do The Twist. I don’t know what went wrong; the last time I did it, my knee was fine. Well yes, that was in 1962; picky picky.


I finally went to a physical therapist, who gave me some stretching exercises to do. I did them just before the election, and afterward, voila! –both knees hurt. A miracle of modern medicine. Continue reading Why My Knees Were Knocking That Morning

Vote Suppression for Lunch: North Carolina, Part Two

Another part of the Republican vote suppression scheme is aimed right at my old home turf, Cumberland County, a heavily nonwhite area which includes Fayetteville & Fort Bragg. And part of the plan is probably going to work. And this is important.

To see why,  a bit of background: in 2004, George W. Bush beat John Kerry in the county by 3351 votes, which was decently close considering Bush carried the state by 435000 votes.

But then in 2008, the Cumberland County Democrats, led by my esteemed and astute friend Roberta Waddle, organized the heck out of the place and totally turned the tables: Obama carried the county by 22000 votes over John McCain.


This was an amazing feat; and it’s the more astonishing considering that Obama won North Carolina — but by only 14000 votes out of 4,271,000 statewide. Continue reading Vote Suppression for Lunch: North Carolina, Part Two

Vote Suppression for Breakfast: North Carolina

Trouble at home:

I didn’t sleep well last night. And then I woke up on election day in a battle zone.

This morning, Durham election officials “discovered” that their voting computers “failed.” So they’ll have to turn to searching through paper records for the voters lining up outside their doors. This will slow down voting and lengthen lines and wait times.

Live from NC It’s: Voter Suppression!


You may know that fights over the suppression of black  & other minority votes in North Carolina have been ongoing, since the Supreme Court Shelby decision cut the heart out of the Voting Rights Act.

The federal courts have been striking down the Reactionary Republican state government’s vote suppression laws with some frequency this year.

But striking down the laws, and actually eliminating vote suppression are two different processes.  Continue reading Vote Suppression for Breakfast: North Carolina

Is North Carolina Yearly Meeting Giving Peace A Chance?

After two years of turmoil, meeting departures, and apocalyptic rhetoric, North Carolina Yearly Meeting held a representative session in Goldsboro on November 5, 2016 which was remarkably drama free.

This was despite the fact that the session made several major decisions. And among the biggest was a decision they did not make.

is NCYM opening the door to a time of peaceful coexistence?

We’ve spoken here before of the Blockbuster Video effect, the fact that both technological and demographic changes are making the NCYM structure obsolete; not unlike “Blockbuster Video,” which was toppled by failure to adapt to  changes in its industry.

On Saturday, NCYM took two major steps in a similar process: first, it decided to end its pastor’s pension program; and second, they gave its showpiece, Quaker Lake Camp, a green light to become de facto independent.

There’s no question that closing down the pension program marks the end of an era. NCYM figures are that 173 people are vested in it, or already receiving checks. The payments were supposed to last for life; now they will end after June 2017. Each beneficiary will get a final settlement check, adjusted actuarially.

Continue reading Is North Carolina Yearly Meeting Giving Peace A Chance?

The Spirit of the Klan Haunts the 2016 Election

The Spirit of the Klan Haunts the 2016 Election

Let’s talk about building a wall to keep out immigrants; it’s a thing in the current campaign. But it’s not a new idea. How about this earlier version?


The image is from 1928, and a bit fuzzy. Note the three faces peeking over the wall: the “Red” is for eastern Europeans & Jews; “Rum” is for Irish, as deemed to be all drunkards, and stupid; and at left, the one with the big pointed hat is the Catholic church, as the force behind immigrants from Italy and other predominantly Catholic countries (especially Irish again).

Today the wall would be on the Mexican border, and focus on keeping out Latinos and Muslims. But the image is, to me, eerily familiar. Continue reading The Spirit of the Klan Haunts the 2016 Election

The Rainbow Toilet vs. HB2: Wiped from The Headlines in NC

The Rainbow Toilet vs. HB2: Wiped from The Headlines in NC

Law & Order’s Special Victims Unit had nothing on Genevieve “Gigi” Burkhalter of Durham NC; but that wasn’t going to stop the North Carolina state troopers who do security at the governor’s mansion in Raleigh. The mansion is currently occupied by governor Pat McCrory, known worldwide as the face of HB2, Carolina’s trans-hostile Bathroom Law.

Governor’s mansion, Raleigh North Carolina.

The troopers were sure they saw a crime being committed there under cover of darkness on April 15,  2016, and when they followed up what they saw on a security videocam, there it was, on the green lawn near the mansion.

A bomb? A corpse? A cache of erased State Department emails? No, wait — it was a toilet. Continue reading The Rainbow Toilet vs. HB2: Wiped from The Headlines in NC