[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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