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March 15, 2018

The ACLU of Montana has issued right-to-know requests seeking information related to government surveillance of potential protesters and others opposed to the Keystone XL Pipeline.  The requests also seek to uncover possible plans to suppress protesters’ free speech.

The ACLU has obtained a report produced with the help of the Montana Department of Justice showing that state and federal agencies may already be spying on potential protesters. The report, which references the Standing Rock protests, characterizes pipeline opponents as “extremists” intent on “criminal disruptions and violent incidents.”

“Based on this report and the government’s history of violent and invasive responses to pipeline protests, it seems likely that government and law enforcement officials are already partnering with big oil to silence opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline in Montana,” said Alex Rate, ACLU of Montana Legal Director.  

Peaceful protesters at Standing Rock and other pipeline demonstrations were monitored by the government and private security firms hired by oil companies. They used drones, social media monitoring, and undercover FBI agents to keep watch on the protests. Law enforcement agencies also used water cannons, dogs, tear gas, and concussion grenades on Indigenous protesters and their allies.  Journalists were also blocked from covering the protests.

“Unfortunately, it seems that the same military-style actions seen at Standing Rock could be repeated against Keystone XL opponents in Montana,” said ACLU of Montana Advocacy and Policy Director, SK Rossi. “We need to make sure that peaceful protesters in Montana do not become the victims of violence by law enforcement and private security. We have seen too much of that in Standing Rock, Ferguson, and other communities where people of color have used their freedom of speech to demand change.”

The ACLU of Montana is requesting the below public records and has requested each government entity to respond to each request for information within 30 days. 

●        State of Montana FOIA

●        Carter County FOIA

●        Dawson County FOIA

●        Fallon County FOIA

●        Lewis and Clark County FOIA

●        McCone County FOIA

●        Phillips County FOIA

●        Prairie County FOIA

●        Valley County FOIA


Alex Rate (ACLU of Montana Legal Director) and SK Rossi (Advocacy and Policy Director) are available for interview.