Why is the government spying on climate activists?

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Fossil fuel protestors targeted by undercover investigations

Staff Report

The threat of international terrorism apparently is not keeping federal agents so busy that they don’t have time to investigate the largely peaceful community of climate activists who are advocating for a rapid shift to a carbon-free energy economy.

In recent months, federal and local law enforcement agencies have cooperated with fossil fuel companies to spy on groups like 350.org and the Break Free movement, as shown by a series of documents obtained by The Intercept. Those records show that agents went underground to monitor the groups activities and training sessions. Of course, such domestic intelligence operations aren’t new — paranoid government agencies have a long history of tracking activists going back at least to Dr. Martin Luther King.

And even though the L.A. Times reports that the FBI is using its probe of Dr. King as an example of investigations gone awry, that apparently hasn’t discouraged other agencies. The emails released by The Intercept show that, leading up to a May 20 public protest of a Bureau of Land Management fossil fuel auction in Lakewood, Colorado,  local police used information provided by Anadarko to keep tabs on the protestors.

Now, the Center for Biological Diversity wants to know just how far that spying goes. In an Aug. 11 Freedom of Information Act request, the nonprofit is asking the Bureau of Land Management to provide records “monitoring of protests or protesters of federal oil and gas lease sales; plans for responding to, participating in, or monitoring protests or protesters of federal oil and gas lease sales; and/or actual public protests or protesters of federal oil and gas lease sales, including but not limited to internal correspondence and correspondence with cooperating and/or external agencies (including but not limited to local, state, and federal law enforcement), industry, and/or consultants thereof.” Download a full copy of the FOIA request  here.

In a press release, the Center for Biological Diversity said it wants to know the extent of the domestic spying.

“The public has a right to know whether the government has launched a surveillance program targeting climate activists who are courageously speaking up for what’s right,” said Taylor McKinnon.

Oil and gas lease auctions for public lands have faced climate protests for the past year. Activists claim the public outcry has contributed to the cancellation of several lease auctions, some of which have been shifted to online venues to avoid public controversy.

McKinnon said the protests highlight a fundamental disconnect between the Obama administration’s climate rhetoric and its fossil fuel policies, which continue to include subsidized exploitation of publicly owned oil and gas resources.

During the past decade, fossil fuel burning from federally leased resources have accounted for almost 25 percent of all U.S. energy-related emissions. Science shows that reaching climate goals of reducing emissions and capping the global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius requires leaving most the remaining coal in the ground.

Last year Sens. Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (I-Vt.) and others introduced the Keep It In the Ground Act (S. 2238) legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later President Obama canceled the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying, “Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

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One thought on “Why is the government spying on climate activists?

  1. Hey McKinnon – what you think is right is just your opinion. The fossil fuels on federal lands belong to all US citizens. The vast majority of us want to use that fuel for the welfare of the country.

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