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Anti-terrorism center accused of illegal surveillance

Four protesters have accused the Department of Justice of allowing “an unauthorized and unaccountable domestic intelligence program” to carry out surveillance on the activists without any legal basis.

“TITAN is a covert domestic spying program that collects, retains, analyzes, and distributes so-called ‘intelligence products’ on Oregon residents, including on law abiding individuals exercising their constitutional rights to speech and assembly,” claimed the NYU School of Law’s Policing Project, which is representing the protesters.

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The plaintiffs whom the Policing Project described as an assortment of “environmental, indigenous rights, and social justice advocates” alleged that the anti-terrorist center worked for the benefit of the firms bankrolling the $10 billion Jordan Cove pipeline to stifle public dissent. The center allegedly shared intelligence reports on the protesters with its “extensive network of state, federal, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, and public- and private-sector partners,” the lawsuit claims.

The center was operating “completely in the shadows” with its actions not falling under the scope of any existing law, the plaintiffs argued.

Policing Project executive director Farhang Heydari has called for the center to be shut down until Oregon authorities implement “appropriate guardrails” to ensure that it cannot surveil peaceful protesters.

The Jordan Cove pipeline project funded by Calgary-based energy company Pembina had been stalled by protests for years. Pembina ultimately aborted the project earlier this month, asking federal energy regulators to withdraw authorizations for the proposed 229-mile-long natural gas pipeline. The pipeline would have run from Malin, Oregon to Coos Bay.

This is not the first time the OTFC comes under scrutiny over its questionable surveillance practices. The center was accused in 2016 of tracking social media users who tweeted the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in protest of police brutality against African Americans. The center has also been accused of compiling intelligence reports on protests in support of women’s rights and against former President Donald Trump.

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