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How the FBI targeted environmental activists in domestic terror investigations

The investigations, which targeted individual activists and some environmental organizations, were opened in 2013-2014, at the height of opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline and the expansion of fossil fuel production in North America.

The new FOIA documents reveal the bureau’s motivation for investigating a broad cross section of the environmental movement and its characterization of non-violent protesters as a potential threat to national security.

In 2010, the DOJ’s inspector general criticized the FBI for using non-violent civil disobedience as grounds to open domestic terrorism investigations. US citizens swept up in such investigations can be placed on terrorism watchlists and subjected to surveillance and restrictions on international travel. The designation can also lead local law enforcement to take a more confrontational approach when engaging with non-violent activists.