This is part four of a nine part series will illuminating the FAA’s complacency and the role the FAA’s concession played in the violence against Water Protectors. A listing of the other eight articles is at the bottom of this article.
Only extreme cold and wind stop the air above camp from churning under the wings of the spy-crafts. At night planes fly with no lights on. The helicopters fly low. During the day helicopters buzz the camp, making their presence known as they gather intelligence on the camps and the people in them.
Water Protectors report and video evidence shows helicopter and airplanes flying at just 200 feet above the camp and actions. Low altitude aircraft visit often, sometimes in the dark hours of the morning. The low, night flyovers disrupt Water Protectors sleep and make them feel uneasy. Water Protectors who have left report feeling fear when they hear planes and helicopters.
Low Intensity Conflict generally includes surveillance, intelligence gathering, shows of force, psychological operations, and in conjunction with civil authorities like police.
The United States Army defines Low Intensity Conflict as:
“Low intensity conflict is a political-military confrontation between contending states or groups below conventional war and above the routine, peaceful competition among states. It frequently involves protracted struggles of competing principles and ideologies. Low intensity conflict ranges from subversion to the use of armed force. It is waged by a combination of means, employing political, economic, informational, and military instruments.”
The manual continues:
“…successful LIC operations, consistent with US interests and laws, can advance US international goals such as the growth of freedom, democratic institutions, and free market economies.”
The low flying planes and helicopters are equipped with surveillance equipment.
Water Protectors attempted to keep logs of the aircraft flying overhead the camps. The sheer volume of aircraft and events during the month made keeping complete logs difficult.
Aircraft can be in the air for several hours or just a few minutes.
The logs covered fourteen days between October 6 – November 2, 2016. The log did not include October 22-28, the days leading up to the raid, the day of the raid and the day after the raid – the days of the highest aircraft presence.
It recorded the number of independent visits by aircraft.
Totals by type of aircraft:
Single Wing Plane
Total Aircraft Visits
Visits per day: 6.3
One visit every 3 hours and 48 minutes
Most of the heights of the passes were not recorded however the logs did record six low altitude passes, or one every two days and 8 hours.
Low Altitude Pass Information
Recorded Low Altitude Passes
Hours Between Low Altitude Passes
Most of the tail numbers were not recorded but the ones which were recorded showed which aircraft were most commonly in the sky.
The prosecutors charging Water Protectors have admitted in court that they are using DAPL surveillance to identify Water Protectors and as evidence in prosecutions, according to Criminal Defense Attorney Angela Bibens of the Water Protectors Legal Collective, the organization coordinating legal efforts for the Water Protectors.
The point is not simply to annoy, but to actually collude to collect evidence and perform surveillance on the Water Protectors.
“The endless buzz of surveillance planes, helicopters and drones that fly over our heads at camp reminds us every day we very much live in the world Edward Snowden has described to us,” said embedded journalist Johnny Dangers.
LaRae Meadows is a freelance writer, who has been embedded at Standing Rock.