It was early afternoon on October 11th, 2016 when TigerSwan’s program manager, retired Delta Force Sergeant Major John Porter, met with Silverton’s owner, Carl Clifton, inside a hangar at the Mandan Municipal Airport. The hangar was initially used by Silverton security as a clandestine office for their intelligence cell that collected information on the protesters, self-described water protectors, at Standing Rock. The managers from the two rival private security companies had both been hired by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) to manage the protesters at the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL). They had much to discuss.

Clifton and Porter talked about the profitability of running intelligence operations against the protesters versus running site security before Clifton mentioned the fact that another security company named Russel Group of Texas (RGT) is running harassing surveillance against his wife and taking pictures of her. This is the type of surveillance that CIA officers expect to have put on them in a place like Moscow to prevent them from meeting with their intelligence assets. They want you to know that you are being followed. In this case, the message to Clifton and Silverton security was clear, back off and let rival companies milk the profits from ETP.

When this subject came up, John Porter began to stutter saying, “Look dude…that’s none of my business…I…I…I’m so…I don’t even see that shit happening and it’s none of my concern either.”

Clifton then asked why Russel Group was running around the DAPL site carrying firearms. TigerSwan had been brought in to coordinate and supervise the half dozen security companies that the oil company, ETP, had initially hired. Clifton pointed out that there is no way that they could have gotten their licenses so fast. Indeed, many RGT contractors had to be sent home since the licensing board had denied them the gun permits, as the board itself was staffed by the owners of local security companies who didn’t like seeing outsiders making money on their home turf. “You know what bro, I don’t care about the licenses,” Porter said, blowing off the legalities involved.

Once TigerSwan showed up on the scene they began trying to choke out the smaller security companies in order to maximize their own profits. “Consistent with the logic of both markets and war, competition in the market for force escalates until one market actor emerges victorious with the monopoly of force, eliminating all rivals,” writes Sean McFate in his book, “The Modern Day Mercenary,” about private security companies.

Taking swipes at a rival security company or putting the wife of an employee under surveillance was really the least of the many problematic activities perpetrated by John Porter and TigerSwan in North Dakota. The next month in November, Porter acted as an agent provocateur, stoking the protesters and encouraging them to be more violent. This is why, “many cringe at linking armed conflict to profit motive,” writes McFate, “because it incentivizes private armies to prolong and expand war for financial gain.”

TigerSwan hits the ground in North Dakota

The prairie of North Dakota would not normally be a place that would draw international media coverage but in 2016, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) began construction of a oil pipeline that would run from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa, and into Illinois. In North Dakota, the pipeline would pass the northern tip of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The Sioux Tribe opposed the construction of the pipeline for two main reasons. The first was that the pipeline was going to be built on an ancient sacred burial ground, a claim that archeologists were never able to establish. Several individuals were also discovered attempting to bury bison bones in the area where the pipeline would be built as well. The second major concern that the Sioux Tribal Nations had was the environmental impact that the pipeline would have on their water supply.

The protest movement against the pipeline began around April when the native Americans at standing rock established the first protest camp. The camp became a lighting rod for native American land rights and by some accounts was the first time that all of the native American tribes across America were united in a single issue since the 1800’s. The protest movement, self-described as water protectors grew, and attracted many activists from outside the native American community to include a large number of US military veterans.