All posts by Sparrow

Trans Mountain Pipeline Faces Untenable Risk for Failing to Recognize Indigenous Jurisdiction

Trans Mountain Pipeline Faces Untenable Risk for Failing to Recognize Indigenous Jurisdiction

Secwepemc Territory, BC — The Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (INET) pioneered an Indigenous risk assessment of Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP), demonstrating that failure to take into account Indigenous jurisdiction and land rights constitutes too great a risk for large projects seeking access to Indigenous lands and resources.

This was confirmed by Kinder Morgan Limited (KML) Canada this weekend, when following another mobilization by Indigenous Peoples against the TMEP, KML announced that it is suspending non-essential spending on the TMEP because the risks to investors are too great.

The announcement took investors by surprise and shows that the TMEP has come to a breaking point, where there will either be a decision to cut the losses and stop the project now, or provoke further conflict and confrontation, which will only increase risks.

Though much attention has been focused on inter-jurisdictional struggle between the federal and provincial governments over regulation and environmental assessment, the company and governments have both failed to dispense their legal duties of obtaining consent from the proper title holders of the land. The failure to take into account Indigenous jurisdiction and land rights continues cannot be remedied. There is no recovering from this failure to properly assess risks and from the announcement by KML.

Secwepemc land defender, Kanahus Manuel stated:

“Kinder Morgan is misleading investors by suggesting they have secured the land base and Indigenous consent for the Trans Mountain pipeline.  They do not have consent from the Secwepemc and failure to recognize Secwepemc title, land rights and indigenous jurisdiction, will only result in more conflict, direct actions, blockades and Indigenous land occupations which will increase the risks and economic uncertainty for Kinder Morgan and its construction deadlines.”

Map highlighting Secwepemcul’ecw Nation along proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline route. Read the Risk Assessment Brief by the Indigenous Network on Economies & Trade HERE

As the updated INET summary brief, released, today, April 13, 2018,  “Standing Rock of the North” states:  “Despite the company’s insistence that the threats to the pipeline come from the provincial government, it is Indigenous jurisdiction that poses the greatest threat. Indigenous Peoples from across B.C., as well as non-Indigenous allies, have shown their opposition to the project, and its violation of Indigenous jurisdiction, through physical blockades. Kinder Morgan’s failure to take into account indigenous land rights and jurisdiction, including failure to obtain the prior informed consent of Indigenous Peoples, constitutes the greatest risk to the proposed development and investments. The surprise announcement from Kinder Morgan came on that same weekend that the company refrained from having high-profile Indigenous leaders arrested that joined in a blockade at its facility in Burnaby. This indicates the company recognizes the risks posed from rejection of the project by Indigenous Peoples. The failure of KML to yet again disclose those risks should be deeply disconcerting to investors and lenders.”

Over half of the proposed pipeline route of Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP) passes through Secwepemc territory in the south-central Interior of British Columbia.

In the fall of 2017, INET prepared the Secwepemc Risk Assessment of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project that detailed the risks to investors, including Secwepemc land defence risk, legal risk, economic risk, political risk, reputational risk, regulatory risk and climate risk. It was tabled with investors in North America and Europe. Since then these risks and opposition to the TMEP project led by Indigenous Peoples has only grown.

Ska7cis Manuel, Acting Director of INET stated:

“Kinder Morgan’s announcement of a work stoppage is a win for land and water defenders and their dedication to environmental protection. There is a clear opposition to the tripling of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the extraction of fossil fuels from the tar sands. Kinder Morgan’s announcement was not only irresponsible from an investors’ perspective, it is even more irresponsible since it calls on Canada to use executive force, while failing to take into account Aboriginal Title and Rights. This is a fundamental human and indigenous rights issue. INET has raised concerns about Canada’s oppressive tactics, including use of court injunctions to access Indigenous peoples’ resources, with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  The stoppage reveals that Indigenous peoples’ rights have weight and there is a clear need for the full recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights, anything else, including the use of force, will just result in increased uncertainty and risk.”

Related Documents

  1. Read the Risk Assessment Brief by the Indigenous Network on Economies & Trade HERE
  2. Read the Risk Summary by the Indigenous Network on Economies & Trade HERE

About the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (INET) 

The Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (INET) is a network of Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous supporters who work toward promoting the economic dimension of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.  We have prepared legal arguments that Canadian policies that fail to recognize Aboriginal and Treaty rights and our decision-making regarding access to our lands and resources, constitute a subsidy under international trade law. Our submissions have been accepted by World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tribunals during the last round of the Canada USA Softwood Lumber Dispute.

FOIA Litigation Reveals Department of Defense Spent $138,093 at Mar-a-Lago and Trump Businesses

FOIA Litigation Reveals Department of Defense Spent $138,093 at Mar-a-Lago and Trump Businesses

Washington, DC A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit from the transparency organization Property of The People has produced receipts and other documents revealing Department of Defense (DoD) expenditures at Mar-a-Lago and twelve Trump properties during the President’s first six months in office.  The expenses, each made with DoD charge cards, raise serious questions as to whether Donald Trump is violating the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution.

Among the documents released today is an 8-page summary chart provided by the Department of Defense outlining the majority of $138,093.23 in DoD charges at Trump properties beginning on the first day of the administration, January 20, 2017, through June 14, 2017. The release also includes a 369-page document with receipts corresponding to a selection of the charges outlined in the summary chart.  Among the charges were $58,875.69 in charges incurred specifically at Mar-a-Lago; $9,618.78 at Trump’s Bedminster, NJ Golf Club during an extended weekend stay in May, 2017;  $35,652.44 spent at Trump’s Las Vegas Hotel; and $17,102.55 in DoD expenditures at Donald Trump’s beleaguered Trump Ocean Club in Panama.

A summary chart provided by the Department of Defense outlining the majority of $138,093.23 in DoD charges at Trump properties beginning on the first day of the administration, January 20, 2017, through June 14, 2017. You can read the full chart HERE.

The FOIA lawsuit that obtained the receipts was brought by Property of the People and the organization’s co-founder, MIT FOIA researcher Ryan Shapiro.  The group and Shapiro have filed similar FOIA requests with The US State Department, Department of Commerce, General Services Administration, US Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, and US Customs and Border Protection.  

In September 2017, documents obtained by Property of the People from the Coast Guard and DHS revealed National Security Council and other agency  payments to Mar-A-Lago and Trump Hotels. These documents provided the first strong evidence of Trump’s violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.  These revelations also informed Senators Gary Peters, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Udall’s decision to introduce the HOTEL Act — Heightened Oversight of Travel, Eating and Lodging — banning executive officials from staying at any property owned by the president, vice president, Cabinet secretaries or their families members.

And last month, documents released by the General Services Administration (GSA) to Property of the People highlighted $1,760.46 in charges made by the GSA across three days in 2017 at the Trump International Hotel in DC and the BLT Prime Restaurant located within the DC Trump Hotel.

“Donald Trump views the American public as a bunch of marks waiting to be fleeced,” said Property of the People co-founder, Ryan Shapiro. “With the DoD’s spending at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties, and Trump’s refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, once again we find the President’s hand deep in the taxpayer’s pocket.”

Continued Shapiro, “Trump’s venality and his administration’s open contempt for transparency creates a functionally unprecedented potential for conflicts of interest and corruption.”

Added Property of the People staff attorney, Gunita Singh, “Repeatedly, our FOIA litigation has revealed blatant financial conflicts of interest resulting in the transfer of taxpayer dollars to Trump properties and likely constitutional violations. We expect this is only the tip of the iceberg, and we fully intend to aggressively continue our FOIA work exposing kleptocracy at the highest reaches of government.”

As part of the the organization’s efforts to seek transparency and accountability from the Trump administration, Property of the People has thousands of FOIA requests in motion with numerous federal agencies, as well as numerous active federal FOIA lawsuits to compel agency compliance with the organization’s requests.

Related Documents

  1. View the summary chart of DoD’s charge card expenses HERE
  2. Read a 369 page selection of DoD receipts HERE
  3. Read the DoD’s accompanying cover letter HERE
  4. Read Property of the People’s initial complaint HERE

About Property of the People

Property of the People is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transparency organization dedicated to governmental transparency in the service of democracy. The organization was co-founded by Ryan Shapiro, Jeffrey Light, and Sarahjane Blum. The organization’s motto is, “The records of government are the property of the people. It’s time we reclaim them.” Property of the People is on twitter @propOTP

Ryan Shapiro is a PhD candidate at MIT, a former research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and co-founder of Property of the People. Politico has called Shapiro “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Shapiro is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.

Property of the People and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light assisted by Property of the People staff attorney, Gunita Singh.

You can support their work at https://operationfortyfive.org/donations

Litigation Reveals GSA Expenditures at Trump International Hotel in DC

Litigation Reveals GSA Expenditures at Trump International Hotel in DC

Washington, DC — As court arguments in the District of Columbia and Maryland litigate whether patronage by state governments and foreign countries at The Trump International Hotel in DC violates the US Constitution, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit from the transparency organization Property of The People has now produced receipts revealing expenditures at the Trump International Hotel by The US General Services Administration (GSA), the agency responsible for administering the travel charge card program for all federal agencies.

The FOIA lawsuit that obtained the receipts was brought by Property of the People and MIT FOIA researcher Ryan Shapiro.  The group and Shapiro filed similar FOIA requests with The Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, State Department, Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, and US Customs and Border Protection.

In September 2017, documents obtained by Property of the People from the Coast Guard and DHS revealed National Security Council and other agency  payments to Mar-A-Lago and Trump Hotels. These documents provided the first strong evidence of Trump’s violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.  These revelations informed Senators Gary Peters, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Udall’s decision to introduce the HOTEL Act — Heightened Oversight of Travel, Eating and Lodging — banning executive officials from staying at any property owned by the president, vice president, Cabinet secretaries or their families members.

The document just released by GSA to Property of the People, a microsoft .xls file, highlights $1760.46 in charges made by the GSA across three days in 2017 at the Trump International Hotel in DC and the BLT Prime Restaurant within the DC Trump Hotel.

“Regardless of how much he makes on any individual transaction, the President is sending a signal that the White House is open for business,” said Property of the People co-founder Ryan Shapiro.Due to his refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American Presidency into a racket.”

As part of the the organization’s efforts to seek transparency and accountability from the Trump administration, Property of the People has hundreds of FOIA requests in motion with numerous federal agencies, as well as numerous active federal FOIA lawsuits to compel agency compliance with the organization’s requests.

Related Documents

  1. View the list of GSA charge card expenses HERE
  2. Read the GSA’s response to Property of the People’s suit HERE
  3. Read Property of the People’s initial complaint HERE

About Property of the People

Property of the People is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transparency organization dedicated to governmental transparency in the service of democracy. The organization was co-founded by Ryan Shapiro, Jeffrey Light, and Sarahjane Blum. The organization’s motto is, “The records of government are the property of the people. It’s time we reclaim them.” Property of the People is on twitter @propOTP

Ryan Shapiro is a PhD candidate at MIT, a former research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and co-founder of Property of the People. Politico has called Shapiro “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Shapiro is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.

Property of the People and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light assisted by Property of the People counsel, Gunita Singh.

You can support their work at operationfortyfive.org/donations

Group Sues FBI for Documents on Previously Unknown Cyber-Enabled Surveillance Platform Named ‘Gravestone’

Group Sues FBI for Documents on Previously Unknown Cyber-Enabled Surveillance Platform Named ‘Gravestone’

Washington, DC — On Thursday, December 21, 2017, Property of the People filed a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation over the Bureau’s failure to comply with the group’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for records on the FBI’s cyber-enabled surveillance platform named “Gravestone”.

Very little is publicly known about Gravestone. In late 2016, Property of the People located information online identified by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as “metadata” about a previously unknown FBI surveillance platform named Gravestone. The metadata was posted on the DOJ’s website data.gov [screencaptures 1, 2].

The metadata and associated information on the DOJ site revealed, “Gravestone is a system consisting of an IP based camera, routers, firewalls, and a workstation to review surveillance video. The system provides Video Surveillance data to FBI field offices and is used by case agents.”

The DOJ shortly thereafter deleted the Gravestone entry from data.gov. This deletion appears to have part of a broader DOJ data.gov purge of publicly available information about FBI systems. While it is unclear precisely when the DOJ deleted the Gravestone information, the deletion appears to have occurred sometime between December 9, 2016 and January 24, 2017.

In March 2017, Property of the People submitted five Freedom of Information Act requests to the FBI for records on Gravestone. The FBI failed to comply with the organization’s requests within the statutorily-permitted 20-working day deadline, and therefore the FBI is in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Consequently, earlier today, the group filed a federal lawsuit against the FBI to compel compliance with its FOIA requests.

Among other things, the transparency organization’s five FOIA requests seek FBI documents on Gravestone-related Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA), instructional and training materials, acquisition and maintenance records, and security incidents and misuse.

Under the E-Government Act of 2002, federal agencies are generally required to conduct Privacy Impact Assessments for all systems that collect personally identifiable information, and make these publicly available online. While it is unknown whether the DOJ and FBI consider Gravestone to be a National Security System, the DOJ’s own guidelines mandate that Privacy Impact Assessments be completed for all systems, including National Security Systems. Not only has the DOJ now purged all information about Gravestone from its website, but the FBI and DOJ have failed to make public any Privacy Impact Assessment for the FBI’s Gravestone system.

According to Property of the People Co-Founder, Ryan Shapiro:

“The FBI has a long, dark history of utilizing new surveillance technologies to facilitate violations of Americans’ civil liberties and privacy. In the interest of democracy and transparency, the public requires access to documents about this cyber-enabled FBI surveillance platform.”

Shapiro continues:

“The FBI has failed to make public, and possibly even to conduct, the legally mandated Privacy Impact Assessment for its Gravestone surveillance system, and also failed to comply with our Freedom of Information Act requests for documents about Gravestone. True to form, the FBI appears intent on conducting surveillance with abandon on Americans while simultaneously refusing to comply with even the most basic requirements of transparency about this surveillance.”

About Property of the People

Property of the People is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transparency organization dedicated to governmental transparency in the service of democracy. The organization was co-founded by Ryan Shapiro, Jeffrey Light, and Sarahjane Blum. The organization’s motto is, “The records of government are the property of the people. It’s time we reclaim them.” Property of the People is on twitter @propOTP

Ryan Shapiro is a PhD candidate at MIT, a former research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and co-founder of Property of the People. Politico has called Shapiro “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Shapiro is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.

Property of the People and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light assisted by Property of the People legal strategist, Gunita Singh.

Property of the People Demands Termination of Christy McCormick from Trump’s Election Integrity Committee

Property of the People Demands Termination of Christy McCormick from Trump’s Election Integrity Committee


Letter from Transparency Watchdog to Secretariat Reveals McCormick’s Dual Positions in Trump Admin Violates Federal Law


Read the letter to Secretariat HERE

Washington, DC On Monday, December 11, 2017, Property of the People mailed a letter to the General Services Administration’s Committee Management Secretariat asking that Christy McCormick be terminated from the President’s Advisory Committee on Election Integrity.

52 U.S.C. § 20923(d)(2), which governs the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, explicitly states that “[n]o member appointed to the Commission under subsection (a) may engage in any other business, vocation, or employment while serving as a member of the Commission and shall terminate or liquidate such business, vocation, or employment before sitting as a member of the Commission.”

Christy McCormick serves on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). McCormick was also appointed to serve on the President’s Advisory Committee on Election Integrity (PACEI).

McCormick’s dual positions matter not only because they violate the letter of the law, but also the spirit.

The EAC is an independent agency. When Congress creates independent agencies, it is with the intention that their officers discharge their duties independently of presidential control. Influence from the executive, whether direct or indirect, must not enter the calculus of the officer’s decision-making. This concept dates back to the very founding of our nation. McCormick’s service on the PACEI, a commission created by President Donald Trump, himself, threatens to blight McCormick’s service on the nonpartisan, independent EAC.

Sarahjane Blum, Property of the People Chair states: “we are in a moment where confidence in the American electoral system is profoundly low. Preserving the credibility of the bodies tasked with overseeing voting policy is critical for future elections, and as such, Christy McCormick cannot be allowed to hold dual positions at the EAC and PACEI.

The only way to resolve this circumvention of federal law is for Commissioner McCormick to resign from the PACEI. That is why we asked the General Services Administration Committee Management Secretariat, given their primary role in monitoring compliance of federal advisory committees, to take immediate action on this matter.”

Property of the People is motivated by the twin aims of transparency and accountability. In an effort to hold the government accountable on this important matter, we intend to ensure that this violation of the law is no longer ignored.

About Property of the People

Property of the People is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transparency organization dedicated to governmental transparency in the service of democracy co-founded by Ryan Shapiro, Jeffrey Light, and Sarahjane Blum. The organization’s motto is, “The records of government are the property of the people. It’s time we reclaim them.” Property of the People is on twitter @propOTP