Environmental Integrity Project Communications Director and journalist Tom Pelton was in southeast Texas earlier this year, photographing an oil refinery for a news story. While taking pictures, Pelton was challenged by a security officer demanding information about what he was doing. Upon producing identification, Pelton explained he was there conducting research for a news story.
A short time after the incident at the Texas oil refinery, Tom Pelton was then paid a visit by an FBI agent in which he questioned Pelton about his reasons for being at the refinery. The environmentalist not only explained his reasons but also provided his research for the agent to look at. The FBI agent determined Pelton was not a threat and the matter was not pursued further.
Pelton and his wife were upset about the visit, so he decided to write a column about it that was published at the website of Baltimore, Maryland’s NPR affiliate WYPR. Pelton reveals that he discussed his experience with Alleen Brown, a reporter with The Intercept, an online Leftist news and commentary website.
As it turns out, Brown told him not only did Pelton’s story not surprise her but was, most likely, linked to a conspiracy involving the police, oil and gas companies and private security firms. She told Pelton she found out an international security firm, named Tiger Swan, that she concludes is using counterterrorist techniques to smear and intimidate environmentalists.
While Ms. Brown’s research for her essay is impressive, she is incorrect with her conclusion about why the FBI questioned Tom Pelton. Worst of all, for a journalist of twenty years, Pelton is fully aware of the potential consequences he faced when photographing the Texas oil refinery. Tom Pelton essentially uses the content of Aileen Brown’s essay not only as a means to further a conspiracy theory but also as a way to absolve himself of blame.
In fact, federal law declared certain facilities as critical infrastructure that have federally mandated security standards. Meaning, that they are considered attractive terrorist targets or present a high risk if attacked. Because of these requirements, the security officer Pelton encountered, by law, had to report Pelton’s violation. This, in turn, would have been sent up to the guard’s chain of command and eventually reported to the FBI. Tom Pelton was not reported because he was an environmentalist. He was reported because he was not allowed to be at his location and, at minimum, was acting suspicious.
Tom Pelton decided to avoid responsibility for his actions and decided to spin a conspiracy theory. In reality, he violated the refinery’s security protocol. While Tiger Swan may have done all of the things Aileen Brown describes, they have nothing to do with what lead to Pelton’s FBI encounter. Then again, what does one expect from someone who considers the terrorists … er … protesters at the Dakota Access Pipeline peaceful?