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Report: FBI violated protocol in investigation of Keystone XL opponents

By Andrew V. Pestano
Environmental activists were placed under an unauthorized FBI investigation for a perceived threat to the current Keystone pipeline. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Environmental activists were placed under an unauthorized FBI investigation for a perceived threat to the current Keystone pipeline. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation violated self-imposed guidelines when it investigated activists opposing the Keystone XL pipeline in 2013.

FBI agents in Houston did not receive approval from their head office and its main lawyer to conduct an investigation into a possible threat to damage part of the current Keystone pipeline.

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Agents contacted sources, reviewed local law enforcement reports and conducted database searches on opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline without authorization.

Clearance is required under FBI investigative guidelines to prevent its agents from becoming improperly involved in sensitive political issues. An internal document revealed the breach of conduct, first reported by The Guardian.

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"Many of these extremists believe the debates over pollution, protection of wildlife, safety, and property rights have been overshadowed by the promise of jobs and cheaper oil prices," the FBI document states. "The Keystone pipeline, as part of the oil and natural gas industry, is vital to the security and economy of the United States."

The agents conducting the unauthorized investigation asked for permission, and received it, after an audit revealed the breach of protocol. The investigation concluded after agents could not find evidence environmental activists were attempting to damage the pipeline.

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The FBI admitted to violating the guidelines on Tuesday, stating that the investigation on the activists was only an "assessment."

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"While the FBI approval levels required by internal policy were not initially obtained, once discovered, corrective action was taken, noncompliance was remedied, and the oversight was properly reported through the FBI's internal oversight mechanism," the bureau said. "At no time did the review find that the initial justification for the assessment was improper."

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