Sunday, October 05, 2003

Big Brother's M.O.

Part One: Some Helpful Hints

Oh, for those of you who may be new to activism, or veterans who have forgotten your history, a bit of warning. The government will infiltrate your groups, spy on your meetings and actively disrupt your plans. Provacateurs will try to get you to do illegal things and then get you arrested. They've been doing it for decades, though I suppose it is easier these days with the Patriot Act. Here is a brief case study from Fresno: link

Some tips:

1. Assume you are being watched and infiltrated. If your activities are legal, this should present no real hardships...though that doesn't make it right, of course.

2. You may find troublesome people in your organization, always causing dissent. You may assume they are agents. You may even be right. Unless you have a paystub made out to the person from the FBI, however, it is best not to sling agent accusations. Deal with the behavior, not with your suspicions.

3. Educate your group about the abuses of the past. You can begin here: link Let them know that these things do happen, but that a principled response and calm thinking will minimize the damage.

4. And hey, if all the agent is doing is spying on open meetings and causing no harm...put them to work! Often, agents are the hardest working so they can gain acceptance.

5. However, despite #4, be very careful in choosing the folks who: handle money, handle mailing lists and handle the computer tasks. I've seen police agents do a real number by gaining access to these positions. (To the credit of those agents, they practically bragged of their relationship to the police. Politically unsophisticated group leaders were the real problem. Maybe I'll write more about these days in a later post. It's instructive AND amusing.)

6. With electronic gadgetry these days, there are very few ways to insure privacy of computer, phone and even in-person communications. If something is important to keep from law enforcement, about the only real way to do it is in person with loud background noise, such as a radio. I know this sounds paranoid, and they probably aren't spying on YOUR group...this is just something to keep in mind as you make plans if, for example, the element of surprise is important in a protest or something.

7. Have trained security/peace keeper people at demonstrations. These are just folks who've role-played a few scenarios to deal with provacateurs from within and without the organization. Try to develop a relationship with a progressive legal organization to get legal observers at these events.

8. You should also be aware that the government uses private organizations and front groups to spy and disrupt. You may not always be sure who they are, but there are groups that just ALWAYS seem to be causing trouble within coalitions. Often, they have a cult sensibility to them. Sometimes they will assume various incarnations to mimic legitimate organizations. For example, a "leftist" organization called the New Alliance Party used to infiltrate legitimate third parties in attempts to take them over (such as the Peace and Freedom Party in California). They even put the word "rainbow" into some of their front groups to be associated with Jesse Jackson. Finally, they settled on the Reform Party, and have done a real number on it. You may have seen footage from the convention they had here in Nashville in 2000. Meeting detiorated into a shouting match. Classic work. Do I know for sure the NAP is working for the government? No. It doesn't matter. They have the same effect.

9. And once again, learn your history. Things are getting worse in this regard, not better.


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