Security Culture; What it is, why we need it and how to implement it
ACTIVISM AND STATE REPRESSION
This pamphlet has essential information for anyone associated with groups advocating
or using economic disruption or sabotage, theft, arson, self defence from police or more
militant tactics. The advice that followsalso applies to anyone associated with groups practising civil disobedience, especially since people often work in several groups at the same time and
gossip travels freely between them.
Even if you’ve never expressed your politics by doing property damage, pitching cobblestones, or getting arrested for civil disobedience; even if you think you have nothing to hide, these guidelines are presented here to enhance your personal safety as well as the overall effectiveness of our movements.
The simple reality is that governments in industrialized countries target groups that advocate economic sabotage and groups that don’t, movements that are militant and movements that are markedly pacifist.
The government’s security machinery serves the elitist political and economic objectives of capitalism. There are over 250 political prisoners in Canada and the US that can testify to this from first hand experience.
Peasant-rebels; communards; liberationists; abolitionists; labour organizers; revolutionaries; from large uprisings challenging the entire political structure, to isolated environmental and social struggles, people have constantly worked to create a better world. The response of government has always been repression to preserve the status quo..
Historically, government surveillance and harassment has increased relative to the ascendancy of direct action movements. Minimizing the destructiveness of political repression requires that we implement and promote a security culture within our movements.
The first step in recognising security risks in a community is working towards creating a security culture. Below we have compiled some relevant material that should be used in conducting security workshops and educating activists that you work with.
As our direct action movement becomes more effective, government harassment will only increase. To minimise the destructiveness of this government harassment, it is imperative that we create a “security culture” within our movement. Violations of security culture include behaviour is inappropriate because it intensifies government harassment, jeopardises the freedom of other activists, and destroys the trust within the movement.
COMMUNITY ORGANISING AND STATE REPRESSION
It was not that long ago that discussions about security culture were seen as not relevant to the vast majority of community organisers. As long as one didn’t “break the law” it was assumed that social freedoms in North America and Europe would allow for the expression of dissent without a rise in repression. A number of events have conspired since the late nineties to change the landscape of organising considerably.
New legislation - the PATRIOT Act in the US and Bill C-36 in Canada - which have been sold to the public as required to fight the spectre of terrorism in a post-911 world, serve double-duty in giving the state new laws with which to crack down on internal dissent. A rise in state-hyped racist hysteria, has made community organisers from middle eastern origins (or other “suspicious” backgrounds), increasingly targets of incarceration without cause, and other abuse at the hands of governments eager to deflect attention from the real issues of failing economies and unpopular wars. In many countries, governments have enacted laws to make it illegal to work with overseas organisations now declared “terrorist” - putting at risk communities who have worked to support liberation fighters around the world.
It follows that those who fight to change the world will be met with resistance by those who do not want it changed. One does not have to participate in extralegal activities to raise the interest of state security forces (whether those be local, regional or national agencies). Security culture must no longer be thought of as merely the domain of those who might break unjust laws - but as something that is part of the organising toolbox as a mechanism for community self-defense.
The guidelines presented here are designed to enhance your personal safety as well as the overall effectiveness of our movements. By adopting a security culture, we can limit or neutralise counter-intelligence operations meant to disrupt our political organising, be it mainstream or underground.
TOWARDS AN EXPANDED DEFINITION OF SECURITY CULTURE
Creating secure communities is about more than being educated about the state and its security forces. Fundamentally, it means creating working dynamics of respect, education and inclusion in all our work. Building strong communities that act in solidarity with one another is the best protection against infiltration, disruption and other conditions of repression.
So what is a security culture? It’s a culture where the people know their rights and, more importantly, assert them in all situations. Those who belong to a security culture also know what behaviour compromises security and are quick to work with people who exhibit insecure or oppressive behaviour. Security consciousness becomes a culture when a community as a whole adopts this awareness and demonstrates that those behaviours which violate security are unacceptable.
SECURITY CULTURE MEANS CHALLENGING OPPRESSION
Security culture is about more than just targeting specific behaviours in individuals such as bragging, gossiping or lying. It is also about checking movement behaviours and practices as a whole to ensure that oppressive practices aren’t feeding into intelligence operations being carried out against our community.
Within the histories of groups targeted by COINTELPRO (such as AIM and the BPP), and certainly within the animal rights and environmental movements, there are many example of how oppressive behaviours created conditions ripe for FBI manipulation.
Underlying sexism in some groups has meant that women trying to raise security concerns are not taken seriously, or (on the other end), are not suspected as informers simply because they are women. A tokenise approach to recruitment has lead socialist organisations to bring in new members who fit their ‘ideal’ of what the working class should be - only have them to later turn out working for the British Home Office.
Racism, sexism and homophobia in the movement spread division that create overall weaknesses and create openings easily manipulable by state operatives. Exclusion can make those people who feel marginalised by group practices more open to infiltrators.
Obviously, our movements still have a lot of work to do before we have satisfactorily addressed issues of oppression - but what is important here is a recognition that oppressive behaviours feed into poor community security.
The following section was originally written for an audience engaged, or on the periphery of extralegal activity, and so focuses on “underground” groups. We would like to add that the same rules apply to discussions about individuals involved in or providing support groups considered “terrorist” by western governments (but who are in actual fact, liberation fighters at odds with US foreign policy). It is generally good practice to limit discussion about movement individuals where you are unsure what information about them is “public” knowledge.
As community organisers, a lot of activists like to verbally engage with each other and have no trouble spending hours discussing theory, tactics, and strategy. This is an essential part of building our analysis and work, but in some cases this can put ourselves or others in jeopardy.
WHAT NOT TO SAY
To begin with, there are certain things that are inappropriate to discuss. These things include:
- your own or someone else’s involvement with an underground group
- someone else’s desire to get involved with such a group
- asking others if they are a member of an underground group
- your own or someone else’s participation in any action that was illegal
- someone else’s advocacy for such actions
- your plans or someone else’s plans for a future action
Essentially, it is a bad idea to speak about an individual’s involvement (past, present or future) with illegal activities, or with activities that may raise the interest of the state (such as advocacy of certain groups or tactics). These are unacceptable topics of discussion regardless of whether they are rumour, speculation or personal knowledge.
Please note: this is not to say that it is incorrect to speak about direct action in general terms - just be sure that you don’t link individual activists to specific actions or groups. It is perfectly legal, secure and desirable that people speak out in support of all forms of resistance (though if you’re involved with illegal activity, it is probably best that you don’t openly advocate for breaking the law as that alone can raise state interest in your life).
There are only three times that it is acceptable to speak about specific actions that may be against the law. These are the only situations when it is appropriate to speak about your own or someone else’s involvement or intent to commit an illegal act.
The first situation would be if you were planning an action with other members of your small group (your “cell” or “affinity group”). These discussions should never take place over the Internet (e-mail), phone line, through the mail, or in an activist’s home or car, as these places and forms of communication are frequently monitored. The only people who should hear this discussion would include those who are actively participating in the action. Anyone who is not involved does not need to know and, therefore, should not know.
The second exception occurs after an activist has been arrested and brought to trial. If s/he is found guilty, this activist can freely speak of the actions for which s/he was convicted. However, s/he must never give information that would help the authorities determine who else participated in illegal activities.
The third exception is for anonymous letters and interviews with the media. This must be done carefully and without compromising security. Advice on secure communication techniques can be found at elsewhere on this site.
BOTTOM LINE SECURITY
If you are engaged in activity that is considered illegal, it is best to take a lesson from veteran activists of the direct action movements and only allow a select few to know about your activity. Those few people should consist of only the individuals who you are doing work and actions with and AND NO ONE ELSE!
The reason for these security precautions is obvious: if people don’t know anything, they can’t talk about it. When activists who do not share the same serious consequences know who did an illegal direct action, they are far more likely to talk after being harassed and intimidated by the authorities, because they are not the ones who will go to jail. Even those people who are trustworthy can often be tricked by the authorities into revealing damaging and incriminating information. It is safest for all cell members to keep their involvement in the group amongst themselves. The fewer people who know, the less evidence there is in the long run.
SECURITY VIOLATING BEHAVIOURS
In an attempt to impress others, activists may behave in ways that compromise security. Some people do this frequently - they are habitually gossiping and bragging. Some activists say inappropriate things only when they consume alcohol. Many activists make occasional breaches of security because there was a momentary temptation to say something or hint at something that shouldn’t have been said or implied. In most every situation, the desire to be accepted is the root cause.
Those people who tend to be the greatest security risks are those activists who have low self-esteem and strongly desire the approval of their peers. Certainly it is natural to seek friendship and recognition for our efforts, but it is imperative that we keep these desires in check so we do not jeopardise the safety of other activists or ourselves. People who place their desire for friendship over the importance of the cause can do serious damage to our security.
The following are examples of security-violating behaviours:
- Lying: To impress others, liars claim to have done illegal actions. Such lies not only compromise the person’s security — as cops will not take what is said as a lie— but also hinders solidarity and trust.
- Gossip & Rumour: Some people think they can win friends because they are privy to special information. These gossips will tell others about who did what action or, if they don’t know who did it, guess at who they think did what actions or just spread rumours about who did it. This sort of talk is very damaging. People need to remember that rumours are all that are needed to instigate an investigation, or even lay charges. New anti-terrorist law in both Canada and the United States allows state security forces to carry out raids on individuals based on nothing more than hearsay evidence.
- Bragging: Some people who partake in illegal direct action might be tempted to brag about it to their friends. This not only jeopardises the bragger’s security, but also that of the other people involved with the action (as they may be suspected by association). As well the people who s/he told can be charged as accessories after the fact.
- Indirect-Bragging: Indirect braggers are people who make a big production on how they want to remain anonymous, avoid protests, and stay “underground.” They might not come out and say that they do illegal direct action, but they make sure everyone within earshot knows they are up to something. They are no better than braggers, but they try to be more sophisticated about it by pretending to maintain security. However, if they were serious about security, they would just make up a good excuse as to why they are not as active, or why they can’t make it to the protest . Concealing sensitive information from even trusted comrades is far better than jeopardising underground work.
SELF-EDUCATION TOWARDS LIBERATION
With the above information about security, it should be easier to spot those activists who compromise our movement’s security. So what do we do with people who display these behaviours? Do we shun or expel them from our groups and projects? Actually, no - not for the first security violation, at least.
The unfortunate truth is there are some security-ignorant people in the movement and others who have possibly been raised in a “scene” that thrives on bragging and gossiping. It doesn’t mean these people are bad, but it does mean they need to inform themselves and learn about personal and group security. Even seasoned activists make mistakes when there is a general lack of security consciousness in our groups. And that’s where those of you reading this can help. We must ALWAYS act to inform persons whose behaviour breaches security. If someone you know is bragging about doing an action or spreading security-compromising gossip, it is your responsibility to explain to her or him why that sort of talk violates security and is inappropriate.
You should strive to share this knowledge in a manner that encourages the person’s understanding and changes her/his behaviour. It should be done without damaging the person’s pride. Show your sincere interest in helping him/her to become a more effective activist. Keep your humility and avoid presenting a superior, “holier than-thou” attitude. Such an attitude can raise an individual’s defences and prevent them from listening to and using the advice offered. The goal of addressing these issues with others is to reduce insecure behaviour, rather than showing how much more security-conscious you are.
Share your concerns and knowledge in private, so that the person does not feel as if they are being publicly humiliated. Addressing the person as soon as possible after the security violation increases effectiveness.
If each of us remains responsible for discussing security information with people who slip up, we can dramatically improve security in our groups and activities. When people recognise that lying, gossiping, bragging, and inappropriate debriefing damages both themselves and others, these behaviours will soon end. By developing a culture where breaches of security are pointed out and discouraged, all sincere activists will quickly understand.
DEALING WITH CHRONIC SECURITY PROBLEMS
So what do we do with activists who repeatedly violate security precautions even after being informed several times? Unfortunately for them, the best thing to do is to cut them loose. Discuss the issue openly and ask them to leave your meetings, base-camps and organisations. With law enforcement budgets on the increase and with courts handing down long sentences for political “crimes”, the stakes are too high to allow chronic security offenders to work among us.
By creating a security culture, we have an effective defence against informers and agents who try to infiltrate groups. Imagine an informer who, every time they ask another activist about their activities, receives information about security. It would frustrate the informer’s work. When other activists discovered that she/he continued to violate security precautions after being repeatedly informed, there would be grounds for isolating the person from our groups. And that would be one less informer for us to deal with!
ADOPT A SECURITY CULTURE NOW!
Activists are restless and resistance is on the rise. Some people are adopting radical and confrontational tactics. The more we organise and are effective, the more police forces continue to escalate their activities against us. For direct action movements to continue, we need to consider our security more seriously. Good security should be made one of our strengths.
THE GOLDEN RULE OF SILENCE
It needs to be stressed throughout our movements that no one is under any legal obligation to provide to the police any more information than one’s own name, address and birth date, and this only if one is under arrest. That is it! Saying anything more jeopardises security. Even answering seemingly insignificant questions can assist the police in developing personality profiles on a range of activists. It may not be “evidence” but it is used to give police “leads” on other suspects and construct intent during legal proceedings. The only principled response to police questioning when under arrest is to say nothing more than your name, birth date and address. If
questioned further you can simply say “I have nothing to say except in the presence of my lawyer”.
THE COUNTER-INSURGENCY MODEL
Most Western nation-states follow a model of counter-insurgency developed by a British intelligence expert named Kitson who wrote, Low Intensity Operations, after much field
work in the colonies. He broke down movement development into three stages:
- The Preparatory Phase: is when the movement is small, tends to focus on education,
publishing and groundwork.
- The Non-Violent Phase: is when the movement takes on more of a mass character. Large demonstrations are the norm.
- In the Insurgency Phase: the movement has taken on a popular character. Perhaps a more assertive, guerrilla component has emerged.
Kitson advises that the primary work of the intelligence agency should occur during the preparatory phase. At this time the movements are most vulnerable. They have not experienced a high degree of repression.
They consider talk of security as mere paranoia. As they are not breaking laws they believe that it is safe to organise completely openly. The intelligence agency is therefore able to exploit these conditions and develop detailed dossiers on a wide range of people. The information will be extremely valuable to them later on.
Important historical revolutionary activities and groups began as small, serious-minded projects that grew in spite of surveillance and repression.
It is therefore important to practice security at all points in the movement’s development. State agents gather more than just “hard evidence;” they are interested in knowing about radicals’ beliefs as well.
Police try to control with fear; don’t be intimidated. Remember - If an
agent comes knockin’, do no talkin’.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Informers and Infiltrators
Infiltrators seek information on most radical groups. The return of mass mobilisations and radical actions in anti-globalization, anti-poverty, anti-racism and anti-police brutality demonstrations, as well as declarations to continue struggling in the streets and underground has drawn attention
from the state’s secret police. More infiltrators will be sent into our ranks to try to bribe, entice or manipulate individuals. The extent to which they are able to infiltrate our groups depends on our seriousness and responsibility in learning about, promoting, and working within a security
Radical movements can learn to better identify covert enemies in our projects. Once identified, appropriate action is needed to undo, contain, or remove the danger.
This section is intended to arm you with information on how to spot and deal with informers, infiltrators, and provocateurs in our ranks.
WHO IS AN INFORMER?
There are actually two kinds of informers. The deliberate informer is an undercover agent on the payroll of government or industry. The second type is the activist-turned-informer. Both kinds try to infiltrate our ranks and are equally dangerous to our movements.
Let’s discuss the deliberate informers first. They are often difficult to identify. Informers can be of any age and any profile, but they do have a few discernble methods or operation, or
“modus operandi”. These are:
- The “hang around” type: they are persons who regularly show at meetings and actions but generally don’t get involved. They collect documents, listen to conversations and note who’s who. This observation role is relatively inactive.
- The “sleeper” type: is similar to the “hang around” modus operandi, except that their absorption of information is used to activate their role at a later date.
- The “novice” type: presents a somewhat more active role, but confines themselves to less prominent work. They don’t take initiatives, but the work they do is valued. This helps them build trust and credibility.
- The “super activist” type: they come out of nowhere and all of a sudden, they are everywhere. Whether it’s a meeting, protest, or an action, this person will be right in the thick of it. Keep in mind however that this can also be the mark of a new activist, whose enthusiasm and commitment is so strong that she/he wants to fight the power every minute of the day.
It should be said that with several of these modus operandi, the behaviour is hard to distinguish from a sincere new person’s involvement. How do we tell them apart? Well, a planted infiltrator will ask a lot of questions about the direct action groups, individuals and illegal activities. She/he may suggest targets and volunteer to do reconnaissance as well as take part in the action. Infiltrators also try to build profiles on individuals, their beliefs, habits, friends, and weaknesses. At the same time, infiltrators will shield their true selves from other activists.
Anyone who asks a lot of questions about direct actions isn’t necessarily an infiltrator, but they ARE someone you should be careful with. At the very least, they need to be informed about security issues. New activists should understand that direct action tactics can be risky (though some risks are worth taking!) and that asking a lot of questions endangers people. If the person persists in asking questions, there is a problem and appropriate measures must be taken. Activists who can’t understand the need for security should be shunned and kept away from the movement.
Some types of infiltrators stay in the background and offer material support, other informants may have nothing to do with the group or action, but initially heard certain plans and tipped off the police. Among the more active types of infiltrators can be a gregarious person that quickly wins group trust. Some infiltrators will attempt to gain key forms of control, such as of communications/ secretarial, or finances. Other informants can use charm and sex to get intimate with activists, to better spy or potentially destabilise group dynamics.
Active infiltrators can also be provocateurs specializing in disruptive tactics such as sowing disorder and demoralizing meetings or demos, heightening conflicts whether they are
interpersonal or about action or theory, or pushing things further with bravado and violent proposals. Infiltrators often need to build credibility; they may do this by claiming to have participated in past actions.
Also, infiltrators will try to exploit activist sensibilities regarding oppression and diversity. Intelli-
gence organizations will send in someone who will pose as a person experiencing the common oppression of the particular activist group. For example, in the 1960’s, the Weather Under-
ground (“Weathermen” - a white anti-imperialist armed struggle in the US) was infiltrated by an
“ordinary Joe” informant with a working class image. Black war veterans infiltrated the Black
A fresher example of police infiltration and manipulation tactics is that of Germinal, a group targeted for arrest two days prior to the April 2001 anti-FTAA demonstrations in Quebec
City. Five months prior, the police set up a false transport company and specifically postered opportunities for employment in the vicinity of a Germinal member seeking employment.
The trap worked. Tipped off by an initial informant, two under-cover cops worked for four
months in the group. This operation resulted in the media-hyped “dismantlement” of the group on the eve of the summit. Seven Germinal members were arrested, 5 of whom spent 41 days in preventive custody, only to be released under draconian bail conditions.
The police’s covert action was in part about dismantling the group, but it was also about creating a media/propaganda campaign to justify the police-state security for the summit.
BACKGROUND CHECKS - AN ESSENTIAL TOOL
What are some ways of looking into the possibility that someone is an informer? Firstly, unless you have concrete reasons or evidence that someone is an infiltrator, spreading rumours will
damage the movement. Rumours that you do hear of should be questioned and traced back.
A person’s background can be looked into, especially activism they claimed to have participated in, in other places. Do your contacts in those places know of the person, their involvement? Did problems ever come up? One important advantage of having links with far away places is that it makes it more difficult for informers to fabricate claims about their activities.
What are a person’s means of living? Who are her or his friends? What sorts of contradictions exist between their professed ideals and how they live?
One of our strengths as activists is our ideas and values, our counterculture, our attitudes
towards the dominant society. Our sincerity in discussing these things is also a way of learning
about each other.
When planning for new actions, care must be taken concerning who is approached. As little as
possible should be said about the actual action plan until a person’s political philosophy, ideas about strategy, and levels of risk they are willing to engage in have been discussed on an
abstract basis. If there is a strong basis for believing this person might be interested in the action, then the general idea of an action can be run by them. Only when they have agreed to participate, do they come to the group to discuss action details.
During the trials of activists, police often reveal the kinds of information that they have
gathered concerning our groups and activities. Note what revelations come out of these trials.
What are the possible and likely sources of the information? Speak to persons that have
been arrested and interrogated to see what they may have said to the police, or discussed in
their jail cell.
Placing infiltrators in social justice and revolutionary movements is an established practice. It was done to the Black Panthers, AIM, the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ), and the peace/ anti-war/and anti-nuclear movements on a large scale. Small groups, such as affinity groups, or working groups of larger more open organizations, need to be especially careful with new members. Direct action organizing is ideally done with longstanding, trusted members of the activist community.
This doesn’t mean that no one else should ever be allowed into these groups. On the contrary, if
our movement is to continue to grow, new people should be welcome and recruited; we just
need to keep security in mind and exercise caution at all times.
The Unwitting Informer
Possibly an even greater threat to our movements than the covert operative is the activist-
turned-informer, either unwittingly or through coercion.
The unwitting informer is the activist who can’t keep his/her mouth shut. If someone brags to
you about what they’ve done, make sure this person never has any knowledge that can
incriminate you, because sooner or later, the wrong person will hear of it. These activists don’t
mean to do harm, but their bragging can be very damaging.
It is your responsibility to instruct these people on the importance of security culture.
The other type of activist- informer is the person who cracks under pressure and starts talking to save his or her own skin. Many activists get drawn into situations they are not able to handle, and some are so caught up in the “excitement” that they either don’t realize what the consequences can be, or they just don’t think they’ll ever have to face them.
Keep in mind that the categories of “planted informer” and “activist-turned-informer” can,
and have been blurred. In 1970, during the height of the FLQ’s activities, Carole de Vault - a
young Parti Quebecois (PQ) activist was drawn to the FLQ, but then became a paid police
agent. Her “activism” was with the PQ; she disagreed with the heavier FLQ actions since it
threatened the “legitimate” work of the PQ. Her involvement with the FLQ was as a planted
KNOW YOUR OWN LIMITS
We have to know the possible consequences of every action we take and be prepared to
deal with them. There is no shame in not being able to do an action because of responsibilities or circumstances that make it impossible for you to do jail time at this point in your life.
As long as capitalism and all of its evils exist, there will be resistance. In other words, there
will be plenty of great actions for you to participate in when your life circumstances are more
If others are dependent on you for support, you aren’t willing to lose your job, or drop out of
school or ruin your future career, DON’T DO THE ACTION. If you are addicted to an illicit drug
and/or have a lengthy criminal record, the cops will use this to pressure you for information. If you don’t feel capable of detoxing under interrogation and brutality, or doing a hell of a lot more time than your comrades, DON’T DO THE ACTION.
Make certain that you talk with others in your affinity group about situations that make you
uncertain whether you should be involved in particular actions, especially those that are at a
high risk of being criminalised.
Remember - there is no excuse for turning in comrades to the police - and those activists that
do effectively excommunicate themselves from our movements. We must offer no legal
or jail support to those activists who turn in others for their impact on our movement is far-
reaching and can have devastating effects.
COVERT ACTION OTHER THAN INFILTRATION
Covert (or “Special”) Action from police and secret service is also done outside of the group,
with or without infiltration. These efforts include: intimidation and harassment, blackmail and
manipulation, propaganda, informing employers and security checks, as well as physical sabotage like theft and arson.
Intimidation and harassment can include visits from secret service agents, calling you or
your partner by their first name on the street, thefts where obvious clues are left. Police will try to blackmail people if they want to recruit or neutralise them.
Police uses propaganda in an attempt to poison the atmosphere and manipulate media
and public opinion. In December 1971, when the FLQ was near its end and heavily infiltrated, the RCMP issued a false FLQ communiqué in the name of the “Minerve” cell. The communiqué adopted a hard-line position, denouncing the abandonment of terrorist action by a well-known activist, Pierre Vallières, and urging the continuation of armed struggle.
In Genoa, Italy, police played an active covert role in trying to discredit black bloc anarchists
during the July 2001 meeting of the G8. Several reports reveal that Italian police masked as
black bloc members attacked demonstrators and small shops. With a lack of public information,
the police help manipulate public discourse along the lines of “how do legitimate demonstrators isolate activist thugs?”
Slanderous propaganda can take the form of anonymous letters, or rumours aimed at the
activist milieu. There are also examples where police will make uncorroborated, casual
accusations to journalists that, to use two examples, a person is a drug dealer, or that at a
demonstration, a person aimed a handgun at an officer. It is often for slanderous reasons
that police charge activists with “weapons possession” for having a penknife, or charges of
violence like “assault.”
The growth of the anti-globalization movement has been accompanied by renewed anarchist-scare propaganda on the part of authorities. Politicians and police attempt to massage
public opinion, preparing people for a crack down, in order to legitimate the use of heavier methods of social control, exclusion and repression.
Manipulative disinformation spread through the media needs to be denounced as lies. There
are activist-friendly lawyers who can help us demand retractions and corrections. Speak to the journalists involved, call them on their sloppy, dishonest work, expose their hypocrisy, and complain to the journalists’ ethics body. We can not rely on capitalist, private-media for any kind of fairness.
It is valuable for us to learn more about the covert actions of the police. There exists a long and documented history. Factual information about police covert activities also comes out as evidence presented in court. An important, too often neglected part of our strength is our knowledge of, and our protection from, police action against us.
MOVING AGAINST INFORMERS:
CONSIDERATIONS AND ALTERNATIVES
(Taken from PROTECTING OURSELVES FROM STATE REPRESSION:
A MANUAL FOR REVOLUTIONARY ACTIVISTS. Published in 1984 by
the Anti-Repression Resource Team - Jackson, Mississippi)
Assuming that the security people within the group have suspicions about a group member being an informer/provocateur, it is useful for security/leadership to resolve certain questions both before and after the investigation:
(a) How badly do you want to know whether the person is in agent or not?
Clearly, if the person under suspicion is relatively important to the group’s functioning, then leadership must know one way or the other. The more important the person under suspicion is to the group, the more intensive the investigation. We may suggest methods of investigation which are unorthodox and from a certain point of view morally indefensible. But the question is always how badly the group
needs to know. No group need use all or any of the methods we describe. But under the condition that the correct information is a life-and-death matter for the group, certain drastic measures may be justified.
(b) What will be done if the information is inconclusive?
Often there is not enough evidence to confirm that someone is a police agent, but there
IS enough evidence to confirm certain suspicions. A great deal will depend upon what is at
stake with the person under suspicion. In general, the choices come down to
- 1) labelling the person a security risk and acting accordingly;
- 2) doing nothing outwardly but continuing the investigation;
- 3) isolating the person from sensitive work but keeping him or her in the group;
- 4) moving to a higher stage of investigation.
(c) What will be done If the person does turn out to be an agent?
While common sense dictates that the person be exposed and severed from the group, other actions might be initiated. If the presence of the agent is a real threat to the group, then the agent should be neutralised in an effective manner. Usually wide exposure of the agent will accomplish an effective neutralisation. But if the agent is no great threat to the group’s functioning, the agent staying inside the group may be useful for other purposes.
The group might decide that they prefer to keep the agent, rather than risk not knowing who
would replace a known quantity. It the agent is not in a sensitive position, can be monitored and
isolated from important work, the group may want to keep such an agent at a low organizational
level. Or the agent might be given tasks that seem to be sensitive but are in reality not
crucial to the group. Under the cover of doing “sensitive” work, false and semi-false information
about the group can be relayed to the intelligence agencies that the agent belongs to. Or perhaps certain information that is in fact true about the group can be willfully discredited by creation of pseudo-events and/or false information. Remember that when the intelligence agencies have a great deal of contradictory information, it decreases their ability to act decisively against the group.
(d) What are the responsibilities to other groups of the group’s knowledge of an informer?
If the group makes a decision to sever connection with the agent it is certainly the group’s responsibility to quietly contact leadership in other groups to warn them about the agent. Often public exposure is done through the group’s newspaper/newsletter/journal; in this case, the news
article should be sent to a wide variety of groups. The more pressing problem is the instance
where there are only suspicions but not decisive evidence.
Experience has shown that suspicions are taken seriously only when then is a political bond that exists between persons with long movement experience. People who have been in the movement a long time, and who are known to each other and trusted as dedicated movement people, can convey agent suspicions that will get a favourable hearing or be readily believed. This “old hands trust network” is relatively independent of political point of view; veteran leaders of rival radical organizations can freely and easily exchange information on matters of security.