[Hpn] Big Brother is Watching You
Thu, 30 Nov 2000 12:42:39 -0700
this article is particularly salient if the Bush gang's election theft is
successful. I have this weird feeling that the game plan used in Philly is
now going to become standard operational procedure for protests across
we also now may be forced to define how to defend our communities from the
state in a context of non-violence. any thoughts?
Big Brother is Watching You
Philadelphia undercover cops illegally infiltrated protest groups before RNC
Here's some helpful hints on making it harder for police agents next time
Over the past year as more militant tactics at demonstrations have made the
public and the police increasingly aware of an "anarchist menace", the level
of police repression has also been increasing. The extreme police reactions
in Washington, DC, Philadelphia and Los Angeles were easy to observe: in
Philadelphia, hundreds were arrested and held for weeks, some on million
dollar bail for acts that would normally be minor misdemeanors. Convergence
centers were preemptively raided in DC and Philly. LA police fired rubber
bullets and pepper spray at fleeing demonstrators.
What is impossible to measure, but which must also be taking place, is that
the level of police infiltration, surveillance and undercover disruption of
radical groups has been increasing since Seattle. In 10 years, if we're
lucky, a Congressional investigation will reveal what's been up over the
last year. Activists in the 1960s didn't learn about the full depths of
COINTELPRO (the code name for the FBI's counter-Intelligence program) until
years later. But the fact that we currently don't know how we're being
watched or disrupted doesn't mean it isn't happening. And it doesn't mean we
can't take measures to protect ourselves.
A fascinating example of infiltration at the Republican National Convention
has already surfaced. A month after police preemptively raided the
"convergence center" in Philly where activists were organizing protests
against the RNC and making props for demonstrations, the search warrant
application filed in Court before the raid was unsealed. The unsealed
application revealed that state police officers posing as demonstrators had
infiltrated the convergence center and worked there for four days gathering
information before the raid. The day after the raid, Philadelphia's Police
Commissioner John F. Timoney lied to the public when he denied police had
"infiltrated any group." The applications were sealed for a month because
the police claimed that earlier "disclosure of this affidavit could endanger
the lives" of the infiltrating cops.
Under a Philadelphia mayoral directive, city police were prohibited from
infiltrating protest groups. Instead, city Detective William Egenlauf
submitted an affidavit stating "This investigation is utilizing several
Pennsylvania state troopers in an undercover capacity that have infiltrated
several of the activist groups planning to commit numerous illegal direct
actions." According to the affidavit, the officers assisted "in the
construction of props to be used during protests" and overheard discussions
in which protesters planned to use "puppets . . . as blockades." The
affidavits also stated that police had monitored email lists and websites.
In a quaint throwback to the cold war (and apparently showing police
confusion about the difference between communists and anarchists) the
affidavit stated that funds for one organization "allegedly originate with
Communist and leftist parties and from sympathetic trade unions" or from
"the former Soviet-allied World Federation of Trade Unions."
Amazingly, many people working at the convergence center sensed that four
large men claiming to be union carpenters who appeared a few days before the
convention were police! The four-suspiciously named Tim, Harry, George and
Ryan-were reportedly politically uninformed and stuck out in the youthful,
slim, heavily pierced convergence center crowd. Apparently, the police
weren't very worried that their agents would be detected, or else they might
have tried to find officers who fit-in better. (DEA agents, for instance,
reportedly usually try to look the part-just stand by the Federal Building
some day and check out all the outrageous hippies.)
While it's important not to be paranoid about anyone with a different
fashion statement, a certain measure of discretion is important when
"illegal" direct action is being organized. As a public service, here are
some tips (some from the 2001 Slingshot Organizer) on dealing with
government surveillance and disruption:
Assume you are under surveillance if you are involved in organizing mass
direct action or anything illegal, and take precautions. Don't discuss
sensitive matters on the telephone, through the mail, by email, or in your
home, car or political office/center. Keep written materials and lists of
individuals secure and never bring address books to protests where arrest is
possible - if you're arrested, the police may investigate all your friends.
Never discuss illegal activity
It is never okay to:
* ask about someone else's illegal activities;
* discuss your involvement or someone else's involvement with an
* discuss someone else's desire to get involved with such a group;
* talk about your participation or someone else's participation in any
action that was illegal;
* talk about someone else's advocacy for such actions
* discuss your plans or someone else's plans for a future action.
The only time it's okay to speak about illegal actions is when you are
planning them with the small group of trusted people who will be doing the
action with you.
Adopt a Security Culture
Activists organizing mass protests, direct action or anything illegal should
make it as difficult as possible for police agencies by adopting a security
culture. Activists who are part of a security culture know behaviors that
compromise security and quickly educate anyone who acts in a way that
violates or threatens security. When all members of a scene understand
security and correct mistakes, unsecure behavior should become unacceptable
and will stop. This frustrates police surveillance and infiltrators because
they can't obtain information or plant it.
People in the scene who gossip, brag or ask for unnecessary information
about underground groups or illegal activities are a severe danger to the
movement. The first time this happens, take such a person aside and gently
educate them in private about why such talk is a danger. Be careful not to
preach, injure the individual's pride, or raise defenses and prevent them
from absorbing the advise. If an individual repeatedly engages in gossip,
bragging and/or seeking unnecessary information about inappropriate topics
after repeated educational talks, the person should be removed from any
position of trust in movement by being kicked out of meetings,
organizations, base camps, etc. Such a person is a grave risk at best, and a
police agent looking to provoke or entrap others at worst.
Infiltrators attempt to get information about organizations, disrupt them by
creating splits and disorganization in meetings and in individual's lives,
and entrap activists by urging insecure illegal activity. They often disrupt
groups, ironically, by promoting destructive witch hunts for infiltrators!
Carefully check out the authenticity of any disturbing letter, rumor, phone
call etc. before acting on it. Ask the supposed source if she or he is
responsible. Don't try to expose a suspected agent or informer without solid
proof. It generally works better to criticize what a disruptive person says
and does without speculating as to why. Avoid entrapment by only doing
illegal direct action with people you know well and trust. Avoid
government-sponsored splits in movement groups by dealing openly and
honestly with differences within our movements in race, gender, class,
sexual orientation, etc. before the FBI can exploit them.
If you are subpoenaed by a grand jury, don't try to deal with it alone.
Contact a lawyer and movement friends for support immediately. Grand juries
have the power to hold you in prison for months if you fail to answer
questions, and lying to a grand jury is a serious crime.
For more information, read War at Home by Brian Glick from South End Press,
116 S. Botolph St., Boston, 20115.
(By the way, after the raid, police chief Timoney displayed items seized
during the raid, which included "two massive slingshots.")
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107,
this material is distributed without charge or profit
to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for
non-profit research and educational purposes only.**
9000+ articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people
Year 2000 posts
INFO & to join/leave list - Tom Boland
Nothing About Us Without Us -
Democratize Public Policy
A Publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
468 Turk St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 / 346.3740 - voice
415 / 775.5639 - fax