SECURITY GUIDELINES FOR MOVEMENT ACTIVISTS
WAR AT HOME: Covert Action Against US Activists and What We Can Do About It
Copyright (c) 1989 by Brian Glick
Published by South End Press, 116 St. Botolph St., Boston MA 02115.
from PeaceNet via The NY Transfer 718-448-2358 & 718-448-2683
GUIDELINES FOR COPING WITH INFILTRATION
1. Be careful to avoid pushing a new or hesitant member, or one facing
personal, financial, or legal problems, to take risks beyond what that person
is ready to handle, particularly in situations which could result in arrest
and prosecution. People in positions of legal or other jeopardy have proven
especially vulnerable to recruitment as informers.
2. Deal openly with the form and content of what anyone says and does,
whether the person is a suspected agent, has emotional problems, or is simply
a sincere but naive or confused person new to the work.
3. Establish a process through which anyone who suspects an infiltrator (or
other covert intervention) can express his or her fears without scaring
others. Experienced people assigned this responsibility can do a great deal
to help a group maintain its morale and focus while, at the same time,
consolidating information and deciding how to use it. This plan works best
when accompanied by group discussion of the danger of paranoia, so that
everyone understands the reasons for following the established procedure.
4. Take steps to alert other activists any time an agent or informer admits
their role or you have a concrete and verified basis for certain knowledge.
(Make sure you have not been taken in by a snitch jacket.) Act immediately and
use every available means, including photographs, aliases, identifying traits,
and a description of methods of operation. In the 1960s, some agents managed,
even after their exposure in one community, to move on and repeat their
performance in others.
5. Be very cautious in attempting to expose a suspected, but unadmitted,
agent or informer. The best approach depends on the nature of your group. A
close-knit, self-selecting group of experienced activists, especially one
which contemplates illegal activity, should exclude anyone who is not fully
trusted by everyone involved. If the stakes are high, don't be afraid to
trust your intuition.
An open, public organization trying to reach out and involve new people faces
a very different situation. Here, an attempted exposure carries enormous
risks. The suspect may claim to be the victim of discrimination and may
falsely finger his or her accusers as agents. In the process, activists may
be turned against one another and lose the mutual trust and respect which is
vital to any successful organization. New members and potential recruits may
be scared away. The group's attention and energy may be so diverted that it
is no longer able to move effectively toward its main goals.
Activists who suspect infiltration of a public political organization should
carefully evaluate alternatives to attempted exposure. The appropriate
response depends on the kind of agent or informer you think you are dealing
A suspect who seems to play a passive, or even a constructive role may
secretly be undermining a group's work or passing information to the FBI and
police. In this situation, it often is most productive to discreetly limit
the suspect's opportunities without making your suspicions public. Take steps
to deny access to organizational funds, financial records, mailing lists,
office equipment, planning and security committees, discussions of illegal
activity, and meetings that plan criminal defense strategy. Go public if you
later catch the person in the act (but not merely with incriminating evidence
which could have been planted or forged).
A different approach is required if the suspect is an active disrupter or
provocateur. In this case, it is most constructive to confront the form and
content of what the suspect says and does, without making an issue of why he
or she says or does it. Start with a discreet private talk, since the suspect
could be merely naive or misguided. If the harmful behavior persists, you
probably will have to take it on in an open group discussion. Plan in advance
how to limit the risk of disruption and demoralization. If you need to
exclude or expel the suspect, be sure to inform other activists of your
decision and reasons.
GUIDELINES FOR COPING WITH PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE
1. Verify and double-check all arrangements for housing, transportation,
meeting rooms, and so forth. Don't assume movement organizers are at fault if
something goes wrong.
2. Don't believe everything you hear or read. Check with the supposed source
of the information before acting on it. Use a neutral third party if
necessary. Personal communication among estranged activists, however
difficult or painful, could have countered many FBI operations which proved
effective in the 1960s.
3. When you discover bogus materials, false media stories, or forged
documents, publicly disavow them and expose the true source, insofar as you
4. When you hear a negative, confusing, or potentially harmful rumor, don't
pass it on. Instead, discuss it with a trusted friend or with the people in
your group who are responsible for dealing with such matters.
5. Don't gossip about personal tensions, rivalries, and disagreements. This
just feeds and amplifies rumors. Moreover, if you gossip where you can be
overheard, you may add to the pool of information that the FBI and police use
to divide our movements. (Note that the CIA has the technology to read mail
without opening it and that telephones, including pay phones, can be tapped by
a computer programmed to record conversations in which specified words appear.)
6. Be sure to make time in group meetings for open, honest discussion and
resolution of "personal" as well as "political" issues. This is the best way
to reduce tensions and hostilities and the urge to gossip about them.
7. Warn your parents, friends, neighbors, and others who may be contacted by
government agents. Consider telling them what you are doing and why before
they hear the FBI's version. Provide them with materials which explain their
legal rights and the dangers of talking with the FBI. Offer to connect them
with lawyers and support groups.
GUIDELINES FOR COPING WITH HARASSMENT THROUGH THE LEGAL SYSTEM
1. Don't talk to the FBI, and don't let them in without a warrant. Keep
careful records of what they say and do. Tell others that they came. (For
more detailed advice and information, see the box on page 58.)
2. If an activist does talk, or makes some other honest error, explain the
serious harm that could result. Be firm, but do not ostracize a sincere
person who slips up. Isolation only weakens a person's ability to resist. It
can drive someone out of the movement and even into the hands of the police.
3. If FBI or other government agents start to harass people in your area,
alert everyone to refuse to cooperate. Warn your friends, neighbors, parents,
children, and anyone else who might be contacted. Make sure people know what
to do and where to call for help. Get literature, films, and other materials
through the organizations listed in the back of this book. Set up community
meetings with speakers who have resisted similar harassment elsewhere. Contact
sympathetic reporters. Consider "Wanted" posters with photos of the agents, or
guerrilla theater which follows them through the city streets.
4. Organizations listed in the back can also help resist grand jury
harassment. Community education is important, along with child care and legal,
financial, and other support for those who protect a movement by refusing to
divulge information. If a respected activist is subpoenaed for obviously
political reasons, consider trying to arrange for sanctuary in a local church
5. If your group engages in civil disobedience or finds itself under intense
police pressure, start a bail fund, train some members to deal with the legal
system, and develop an ongoing relationship with sympathetic local lawyers.
6. If you anticipate arrest, do not carry address books or any other
materials which could help the FBI and police.
7. While the FBI and police are entirely capable of fabricating criminal
charges, your non-political law violations make it easier for them to set you
up. Be careful with drugs, tax returns, traffic tickets, and so forth. The
point is not to get paranoid, but to make a realistic assessment based on your
visibility and other relevant circumstances.
8. When an activist has to appear in court, make sure he or she is not alone.
The presence of supporters is crucial for morale and can help influence
9. Don't neglect jailed activists. Organize visits, correspondence, books,
food packages, child care, etc. Keep publicizing their cases.
10. Publicize FBI and police abuses through sympathetic journalists and your
own media (posters, leaflets, public access cable television, etc.). Don't let
the government and corporate media be the only ones to shape public
perceptions of FBI and police attacks on political activists.
GUIDELINES FOR COPING WITH EXTRALEGAL FORCE AND VIOLENCE:
1. Establish security procedures appropriate to your group's level of
activity and discuss them thoroughly with everyone involved. Control access to
keys, files, letterhead, funds, financial records, mailing lists, etc.
2. Keep duplicates of valuable documents, records, files, computer disks,
etc. in a safe place separate from your home or office.
3. Remember that cars are easily broken into (especially trunks) and that
trash can easily be rifled and searched.
4. Make a public issue of any form of crude harassment. Contact your
congressperson. Call the media. Demonstrate at your local FBI, police, or
right-wing organization's office. Turn the attack into an opportunity for
explaining how domestic covert action threatens fundamental human rights.
5. Keep careful records of break-ins, thefts, bomb threats, raids, brutality,
conspicuous surveillance, and other harassment. They will help you to discern
patterns and to prepare reports and testimony.
6. Share this information and your experiences combatting such attacks with
the Movement Support Network and other groups which document and analyze
repression and resistance countrywide. (See resource groups listing in back of
7. If you experience or anticipate intense harassment, develop contingency
plans and an emergency telephone network so you can rapidly mobilize community
support and media attention. Consider better locks, window bars, alarm
systems, fireproof locked cabinets, etc.
8. Be sure that some members are well trained in first aid. Keep medical
supplies up-to-date and know how to contact sympathetic doctors and nurses and
get to the nearest hospital.
9. Make sure your group designates and prepares other members to step in if
leaders are jailed or otherwise incapacitated. The more each participant is
able to think for herself or himself and take responsibility, the greater the
group's capacity to cope with crises.
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