99%ers, Luddites! Abolitionists! Union Organizers! MonkeyWarriors!
Monkey Wrenchers! Anarchists! Black Bloc!
Other Revolutionary Minded Folks!
From large uprisings challenging the entire political structure, to isolated battles over the working conditions of a single factory, people have struggled to create a better world from that in which they live. Governments have always responded by jailing activists and revolutionaries using their courts and their police forces to maintain the status quo. It is now time that we as activists had a code of conduct that will assist in keeping the prying eyes of the government and its myriad of agencies and spies from disrupting our efforts in the movement.
As our direct action movement becomes more effective government surveillance and harassment of activists will increase. To minimize the destructiveness of the political repression that is currently sweeping Amerika it is imperative that we create a security culture within our current movement. It is with this thought in mind that this essay is put together and distributed in such a manner.
This essay is essential reading material for anyone and everyone who is interested in becoming an activist or is currently an activist. Anyone who is associated with groups that advocate and/or utilize sabotage, animal liberation, or more militant tactics should pay extra special attention to the contents of this essay. The advice herein also applies to anyone who is associated with groups that practice civil disobedience especially since membership often overlaps and gossip travels freely between such groups. It is therefore imperative that anyone who even thinks that they might someday want to fight the system under which we find ourselves living should pay extra special attention to the contents of this essay.
Even if you have never picked up a monkey wrench or been arrested for civil disobedience. Even if you think you have nothing to hide these guidelines will enhance your personal safety as well as the movements overall effectiveness.
Grand Juries will go after activists from all portions of the movement and the government is not beyond fabricating evidence to convict mainstream organizers if given the opportunity to build a case, (As Leonard Peltier and others serve as examples of). The history of the FBI’s COINTELPRO operations should never be forgotten. The United States government has targeted groups that have advocated sabotage and groups that have not advocated such activities. They have infiltrated and targeted groups that are markedly militant in nature and other groups that are pacifists by nature. The governments security machinery (FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals, State Police, Local Police, Courts, Prisons, Parole Officers and the newly created Homeland Security Service) all serve political objectives. There are more than 200 political prisoners in the United States who can testify to this from firsthand experience. And an uncounted number of suspected terrorist suspects being held in “Black Sites” around the globe and in such places as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. These people are forgotten and subjected to the harshest tortures that have been devised by intelligence agencies to date. We cannot forget that the enemy of our enemy is our friend. By banding together regardless of our ethnic or political differences we can mount an effective campaign against the global machinery that is quickly destroying the entire planet. The battle is not about a specific creature going extinct or about one group’s civil rights any longer; it is now about the distribution of wealth and the oppression of the poor on a global scale. By adopting a security culture we can defeat various counterintelligence operations that would otherwise disrupt both mainstream organizing and underground resistance.
SO WHAT IS “SECURITY CULTURE?”
Security culture is a culture where the people know their rights and more importantly assert those rights. Those who belong to a security culture also know what behavior compromises security and they are quick to educate those people who out of ignorance, forgetfulness, or personal weakness partake in insecure behavior. This security consciousness becomes a culture when the group as a whole makes security violations socially and morally unacceptable in the group.
WHAT NOT TO SAY!
To begin with there are certain things that are inappropriate to discuss. These things include:
• Your involvement 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 participation or someone else’s participation in any action that was illegal.
• Your plans or someone else’s plans for a future action.
Can you see a pattern? It is wrong to speak about a specific individual’s involvement in or (past, present, future or alleged) with any activities be the activities legal or otherwise. These are inappropriate topics of discussion regardless of whether it is rumor, speculation or personal knowledge.
Please Note: No one is claiming it is wrong to speak about direct actions in general terms. It is perfectly legal, secure and desirable that people speak out in support of Monkeywrenching and all forms of resistance. The danger lies in linking individual activists to specific actions or groups.
There are only three times when it is acceptable to speak about this information.
1.) When you are planning an action with other members of your small group (your “cell” or “affinity group”). However you should never discuss actions over the internet (e-mail), or the phone, through the mail, or inside an activists home or car because these places and forms of communication are frequently monitored. The only people who should hear this discussion are those individuals who are actively partaking in this particular action.
Anyone who is not involved does not need to know and therefore should not know!
2.) After an activist has been arrested and brought to trial. If she/he is found guilty this activist can freely speak of the actions for which she/he was convicted. However she/he must never give information that would help the authorities determine who else participated in illegal activities (see the Prisoners Dilemma in Game Theory for a more detailed explanation)
3.) Anonymous letters and interviews with the media. This must be done very carefully and without compromising security. Advice on security communication techniques can be found in other underground publications.
These are the ONLY situations when it is appropriate to speak about your own or someone else’s involvement in or intent to commit illegal direct actions.
Veteran activists only allow a select few to know about their involvement with direct action groups. And those few individuals consist of those individuals with whom they do the action and no one else.
The reason for this security precaution is quite obvious to even the most dimwitted person. If people do not know anything, they can not talk about it. The only people who know the secret are those who actually face the consequences of the action be it jail time, fines or worse. If other activists who do not share the same serious consequences know who did an illegal direct action they are far more likely to talk if harassed or intimidated by authorities because they will not face the same harsh consequences. Even those people who are trustworthy can often be tricked into revealing damaging and incriminating information.
So it is safest for all those involved to keep their involvement in the group amongst themselves. The fewer people who know, the less evidence there is to bust them with.
SECURITY VIOLATING BEHAVIORS
Often 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 or take other drugs. Many activists make occasional breaches of security because there was a momentary temptation to say something or hint at something that should not have been said or implied. In most every situation the desire to be accepted is the root cause of such security breaches.
Those activists who tend to be the greatest security risks are people 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 selfish desires in check so that we do not jeopardize 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 and to the movement.
The following are examples of security violating behaviors:
INAPROPRIATE QUESTIONER: Some people are curious about activism and want to hear stories. These people pose the greatest potential risk to security. They may repeat information about actions or alliances, which would otherwise remain secret. They are the most likely group of people to be law enforcement agents. Someone who has an intense curiosity concerning activities undertaken or that are planned is someone you should be very cautious around. A person who asks another member of the movement concerning incriminating evidence about one or more other members of the movement, such a person should be reported to the other members of the movement as quickly and as quietly as possible. People who advocate armed resistance or who promote destructive activities have been agent provocateurs in the past and those behaving in this manner should be viewed as such in the here and now.
LYING: To impress others, liars claim to have done illegal actions. Such lies not only compromise the person’s security (as the police will not take what is said as a lie) but these claims also hinder movement solidarity and trust.
GOSSIPING: Some weak characters think they can win friends by displaying that they are privy to special information. These gossips will tell others about a particular action. Gossips may talk about who they guess might be involved or they will just spread rumors about who did it. This sort of talk is very damaging. People need to remember that mere rumors are sufficient evidence to initiate a grand jury.
BRAGGING: Some people who partake in illegal action might be tempted to brag about it to their friends. If someone did such a thing it would not only jeopardize the security of the bragger and the other people who might have been involved but it places the people who he/she told at risk also. They can then be turned into accessories after the fact. They can also be subpoenaed by a grand jury and forced between lying to the grand jury (a very serious offense), refusing to cooperate (potentially resulting in months of imprisonment), or betraying the movement by repeating the information that they were needlessly told. An activist who brags also sets a horrible example for other activists.
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 they do illegal direct actions 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 about why they are not as active or as to why they can not make it to the protest (that kind of lying is acceptable and often encouraged).
DISRUPTOR: Also known as a provocateur, these people tend to gravitate towards the decision makers or real movers and shakers of a group particularly if the group is effective. They will often begin to spread rumors and generally lend themselves to the disintegration of a group and to falsehoods abounding. These people are the type to say “I heard something I think you should know, but you can not tell so and so I said this.” They will sow the seeds of discord and disruption often bringing the group they are involved with to its knees if not dealing a death blow to it all together. It is often long after the fact that those that were involved with a disruptor will realize what has happened if ever. A truly convincing disruptor may keep the charade going for a very long time and fool many people. These people can cause serious damage to a group, a movement or to attempts to build coalitions amongst varying groups or movements. They often will pose as trustworthy comrades and use their positions of confidence to influence those that serve their own means or those of their employers which can be other groups, or federal, state, local or international agencies depending on the nature of you group.
EDUCATE TO LIBERATE!
With what we now know about security it is rather easy to spot those activists who compromise our movements’ security. So what do we do with these people? Do we excommunicate them from our movement? Actually no. At least not for their “first” mistake.
The unfortunate truth is that there are numerous security ignorant people in the movement and others who have been raised in a “scene” that thrives on bragging and gossip. It does not mean that these people are bad but it does mean they need to be educated. Even seasoned activists can make serious mistakes when it comes to security when there is a general lack of security consciousness in our groups. And that is where those of you who are reading this can help. We must never allow a breach of security to occur without acting to correct it. If an acquaintance of yours is bragging about doing an action or is spreading security compromising gossip it is your responsibility to explain to him/her why that sort of talk violates security and is inappropriate within our movement.
You should strive to educate the offending party in such a manner that encourages them to listen and to change the offending behavior. It should be done without damaging their pride. You should be humble and sincerely interested in helping them to become a better person and a more effective activist. Do not maintain a “holier than thou” attitude. This attitude will inevitably raise their defenses and prevent them from absorbing or utilizing any advice that you might offer. Remember that the goal of educating them is to change the behavior that violated security not to boost your own ego by showing them how much more security conscious you are.
If possible the educational session should be conducted in private so the person does not feel humiliated by a public reprimand. The educational session should occur as soon as possible after the mistake to increase its effectiveness. Using specific quotes from them often helps illustrate the point being made rather well if used correctly.
If each of us takes on the responsibility of educating those who slip up we can dramatically improve movement security. Once we recognize inappropriate questioning, lying, gossiping, bragging and indirect bragging as the damaging character flaws that they are then it is that they will be quick to end. When we develop a culture of security where breaches result in an immediate response all sincere activists will quickly get with the program.
DEALING WITH CHRONIC SECURITY PROBLEMS
So what do we do with activists who repeatedly violate security precautions even after multiple educational sessions? It is an unfortunate but necessary consequence to cut them loose and kick them out of our meetings, base-camps, and organizations. With the Homeland Security Services new powers derived from the Patriot Act and the FBI doubling in size and with courts handing down stiffer and stiffer sentences the stakes are far too high to allow chronic security offenders to continue to work amongst us.
By creating a security culture we have an effective defense against informers, agents and provocateurs that infiltrate groups or attempt to do so. Imagine an informer who every time they asked another specific activist about a person’s involvement with some group or action received a reprimand and an educational session on security culture. That informer would quickly get frustrated. Once activists discovered that they continued to violate security precautions after being repeatedly reprimanded they would have grounds to dismiss them. That would then be one less informer with a lot less information to be dealt with later, perhaps in court.
DON’T STOP HERE!
It is also imperative that each of us understands our rights. Make it a priority that everyone in your group learns about the following topics:
• Grand Juries and how to deal with them.
• COINTELPRO tactics for destroying movements and how to protect ourselves and the movement.
• What to do if the cops knock on your door.
• What to do if the cops stop you on the street.
• What to do if you are arrested.
The following are indispensable resources:
• War at Home by Brian Glick (South End Press)
• If an Agent Knocks, a pamphlet by The Center for Constitutional Rights
• P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act
ADOPT A SECURITY CULTURE NOW!
Activists are restless and resistance is on the rise. People are adopting more and more effective tactics. Now more than ever resistance poses a serious threat to the status quo in this country. Our increased activity and effectiveness mean that the FBI, ATF, and local police and Homeland Security will continue to escalate their COINTELPRO activities against activists. If we want our direct action to continue it is imperative we start tightening our security and taking ourselves more seriously. Reread this essay several times. Make copies of it and distribute them to everyone that is active. Do not become lax in the practice of Security Culture lest you find yourself facing a Grand Jury, Arrest, Deportation, Incarceration, or a Military Tribunal these techniques will save your life if practiced mindfully and often.
A PARTING NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
The fight must no longer be about merely the war; the focus must shift to the economic disparity that exists across the globe. When five percent of the population controls over eighty percent of the wealth, while failing on every level to meet basic responsibilities, the time has come to unite everyone. We must set aside our differences, whatever they may be, and band together to fight the corporations that are killing us and the very planet that we must all share. No longer shall we sit on the sidelines watching as corporations kill indiscriminately so that a select few can maximize profits. No longer can we afford the luxuries of bigotry and disdain for our brothers and sisters. We need to stand together; for it is through unity, and unity alone, that we will overcome these greedy, corporate, war-mongers.
GOOD SECURITY IS CERTAINLY THE STRONGEST DEFENSE WE HAVE!