It’s almost amusing to watch the same people who argued in favor of mass surveillance (for safety reasons of course), suddenly argue against it because Trump is President-elect. Slate opened their recent article with the statement “Donald Trump has shown he’ll stop at nothing to humiliate and intimidate his critics,” blissfully gliding over the part where the intelligence community has actually been used to identify, track and even punish people it deemed politically undesirable (they mentioned it back in January, but believed it was only against ‘people of color’).

Now EFF has come out with a list of digital security tips for protestors. While EFF’s been against mass surveillance since Day 1, their article contains a very clear warning that people seem unwilling to wrap their heads around–especially those in the patriot movement who love to go to rallies.

Many protesters may not be aware of the unfortunate fact that exercising their First Amendment rights may open themselves up to certain risks. Those engaging in peaceful protest may be subject to search or arrest, have their movements and associations mapped, or otherwise become targets of surveillance and repression.

With this statement, EFF is literally voicing something that we all know is unconstitutional. This is not how it’s supposed to be. Going to a protest or rally (a peaceful one, not the idiotic, violent events going on now) should not be cause for anything to happen to you. The fact that EFF can say this so plainly, as a matter of fact, should bother you to your core. It should leave you with no doubt that you do not live in a free country. Let me say that again in an even clearer way:

You do not have freedom of speech, and you do not have freedom to protest. To anyone who says differently, I point to the 70+ years of proven government action against those with ‘dissenting’ political views. The viewpoint targeted has changed depending on the administration and the decade, but the result is the same: 1) identify group, 2) engage in propaganda efforts to ‘prove’ to the populace that they are a menace because of their beliefs, 3) maybe toss up a false flag or two to drive home the point, 4) infiltrate and entrap, 5)  ad nauseum. Just because they haven’t actually hauled YOU away yet doesn’t mean a thing. You need to understand that right now, YOU, as a believer in freedom and limited government, are the target. I don’t care who the President-elect is, I don’t care what his promises are, I don’t care how much you think the tide is turning. I don’t even care how many rallies you’ve gone to or organized that went just fine. It only takes a single second for it to all go wrong.

If that still doesn’t convince you, consider this: The JTTF is actively investigating people in the patriot movement. Think about what JTTF stands for: Joint Terrorism Task Force. A unit made up of people from every level of law enforcement, tasked with finding terrorists, is what’s investigating the movement you are claiming membership in. Do the math. If you need an idea of what JTTF does, take a gander:

Police collected names, home addresses, personal descriptions, and other information on individuals, including writing down license plates of vehicles used by those attending peaceful protests. This appeared to be in violation of a city policy prohibiting the collection of intelligence “unless such information directly relates to criminal conduct or activity and there is reasonable suspicion that the subject of the information may be involved in criminal conduct or activity.”

Some of the targets were designated in the records as “criminal extremists” despite being clearly nonviolent. The records also showed that an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force collected information and created files “on the activities of peaceful protesters who have no connection to terrorism or any other criminal activity,” according to the ACLU.

You might be thinking “so what—they can come and get me if they’re feeling froggy,” but you’d be missing the point; actually, you’d be missing several of them.

  1. Subject to search and arrest means exactly that. Getting searched means they go through every single inch of your house, your garage, your shed, your desk, etc. Maybe you don’t care about your own info. What about the list of group members you have? The list of frequencies your group uses? The list of critical information you made as a part of your OPSEC setup? How many people are put in danger if you get searched? If you’re not thinking in those terms, quite frankly, someone in your group should throat punch you.
  2. And what about the arrest part? As I’ve mentioned about a hundred times, if you get arrested, three things happen:
    • You’re out of the fight
    • You’re now in THEIR world, forced to play by THEIR rules, and subject to all manner of physical, emotional and mental torment from guards and other inmates alike.
    • You’re now forced to use whatever resources you have for your defense, plus now you’re asking for others to donate THEIR hard-earned resources they need for their families. Good job. If there is any possible way for you to NOT get arrested, you need to consider doing that.
  3. Having your associations and movements mapped is not a good thing either. Sure, we’re all being surveilled. But you don’t want the extra special attention of targeted surveillance. What do your associations and movements have in common? Yup…they both mean putting others in danger. If they’re tracking where you go and who you associate with, specifically, then everyone who works with you or associates with you is now fair game.
  4. One more thing…are you willing to bet your life that none of them, if approached, would flip on you? Are you willing to wager your kids growing up with their parent in prison?

This isn’t saying that civil disobedience is always a bad thing. I’ve done it. There are plenty of pictures of me doing it. Lots of us have, probably including you. I’m saying before you do it publicly, do the risk assessment. Game out the possibles. If you don’t have the resources to fight any charges, if your kids are still little and need their parents, if you’re the primary breadwinner for your family, you might want to rethink your desire to go be loud and proud.

There are a hundred things you can do that are arguably far more effective in the bigger picture than planting your face all over their surveillance. Of course, that would also require you to not care if you get ‘credit’ for it. It would require you to be okay with certain folks calling into question your “commitment” because you’re not “standing.” I know how that goes, because I used to be one of the folks calling out those who didn’t go to rallies. I was absolutely, completely wrong, and I say that as clearly as I can.

If you want to go to rallies, I understand that, and I respect that. It’s theoretically your right to do so, even if that right isn’t truly respected by government. If you do choose that route, however, take the necessary precautions. Have money set aside for your bail and defense so you aren’t dependent on others if you get nailed. Have a plan for how your family will be cared for. And in the meantime, learn to protect yourself. Follow the list of steps to take to secure your information as much as you can. Practice need to know.

And don’t be like I was. If people don’t want to go to your rally, let them be. You have no idea what they’re already involved in; they might just be doing far more than you are. If they’re doing it right, you’ll never know.

About Kit Perez

Kit Perez is a liberty activist, longtime writer, and partisan intelligence geek specializing in deception detection (through Statement Analysis) and HUMINT. She is prior Air Force, holds a degree with honors in Counterintelligence and is currently working on her master's thesis in Intelligence Studies. She also writes at Recovering Statist, Zelman Partisans, and other places that put up with her.

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