Decentralized Cell Operations: Can We Learn From Criminals?

One thing the patriot movement dearly loves is big, loud groups with hierarchies and leaders and lots of positions for everyone to aspire to. We’ve talked here before about the concept of leaderless resistance, and how in the situation we find ourselves, it’s arguably a superior structure. The problem with LR, and the decentralized cell operations it deals with, is that people don’t like to mimic anything related to or used by people they don’t agree with ideologically. Go on Facebook and try telling a patriot group that they should study the operations of drug cartels, terror cells and radical environmentalists to get a feel for how tradecraft is done and you’ll see what I mean.

There is seemingly a belief among many in the movement that tactics used by the Left or criminal elements are by default tainted and even wrong, simply because they are used by people and groups we are ideologically opposed to. This is an incorrect view, and those who hold to it are rendering themselves ineffective because they are refusing to use tactics that work. The short answer to the question of whether we can learn from criminals is, quite simply, yes. Even Mike Vanderboegh, founder of the III% movement, used practices and security protocols gleaned from his time as a Communist operative.

The difference between the person who ignores security practices and wants everyone to be loud and proud under one big banner, and the person who understands how to truly effectively operate, is the difference between the “movement” and the resistance.

This document was linked to by Grugq, an OPSEC expert and authority on various matters pertinent to the liberty fight. You’ll notice right away that it’s written by a drug trafficker—and by trafficker, I don’t mean a corner dealer with some connections. This guy is running an operation with multiple facets to it, and doing it fairly effectively. Most people—if they even stopped to read this—would consider him scum of the earth and ignore his advice. Smart folks in the liberty resistance, however, strip the emotion and viewpoints about his product away and see the tactics for what they are. There is a reason why the cartels are operating in all 50 states. There is a reason why people like this guy operate for years without ever being caught. Their tactics work. As Grugq explains about the article in question, “…they are describing a network of cells with compartmentation, strong vetting, training for handling compromises, counterintelligence, and more,” all things that the liberty resistance desperately needs to learn and use on a daily basis.

Have your employees familiar with tails & tor+pgp communications. Anyone minimally professional will take some notes. Make sure all your employees from the top to the bottom is familiar with TAILS and has a secure passphrase. Have them place all their documentation and notes there. Any paper hanging around must be burned.

Encryption works. If it didn’t, then the government wouldn’t be bribing, begging, and forcing companies to build back doors and encryption keys into their hardware and software. Criminals know this, and that’s why they use it. If you expect to stay safe in your operations, then you need to learn how to encrypt. It’s that simple. (By the way, this is why we hold Cryptoparties and classes with experts on how to do just that.) Encrypt everything.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if you’re serious about what you do, you shouldn’t even be dealing with people who are unwilling to learn encryption and digital security. If someone tells you it’s not necessary, don’t deal with them. They aren’t paying attention to some pretty open, basic, critical things. If they tell you it’s too hard to learn, don’t deal with them. There are plenty of free resources out there to teach them—there’s no excuse. If they tell you there’s no point, or that it’s no big deal because they “aren’t doing anything illegal,” then don’t deal with them. If someone doesn’t take their own security seriously, they will not take yours seriously. It’s that simple.

Its everyone’s dream to think its like the movies where we gangsta organise “cartel parties” where everyone is invited. It doesn’t work that way. If someone doesn’t have to meet someone, don’t make them meet. Don’t take the risk of adding up more “heat rating” by creating un-necessary links between individuals who are not directly connected.

“Need to know” is a powerful concept—and a necessary one. Folks are big on networking; perhaps that’s a by-product of social media. You’ll see group leaders encouraging people to recruit, to click that Like button, to bring in more of their friends and push for growth and unity and on and on. In truth, unity is the last thing the liberty resistance needs (more on that later). In fact, the less people you work with, the safer you are. The bigger the group, the more chance there is for everything from infiltration to having some of your people turned. That’s not even counting the guaranteed problems with OPSEC.

In fact, ALF/ELF put out a “Cell Security” manual several years ago in which they state that cells must never mix together. They should “operate on a ‘need-to-know’ basis, with each cell member understanding that not every member needs to know about every detail of every action (ie: sources of funds, homes, safehouses, etc.).” In other words, even within a cell (5 people is about the maximum before splitting and creating a second, independent and autonomous cell), there will be things that some members know and others do not, unless the need arises for them to know it. This protects all of you. Keep in mind that there are people who are literally being paid to keep track of who you associate with, what you post, what you do, who you talk to, and who the members of your group are among other things. Stop making those links for them. If you’re running a group, for the love of all that’s holy, take your leadership hierarchy down off your Facebook page. (Why do you even have a group Facebook page?)

By the way, if you’re thinking that I’m advocating that any of the groups mentioned in this article are doing good things, let me dispel that for you. ALF/ELF are radical environmentalists. I do not agree with their ideology, nor do I agree with their actions. The same goes for drug traffickers, Islamic terrorists, or other criminal elements. They are morally bereft and I despise their belief systems and chosen means of conveying their message. I hold to the III% creed and the Creed of the Order. However, I do not have to like those other groups, or agree with their goals, to understand that their security practices are something to be studied and even modeled after in certain situations. You should seriously consider adopting the same mindset.

We’ll be talking a lot more about decentralized cell operations in the coming days and weeks, but this should get you started thinking. In the meantime, get educated on them and what they are.

There are many places to learn more about decentralized cell operations, and resources to learn tradecraft, digital security, and other skills. Don’t ignore them, take them seriously. These are life and death things—and your screw-up may cost more lives than your own. Take the time to learn—even if the ideology is anathema to what you believe.


Author: Kit Perez

Kit Perez is a liberty activist, longtime writer, and intelligence analyst specializing in deception detection and HUMINT. She is prior Air Force, holds a degree with honors in Counterintelligence and has a Master's in Intelligence. She writes at

One thought on “Decentralized Cell Operations: Can We Learn From Criminals?”

  1. Learning from cretins.

    * Mao is an excellent source for such concepts but more at a large organization level.
    * An excellent book is ‘Starfish and the Spider’. Amazon.
    * Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’ is quintessential in force multiplication in turning an opponent on itself.

    The balance of your observations are spot on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *