Are There Informants in Your Group?
30 August 2016
It’s the nightmare of any resistance group: a government agent or informant in their ranks.
You might look at the members of your group and think of them as family. You may even be willing to lay down your life for them. But would they do the same? And how do you know they’re not reporting on every move you make?
The Malheur Wildlife Refuge sign during the occupation in January.
Photograph credit The Spokesman
Like it or not, the concept of infiltration is one that people should be concerned about. It often seems that people in resistance/patriot groups are on one end or the other in terms of spectrum: They either engage shoddy vetting practices and assume their own group is clean, or they think everyone who disagrees with them or questions them is a fed. Neither of these is a healthy or good way to operate.
There are several myths about informants that seem to circulate around the various groups as well. Passed around via word of mouth by people who claim connection to shadowy figures who must remain unnamed (“my dad’s uncle’s co-worker’s dad’s daughter works at the Pentagon”), these myths suck people in because they appeal to people’s desire to believe certain things. People want to feel safe; they also want to feel as though they’re better/faster/smarter than the forces aligned against them. Unfortunately, in most cases they aren’t–not because they can’t be, but because they don’t try to be.
People need to understand that there are highly trained people out there whose entire job is finding, infiltrating, and entrapping them and their people.
One major myth that I’ve heard from people over and over is that “informants won’t break the law.” These folks figure that if they can get their group members to do some illegal thing together, that is an effective vetting technique–and if someone refuses, that’s a sure sign that they’re a fed. This is not true; in fact, informants break the law all the time. The thing is, they get literally authorized to break the law, in the hopes that they can get you to break it too.
How bad is it? Between 2011 and 2014, the FBI alone authorized informants to commit crimes 22,823 times. That averages to over 15 times a day. Think about that. In addition, these crimes aren’t necessarily small things. In fact, one example was an informant who helped facilitate the breach of Stratfor in 2011–one of the most “most high-profile cyberattacks of the last decade.” Sure, they got the main hacker responsible, but they also cost Stratfor “millions of dollars in damages and left and estimated 700,000 credit card holders vulnerable to fraud.” In short, what you need to understand is this:
- They are willing to do whatever they have to in order to make their case, including break the law themselves.
- They do not care about the collateral damage of their actions.
Now consider this: The government views “anti-government extremists” as a worse threat to Americans than ISIS. In this article, in fact, the media skillfully lumps the average constitution-loving ‘patriot’, the Malheur occupation, the KKK, and terrorism violence up in one neat little package. Does the average citizen know the actual difference between all of those things? Of course not. This means that not only do you have the federal government willing to do anything to get you, you also have the general public–whose support is absolutely critical–seeing you as a threat worse than animals who behead children (when they’re not raping them and using them as assassins, that is).
The feds have a long history of infiltrating and even controlling various movements and efforts; do you really think they’re not doing the same here? When you consider the fact that many groups use social media to organize and/or recruit (and the only vetting done is a quick question or two and a check to make sure there’s “liberty material”) it’s safe to say that the movement has made it incredibly simple for itself to BE infiltrated. Even some groups who claim to take ‘vetting’ seriously often do one or two face to face meetings and a short probation period, during which the new guy is still given all kinds of access.
There’s no way that could end badly, right?
Someone in your group may be wearing a mask.
Are you willing to bet your family’s lives on your group members?
So what’s to be done about all of this? Certainly the obvious answer is to prevent them from even getting into your groups through solid vetting practices, which are an article or even class in themselves. But let’s say you’ve already got a group. The members already have access. What now? You have options, but first a few principles.
- No one is ‘too high up’ or ‘too connected’ to be compromised or working for the other side. One thing that a lot of people do is assume that someone teaching a class is automatically trustworthy, or that prominent people must be solid because they’re ‘so high up in the movement.’ You would not believe the amount of information that we hear in our own classes, or the info I’ve heard in other classes, as people assume that every instructor is trustworthy. Don’t ever make this mistake, because the bottom line is, you do not know for sure–and besides, what’s the most basic of information sharing rules? Need to know.
- You don’t have to agree with someone’s philosophy in order to learn from their tactics. There is MUCH to be learned from all manner of groups on security and/or resistance tactics–regardless of whether you like or agree with what they’re using their tactics to accomplish.
- Benefit of the doubt is for suckers. Trust is earned, period–and it’s subject to change. Be willing to look at conduct that doesn’t fit–even if it’s from someone that you already trust. Circumstances change, and so do vulnerabilities. The guy who would’ve taken a bullet for you six months ago may suddenly find himself in a life-or-death medical situation with his wife or child that he can’t afford. Be aware of changes in situation that signal exploitability. We don’t have to hold people to our own set of morals, but the bottom line is that things like extramarital affairs, financial troubles, vices, and character failings are openings to those who are looking to exploit. Be aware of that. Understand that everyone has a vulnerability. Perhaps most importantly, know your own, and figure out how to mitigate it as much as possible.
- Watch out for the loudmouth. Like it or not, if you’ve got a loudmouth in your group who’s always trying to get people to do stuff that could land them in in jail or dead tomorrow, that’s a problem. Best case scenario is that he makes emotional decisions and is a liability. Worst case scenario is that he’s not on your side and is actively trying to entrap you. If this describes one of your inner circle folks, you might be tempted to brush it off and claim that he’s “emotional” or “passionate” or even “immature.” Don’t. Take the time to think critically and logically about what’s going on. Several groups have learned the hard way that the guy yelling the loudest and trying to incite the most violence is often reporting on the very people he’s trying to incite. Look up Steve Haug and Hal Turner.
- Third party “vouching” is not a catch-all solution. When you’re talking about networking for supplies/barter, creating “tribe” then sure; you may give someone some help or perform a favor on the basis of someone in your inner circle vouching for him and asking for that help on their behalf. That’s one thing. When you’re talking about actual resistance acts or access to sensitive information or groups, however, it’s a really bad idea. It’s very simple–ask yourself the following question: Do I trust my friend’s instincts and vetting process so much that I’m willing to bet going to jail on it or worse if he vouches for someone and is wrong? Vet people yourself; don’t rely on someone else to do it. I have people come to me and tell me that so-and-so is a solid guy, and I’ve asked people I trust for their take on someone; neither of those, however, is good enough to take someone in and work with. That doesn’t mean they’re in the door; it just means they can knock.
- Document things that don’t make sense. Do this on paper, in a notebook. Claire Wolfe has an excellent primer on such things. Learn how to do critical analysis and start doing it on the info you’re collecting. Find the patterns and figure out what they signify.
- Don’t ask yourself, “How would *I* act if I were a fed informant” and use that as your measuring stick. That’s called “mirror imaging,” and it’s one of the most common mistakes out there.
Does this mean you don’t bother networking? Absolutely not. Does it mean you start treating people you’ve known and worked with as though they’re federal agents hell-bent on your destruction? No. It does, however, mean that you stop glossing over things that you know don’t make sense. It means that you do some self-assessment and engage in some brutal self-honesty about what your weaknesses and vulnerabilities are–and if it means you need to ditch some secret vices, clean house with your finances, or even end certain types of relationships, get it done. Stop associating yourself with people who support first strike violence, and make it clear on your social media, website or other public means that you do NOT support it. Above all, keep in mind that they can and will entrap you. They will encourage you to commit federal crimes and even provide the means to do it.
The point and principle that drives all of our actions in this arena should be simple: Is it morally right, does it help the cause of liberty both short AND long term, and does it fall in line with the Three Percenter principles we claim to live by? That goes for everything from the things we do to the people we associate with.
We can’t afford any more mistakes.