Grugq has a link to very interesting material: a manual for undercover police work used in the UK. While you may flip through it, see the organizational stuff and wonder why it’s important, you may be surprised to learn that there are some pretty decent nuggets in there. How a group does something is perhaps even more important than what they’re doing, and understanding how they’re set up and how they facilitate their activities is a critical part of resisting them or dealing with them at all. While you may think it’s for the UK and therefore not applicable to us, you’d do well to read it anyway and note that some things are universal, especially when it comes to vetting.
A few examples:
Page 34: Backstopping and legend building – In case you didn’t know, there are personnel who “develop, maintain and support covert identities and structures capable of withstanding scrutiny.” That means they’ve already thought about your piddly vetting measures, and they already planned ahead. When you’re dealing with an intelligence service or agency who is willing and able to put work and expense into making sure that their fake identities hold up even if you’re looking into them, then it can be taken as gospel that your simple “internet footprint” check and $29 background peek is not going to expose them. They’ve already covered those bases. And even if you think you’ve got a hookup for deeper checks, like an FFL who’s figured out how to run NICS checks under the table or a federal level contact who’s willing to do some searching on your behalf, they’ve probably thought about that too. In fact, they’ll have documents that back up their story, and your buddy at the Alphabet Agency may not be as helpful as you think–that’s even if he’s really trying to help at all.
Does this mean the moles and UCs can’t be exposed, or that you cannot protect yourself? No. You can, and you should, and there are ways to do it (that involve a lot more than simply checking someone’s Facebook page or paying someone to go look at public records for you).
Page 54: Conduct – This whole section talks about all of the things they can and cannot do. While you might be chuckling to yourself and thinking, “Well, that means the person I’m smoking pot with/sleeping with/acquiring materials with must be fine because they can’t do that stuff if they’re undercover,” please note the following phrase that finds its way into every single section of conduct:
“If the UCO engages in unauthorized ______ for whatever reason, this activity will be restricted to the minimum conduct necessary to mitigate the threat…” That means that the whole list of “can nots” just became a “can, as long as you can justify it.” Well, if it’s “necessary” to spend 18 months hanging out with someone before they trust you enough to let you talk them into a bomb plot, they’re okay with that. If it’s “necessary” for them to go to your activities, engage in some civil disobedience and lawbreaking, and act just as anti-tyranny as you, they’re okay with that too. And for the record, honey traps, or seduction operations, have been extremely effective for thousands of years. Do you really think they’re going to stop using them because they’re worried about the UC’s feelings, or worried that it’s not “fair?” By the way…when you see the phrase “mitigate the threat,” keep in mind that you’re the target. You’re the threat. This means they have rules, but ALL of those rules are breakable if it means they can “mitigate the threat”….that’s you.
Page 56: Agent Provocateur – Here’s something we’re all becoming very familiar with. They define an AP as someone who “entices another to commit an express breach of the law which they would
not otherwise have committed and then proceeds to inform against them in respect of such an offence.” Pay attention to that: they specifically say “which they would NOT have otherwise committed.” Think about that. Their entire purpose is to get you to do things you would not normally do, and wouldn’t do at all if they weren’t enticing you. People like to call this being “framed.” It’s not. They like to claim that being set up in this way absolves you of responsibility and makes you a victim. That’s not the case. At the end of the day, you CAN keep yourself from being set up in this way.
(Are they willing to flat out make things up to get you? Sure. But they don’t often have to, because so many people allow themselves to be manipulated into actually doing it.)
We carry firearms and talk about how our security is OUR problem, how self-defense means no one will protect you except you. The same people, oddly enough, will engage in shoddy vetting practices, or think that whoever calls them brother and shows up to the FTX is trustworthy. They’ll turn off their location settings on Facebook “for security reasons” and then post 30 photos of themselves in the parking lot of their FTX, where anyone with a laptop and a few skills can piece together everything from license plates to home addresses to blood type, gear condition and type, who’s in what unit and what position they hold, and based on body language, sometimes even the group dynamics. It takes little time to choose someone to target, and sadly it sometimes doesn’t take long to gain their trust. Keep in mind that those who would target you have all the time in the world. They can afford to be patient, to slowly prove themselves trustworthy and slowly earn your loyalty while moving you closer and closer to the fire.
We don’t get to go through life oblivious to the threat, and we don’t get to assume that we know all the threats. Yes, the person you train next to may already be trained by someone else. The fellow ‘patriot’ offering you a good deal on a firearm or other materials may not be doing so out of the goodness of his heart. The female you’ve been talking to and trying to impress may be dutifully recording all your FTX stories. Just because you trust someone does not make them trustworthy.
Take the time to learn how to properly vet someone; don’t assume you know how, or that it’s even as simple as an internet check. Don’t press for “unity” and “national affiliation.” Don’t be afraid to question the people who you work with–even the ones you’ve worked with for a while. Don’t take on new people easily (or ever). It’s not a popularity contest, and you don’t get a bonus for having the biggest group.
Above all, be open to learning from anyone, whether you like them or not, whether you agree with them or not, even if they’re criminals. Just because you look at a drug dealer or environmental terrorist and think “well THOSE guys are criminals” doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. Remember, there are those who look at you and think the same thing! Lastly, don’t ever be willing to bet your life or the lives of others on substandard vetting. So-called “unity” isn’t worth it.