FBI Infiltrators in Protest Groups by Sue Basko
The FBI infiltrates protest groups. They are authorized by the Attorney General to do so to prevent “federal crimes, threats to the national security," and to aid in gathering "foreign intelligence,” three categories that “are not distinct, but rather overlap extensively,” according to the linked report, FBI Domestic Undercover Guidelines. In doing so, the FBI is supposed to violate Constitutional protections as little as possible – but given the actual guidelines, it can be noted, nothing is safe from intrusion. “These Guidelines do not authorize investigating or collecting or maintaining information on United States persons solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment or the lawful exercise of other rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States,” the report states. Note it says solely.
Theoretically, at least, the FBI is concerned about – or should be concerned about – people or groups who have destructive plans. Such destructive plans may include such things as planning to bomb, shoot, or poison people. Gathering materials, supplies, or weapons to do such things is of definite concern. Other individuals or groups may be recruiting people to be terrorists or pirates, either in the U.S., or with plans of sending them overseas.
If you read the news on the internet a lot, as I do, you may have noticed that most “groups” engaging in such acts are not really structured organizations, but rather, loosely-affiliated people who somehow come up with a plan to blow something up. Often, these are small groups of friends, such as the three men who were involved in 1995 in blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing hundreds, including many small children. It seems logical that a large protest group with meetings open to the public is not a format where violent acts can be secretly planned. Nevertheless, such groups almost always are infiltrated by the FBI. Perhaps the agents are attracted by the potluck dinners.
When a protest group is peaceful, it feels very offensive to be spied upon. Groups often do not find out till years or decades later that they were spied upon, and looking back, wonder what about their group could possibly have been of interest to a sophisticated law enforcement agency.
Spying on protest groups and on individuals includes “Undisclosed Participation in Organizations.” That means, the FBI sends agents as infiltrators to join your group. These people are often in trusted leadership positions within a group. I’ll explain in this article how to spot such people.
The FBI also assists local police with “special events management, in relation to public events or other activities whose character may make them attractive targets for terrorist attack.” When big events include protests, that means the FBI is likely to monitor the protest activities.
The FBI also recruits human sources: “The identification and recruitment of human sources -who may be able to provide or obtain information relating to criminal activities, information relating to terrorism, espionage, or other threats to the national security, or information relating to matters of foreign intelligence interest -is also critical to the effectiveness of the FBI's law enforcement, national security, and intelligence programs, and activities undertaken for this purpose are authorized and encouraged.”
Human sources are people within groups who are used, either to their knowledge or not, to provide information. When past FBI activity of spying on protest groups has been uncovered, it has often been found that there have been many such part-time adjunct paid moles within a group. These are people willing to trade a paycheck for information. The bad part is that money gives these people incentive to fabricate or embellish. The FBI usually denies having anything to do with such people. When records are opened decades later, people look back and say, “Ah-ha, I thought he might be spying on us.” Often those doing this type of befriend-and-tell are people with alcohol, drug, legal, or mental problems. These people like the paycheck and the feeling of being special. Or sometimes, perhaps, their weaknesses are used against them to get them to spill the beans. Sometimes, the moles are “pillar of the community” types who get convinced they are doing right to spy on their neighbors.
The FBI infiltrator will identify “potential human sources, assess the suitability, credibility, or value of individuals as human sources, validate human sources, or maintain the cover or credibility of human sources, who may be able to provide or obtain information relating to criminal activities in violation of federal law, threats to the national security, or matters of foreign intelligence interest.” In other words, the FBI helps such people maintain their cover.
Interpersonal spying is easy in this era of the internet and self-employment. One mole might have many identities on the internet, using numerous facebooks with different profile photos, different names on emails, etc. One person can easily adopt multiple personas – men, women, all different races and types. A typical ruse is to have a very pretty, sexy female profile photo. Most men will confirm such a friend request. Once “she” is friends with one person in a group, others will also easily confirm her friend requests. A few months back, I saw an urgent message from a protest organizer warning others that “All the pretty girls are fake profiles!” It was true.
The FBI also spies on protesters using information available on the internet. “The methods authorized in assessments are generally those of relatively low intrusiveness, such as obtaining publicly available information, checking government records, and requesting information from members of the public.” Today, people organize protests out in the open on the internet. When there are comment boards, such as on Facebook, there are often people proposing violence – and these are just as likely to be law enforcement infiltrators as they are to be real agents provocateurs or trolls trying to get a rise out of people.
The FBI also spies on peoples’ emails, phones and internet usage, getting “grand jury subpoenas for telephone or electronic mail subscriber information.” To go to a grand jury, there better be probable cause to show a person may be engaged in crime.
How to Spot Infiltrators. It is fun to play Spot the Spy. The FBI uses two types of spies – agents who infiltrate, and human sources, who are non-FBI agents paid or unpaid to report information to the agents. FBI agents acting as infiltrators are intelligent people with college degrees. They are personable and speak well. They are organized. They are physically fit and can run. They can shoot a gun. Such people are good actors, and they can play people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. They are often multi-lingual, though you may not know this unless they slip up. They are often capable of playing different ethnicities. For example, a man may actually be Puerto Rican, but he can play being from any Hispanic country. If he can speak Arabic, he can also play being from any Arab country or from within any Arab-American group. A woman can do the same. Multilingual Hispanic, American citizens who can speak Arabic are highly coveted for undercover work. A Black person skilled in accents and languages can play roles of being from a northern city, from a southern university, or can put on an accent and be from Jamaica, or from France, or from an island. A 40-ish white person can blend in as a good old boy with the right wing type groups, and then fairly easily slip into mainstream mixed protest groups, and also mix in with Polish or Russian immigrant groups. Asians have a harder time swapping nationalities, but gain trust within Asian groups or as friendly nerds in mixed social groups. It's acting -- they're all playing parts.
Infiltrators are rarely the center of attention. They wear simple styles of solid-colored clothing that is indistinguishable. Older agents might have a distinct hat that changes for each group or city. They are not the silent observers, nor are they the active agitators. Often, they make broad statements that are supposed to mark them as knowledgeable and unquestionably committed to “the cause.” There will be no substance to the statement, just a broad, nonspecific statement of support. They are not there to argue or to push an agenda, they are there to spy and find out your agenda.
The internet is such a game-changer. I have watched Occupy streams from different cities, and have seen the same three infiltrators pop up from city to city. They talk about “revolution” and “building the movement.” They must be checking in with their moles, then flying to the next city to stand at a GA and talk about building a movement. Back in the pre-internet days, it was easier to get away with conducting a spy operation this way. Also, now with cell phones, it is easy for them to have a local phone number wherever they go. They like whatever food you like. They want to hear whatever music you want to hear. The won’t get drunk with you, but they will gladly be present while you get drunk. Then they will listen to (and record) your careless statements and treat them as well-thought intentions.
The internet can also be used to boost infiltrators’ credibility. They can have imaginary friends and supporters on comment boards. They can easily create an online persona (or two or three or twenty). Creating a simple website gives them a job and a history and makes them “real.” This is especially true if they use a name that is shared by hundreds of other people across the U.S., or a name that can easily have multiple ways of spelling it.
Infiltrators can show up at meetings, at an outdoor event, in a jail cell. There may be chance encounters where, if you look back later, you may realize an encounter was not chance at all, but had been carefully prearranged and timed. The person will "just happen to be” at the mall when you are. They "just happen" to get arrested and locked into your cell with you for a few hours, or for a few days, though it is likely guards will show up to take them in and out of the cell on “official jail business” of some sort so they don’t have to sit with you the whole time. They show up at the community festival, where you won’t notice who they are with, if anyone.
Infiltrators are chameleons; they will become whatever you need. They are not there to push their own agenda, they are there to find out what yours is. If you are being “set up” by an agent infiltrator, they will make your slightest suggestion of an agenda become a reality. If you joke that you would like to blow up a bridge, they will help you order bomb-making materials from their “friend,” and will drive you to scope out the bridge. Whatever it takes to elicit your plan and make it approach reality, they will be there for you. They won’t try to dissuade you. They won’t encourage you, either, they will simply help facilitate whatever you have even slightly verbally uttered. They are recording you secretly.
Spying on peaceful protest groups, where there is no danger, must be the training ground. Working with real terrorist recruiters or drug cartels is actually dangerous. Then, if a spy is supposed to be Arab and suddenly gets a hankering for a burrito or accidentally sings along in Spanish with the car radio, there can be real trouble. Infiltrators who spy among peaceful protest groups are usually good enough to fool most of the people most of the time. A lot of people don't really care, since nothing secret is going on. Others protesters feel very offended and hurt when they find out their "good friend" was a plant.
Human sources are a different bunch altogether. While a real FBI infiltrator will have discipline and poise, intelligence and physical fitness, a human source may be a smoker, a drinker, unfit, paranoid, a layabout, and annoying, but lovable. A human source may be a busybody organizer. A human source may be a quiet friend who is omnipresent, but rarely noticed. A human source may be the ditzy woman that no one takes seriously. A human source may be the eccentric crazy lady with the colorful clothes. It's real common to have a human source who appears to be a hapless hippie, because this takes everyone off guard. In other words, human sources are often the opposite of the disciplined FBI infiltrators for whom they work.
I could tell you some surefire ways on how to test if a person is an infiltrator, but then, everyone would know. Suffice it to say, there are several foolproof methods. Try to guess what they are.
All quotes in this article are from the FBI DOMESTIC UNDERCOVER GUIDELINES, which you can download by clicking.