The following is a document on security culture circulated during the Summer of 2016
With the DNC on its way, I thought it would be helpful, especially for those of us who are newer to political organizing, to put together a short guide to security culture. This is by no means comprehensive in any sense, but I hope it serves to help get people thinking on the right track.
What is security culture? Security culture is our methods, practices, and theories around how to best ensure the security of our fellow organizers and the movement at large.
Your social media is (or can easily be) monitored by the state. Keep this in mind when you post. You don’t necessarily need to hide anything radical or leftist, but you certainly should abstain from making any statements that you think could come back to bite you later in a court of law, specifically statements that incite or provoke violent or any sort of illegal action.
Every social movement gets infiltrated. It’s inevitable. It cannot be prevented, but it can be dealt with in a principled way to best ensure the safety and security of everyone. It helps to know personally who you are working with; you can’t keep out snitches, but this makes it harder for undercovers.
The key is to identify toxic/’wrecker’/’coplike’ behavior, and to isolate individuals who demonstrate these behaviors, even when explained why they are dangerous. Isolation means that we do not continue to work with the person in question. We ignore their provocations, we do not provide them with the information they seek, and we do not maintain contact with them. However, we do not ever accuse someone of being a cop or federal agent without tangible evidence. This is called copjacketing/snitchjacketing. Copjacketing is bad security culture. Even with evidence, this is extremely dangerous. Accusing other activists of working with law enforcement incites paranoia, and is in fact exactly what actual agents want to happen.
Along those lines, be wary of rumors, including rumors about someone being a snitch, or vague warnings not to work with someone. Divide-and-conquer is a common tactic for police and feds.
So, what toxic/wrecker behavior should we look out for?
- Public statements inciting specific violence or illegal activity
- At a protest, provoking violent or illegal activity, especially that which is drastic relative to the mood of the action, or that was not agreed upon by the organizers or participants of the action
- Attacking other leftist organizations in an unprincipled manner
- Asking activists if they would like to participate in some sort of act of conspiracy/terrorism, i.e. a bombing or assassination
- Asking activists very specific questions about what political work they’re involved in, especially in a public or online forum
- Asking activists if they have ties to “terrorist” organizations like the PFLP, FARC, or PKK
If you see this behavior, isolate this person, but do NOT make accusations and do NOT expose them to state repression. They are dangerous to the movement, whether or not they’re a cop.
Remember, political organizing is not a game. These things happen every day! Every leftist movement in the history of the US has been surveilled and infiltrated. But some knowledge on toxic behavior can go a long way in avoiding a potentially harmful situation.