Category: Repression


Attached at the bottom of this post is a link to the Table of Contents and the full, comprehensive introduction (virtually a book in itself) I wrote for the book, Academic Repression: Reflections from the Academic-Industrial Complex (AK Press, 2010). Published a decade ago, the book is a bit dated, but its themes — repression of free speech, conservative hegemony, suppression of radical viewpoints in academia, the corporatization of universities, the dismantling of the tenure system and exploitation of cheap labor  — certainly are not. Academic repression is alive and well today. The full text of the book is available here.

Academic RepressionAcademic Repression Book Introduction

 

Attached is the complete manuscript to a compelling book I co-edited and introduced: The Global Industrial Complex: Systems of Domination (Lexington Books, 2011). Hard copies are available here. 

GIC

GIC COMPLETE MANUSCRIPT FINAL

Sundry individuals come into resistance movements without a clear history, without known connections, and with sketchy or unverifiable backgrounds. Typically, they are disagreeable persons, they often don’t work but have access to money or constantly beg for funding on social media sites like Facebook, using the pretense they need funds for demos, endless “legal costs,” “successful campaigns,” etc. They are either opportunists or agent provocateurs, or just police agents. They quickly rise to the forefront of a movement, they spew militant rhetoric and agitate for “radical” actions, and they clearly have other agendas than what they pretend to care for.

These people are white belts — novices in the movement for just a few weeks, months, or years at most — posing as black belts — time-tested veterans whose loyalties, sacrifices, and history are fully transparent and accountable for.

The article below is an excellent list of red flags to watch out for, and people who fit the descriptions are advised to be shunned, investigated, or approached with extreme caution. All movements are replete with nefarious opportunists, cops, infiltrators, and agents; they might be your lover, best friend, or “hero.”

Novelist Thomas Pynchon identified the mindset all activists need to steer clear of potentially pseudo-activists as one of “critical paranoia.” It is not a consciousness paralyzed by absolute paranoia, but one that proceeds with caution, has a healthy critical approach and skeptical outlook, identifies the warning signs of faux-activists and/or agents, and never succumbs to false prophets and provocateurs. The following contains wisdom and warnings all activists in any resistance movement should heed.

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CrimethInc, July 6, 2013

Is S/He an Informant? A Ten Point Checklist

1a

A group of people who have been directly harmed by informant provocateurs have put together this checklist, drawing on personal experiences as well as those of other activists and information from informant provocateurs who have gone public. We hope you can learn from the damage that has already been done, so these people can be stopped before they are able to harm you.

Here are ten warning signs:

1.

Something feels “off.” Something about them just doesn’t line up. Their stories about their activist history or life history, don’t ring true. At this point, you need to run a background and criminal check. If you wait for all the other signs, it may be too late. The most obvious cause for serious concern is when someone shows up in an activist community and they don’t seem to have existed prior to that. That should be a dealbreaker right off the bat.

2.

Despite the misgivings of some members, the individual quickly rises to a leadership position. S/he eagerly takes credit for actions in the media and begins to promote him/herself. S/he works to become one of the “faces” of the organization, and clearly wants to be a poster child for the group, attempting to “brand” their identity with the group’s name, imagery, and identity. S/he likes getting photographed, even when engaged in illegal activity.

3.

S/he photographs actions, meetings, and people that should not be photographed. S/he posts photos of actions and meetings on social media sites like Facebook, even tagging activists without their permission (in effect, facilitating law enforcement surveillance).

4.

S/he is a liar. S/he shows signs of lacking ethics and lacking transparency with the rest of the group.

5.

S/he advocates for high-risk illegal action to people s/he should not trust, while claiming to understand the importance of security culture. S/he goads others to violent action, for example by telling them they need to be “warriors.” Upon reflection, the illegal actions in question often have no real purpose and will not advance the goals of the group in any meaningful way. The person generally has a very twisted perception of what it means to be a warrior.

S/he seeks internal rifts in the community and exploits them. S/he has a cycle of abuse with groups and individuals: a honeymoon period, followed by manipulative, abusive behavior, followed by apologies and promises to do better. Then the cycle repeats.

6.

S/he always has bail money and pocket money, but either no real job, or no job that pays that much. S/he may imply access to a trust fund or similar resources, but this needs to be checked. S/he somehow has the financial freedom to be at any action that will get media attention, or any underground action that may involve illegal activity.

7.

S/he is found to be lying about really serious things like identity, family, background, race, or ethnicity.

8.

S/he has warrants but is unafraid of announcing and advocating illegal action, using his/her real name, publicly advertising his/her whereabouts, and once again jumping into the frame whenever photos or video are being taken at illegal actions. When picked up, s/he always makes bail and gets released, sometimes released on Own Recognizance even when the charges are very serious. This happens a lot. Then the individual goes right back to meetings, taking photos and posing for photo ops. S/he has a Catch and Release cycle with the cops. S/he may have a history of very early release from prison, then going directly to political meetings, sometimes of groups s/he privately claims to hate, or that would have been forbidden as a condition of normal parole.

9.

Juicy information, given only to the suspected informant, comes out the law enforcement end. To be sure this is taking place, the information must be unmistakable, and have been shared face to face, one on one, with zero possibility of surveillance (say, whispered in the informant’s ear in the middle of a field).

10.

Full admission: “My name is ________ and I was employed by [agency] to infiltrate [organization].” A full admission of informant and/or provocateur status may include details of what the informant provocateur received in exchange for their work: either the amount of money they were paid, or the deal they got to be released from prison or avoid prosecution for particular crimes. In some cases, the deal includes a future position with the law enforcement or intelligence agency that hired them. On the unlikely chance that someone is mentally ill, this information could conceivably be checked against the going rate for informant provocateurs; but if the other criteria are met, assume they are telling you the truth, even if they are mentally ill. While mentally ill people do not make reliable informants, they can make excellent provocateurs, and their history of instability can be cited as evidence when law enforcement denies the individual was hired as a provocateur.


If a person meets any of the criteria beyond points 1 through 3, you shouldn’t be working with them. Hopefully, all the points beyond number one will not even matter, as you will have already cut ties with the person after the first red flag. Regardless of whether we can prove someone is an infiltrator, if they display any of the problematic behavior described here, they shouldn’t be party to anything sensitive in the first place. Even if they’re not an infiltrator yet, it offers reason to believe they could be turned or crack under interrogation.

Here are some other warning signs to watch for. When it comes to people’s daily behavior, outside of meetings and actions, is the suspicious person behaving inappropriately with children? Are they harming their partners? Can they not keep their hands off kids? Or are they trying to sleep with multiple adults in the group (or one of the leaders)? Make sure you don’t have a pedophile who was let free in exchange for disruption, or a serial rapist or woman beater who has been turned loose on an activist community to cause devastation. Note when such people never face consequences from law enforcement, even when the victims press charges. If there’s a solid case against a predator, and that predator is allowed to flee, then goes to political meetings in another jurisdiction while the feds refuse to extradite him for trial… bingo.

In our recent experience, a predator who met nine out of ten of the above criteria (including number ten: an admission to other activists he was trying to turn) was never convicted by law enforcement. Instead, he was turned loose on a series of activist communities, wreaking havoc and destruction. Only his death put a stop to it. But there are plenty just like him, eager to take his place. Some of them may be on your friends list on Facebook. Some may have literally gotten away with murder.

When it comes to the thorny question of agents provocateurs and direct action, the point is not whether violence or nonviolence is preferable, but whether someone has violated the consensus of their affinity group and put their team in danger without their consent. It is irresponsible to allege that violence is always the work of agents provocateurs; rather, agents provocateurs set out to instigate violence that will be disadvantageous or isolating for the participants.

Here’s an example. Someone who has met all the above criteria except numbers nine and ten shows up at a public march. The march has been planned as a peaceful, legal event. Perhaps not all actions by this group are peaceful and legal, but for this event, that is the agreed strategy. The event is covered by the media, people are using their real names, and elders and children are participating. The provocateur has spent months ingratiating himself into the group, showing up for every action, paying the bills, giving people rides, saying whatever they want to hear, even buying them drugs. But once the march is underway and the cameras are rolling, the provocateur proceeds to show no regard for the safety or consensus of his group. He does whatever he can to shift the mood of the crowd, to instigate and encourage high emotions. The conditions are tense, and the provocateur does what he can to encourage breaks with discipline, and violations of the conditions previously agreed to. Suddenly he strikes out with a small but significant action, say of property damage or violence toward an individual, providing the flashpoint for sudden escalation. Then, as others follow suit, and illegal and dangerous actions erupt in front of the cameras, the provocateur fades back into the crowd, his mission accomplished. He has now put vulnerable and unprepared members of the community into direct danger, leaving them to handle the consequences of his actions while once again he goes free.

Check videos of actions on YouTube. Some people have filmed themselves breaking the law at actions. Some videos include this flashpoint moment. Note who does this over and over. Note who is and isn’t arrested for these things, and who does and doesn’t do time.

Successful agents can be hard to spot. But most infiltrators are not trained law enforcement officers. Most are criminals who have been cut a deal if they simply go to meetings and listen, or if they go to meetings and actions and disrupt.

In our experience, there have been a bare few, but significant, cases in which activists have been mistaken in their suspicions. In one case long ago that affected many of us, this misidentification had devastating consequences. The mistake was due to a lack of evidence and experience on the part of those who made the misidentification and a lack of solid criteria with which to evaluate the situation–not to mention the participation of actual agents in scapegoating an innocent woman. But because of this serious mistake, many activists compounded that mistake by swinging to the other extreme, overlooking blatant red flags and even direct admissions of infiltrator status. By providing this checklist, we aim to help you to develop your ability to identify, and prioritize, the truth in these situations. It’s not “bad jacketing” when it’s true.

There are a number of guidelines and articles out there about security culture. But just because a group has posted links or statements about the need for security culture doesn’t mean everyone in that group is paying attention and practicing security culture properly. We recommend this text to people and hope that this checklist will be a helpful addition.

Be safe, be effective, and trust your gut.

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Also see:

“Undercover Cops: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police”

“Confessions of an Undercover Cop”

In 2005, after being misquoted by the Daily Telegraph during a public lecture in England, I was banned for life from the entire UK for the crime of defending animal rights in public lectures and rallies (see here and my response here).

Oxford University Anti-Vivisection Demo, 2003

Oxford University Anti-Vivisection Demo, 2003

As a university professor, writer, speaker, and activist, I have no criminal record beyond various civil disobedience actions in support of animal rights. 6 years and 3 governments later, I defied the ban and told the British Home office I would be flying into London via Gdansk, Poland in order to speak in London and Manchester. Upon trying to board my flight to London in September 2011, Polish security agents told me the Home Office prohibited my departure. I spoke to audiences via Skype, but could not physically enter the UK.

Once a society begins banning philosophers, one has to wonder how perilous is the slippery slope toward a police state, and recent state repression and surveillance in the UK, as well as in the US, demonstrates a rapid and dangerous erosion of civil liberties and privacy. By reinforcing their lifetime ban against me, the UK demonstrated they have chosen to be a police state rather than a democracy.

I am deeply indebted to UK activist, Darren Sunderland, for grasping the larger implications of this ban against me. and taking the initiative to create and maintain the following support sites:

BBB, Causes.Com

BBB, Facebook

BBB, UK

Please sign the petition on Causes.com and join the Facebook page if you would like to support free speech rights and ending the UK lifelong ban against me. Thank you, and thank you Darren.

Tragic story of a young internet pioneer who died of double-trouble: physical depression/illness and state repression. The ironies emphasized in this article are troubling as well.

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250px-Aaron_Swartz_profile

Huffington Post, January 13, 2012

Aaron Swartz is no longer among us though the contributions he made to promote free flow of information and knowledge sharing will continue to benefit our present and future generations. He was charged with 13 felony counts for downloading millions of academic articles from JSTOR and accused of intending to distribute these articles through file-sharing sites.

The manner in which Aaron had been prosecuted offers a sharp contrast to the manner in which our legal system dealt with corporate America after the 2008 financial crisis, where there were no prosecutions of top corporate figures. Sadly, the contrast highlights that trying to disseminate knowledge, quite literally by making academic journal articles available online, is a greater crime than bringing down the United States economy through “corporate mismanagement and heedless risk-taking.”

Driven by a desire to make knowledge accessible Aaron has been attributed to author the “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.” Some key excerpts are as follow:

Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable … Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world … It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy … It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

Aaron’s untimely death has left us without a great mind and even more importantly a compassionate activist. While Aaron is irreplaceable, we must aspire to freely disseminate the moral imperative he advocated, in the very spirit that he himself would have done.

Veganismo: La Guerra Que No Podemos Perder (Veganism: The War We Cannot Lose)

http://vimeo.com/44804346

La Evolución Moral y los Derechos Animales (Moral Evolution and Animal Rights)

El Movimiento de Derechos Animal Global (The Global Animal Rights Movement)

Italian Facebook Steve Best Rome Lecture Tour Event Page

Per Animalia Veritas Steve Best Event Page

“Interview with Steve Best,” Asinus Novus

“Steve Best in Italy: From Philosophy to Action,” by the blog (and more), Asinus Novus. The writers provided a nice summary of my talks and main ideas.

A Key Meeting,” Arielvegangfashinblogspot.com; a refreshingly intelligent, fair, and incisive essay on my work, thank you Ariel.

“Now Enough,” Barbara Balsalmo

 

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I wish to thank everyone in Italy for inviting me to speak again this year, and for being such gracious hosts, fantastic activists. and amazing people. There are dozens, perhaps over a hundred of people who made this tour possible and joyful. I cannot possibly name them all. I do however, wish to offer a very special thank you to:

Kostia Troinia and Barbara Balsamo for inviting me and being the principal organizers of my talks in Rome. You are the best!

Marcos Aragao for your excellent photos.

VeggieChannel.com for your tremendous effort in interviewing me, taping my lectures in Turin, Rome, and Latina, and for having the courage to post my talks on your channel.

The kind women at Asinus Novus for showing enough interest in my work to summarize my talks and interview me; it was a pleasure, thank you.

Per Animalia Veritas; thank you for your activism, support, and bold defense of militant direct action!

The ReWild Cruelty Free Club; you guys rock and make the best vegan food!

Paolo Trono and his club, Vegan Città di Latina (a former abattoir transformed into a space for music, lectures, and culture!) in which I gave my final speech in the Rome area before moving north to Brescia; thank you for your kindness, the great audience, and the great free food and beer!

Piercarlo Paderno for inviting and hosting me in Brescia. You are a great new friend and did amazing work to help liberate the Greenhill dogs.

The Occupy Greenhill movement (see here and here) for their bold act of liberation that will go down in history as one of the most important actions of this century. In their post-Greenhill reorganization, the group is now called Animal Amnesty, and will keep opening chained fences and locked doors!

This talk was given at Sapienza University of Rome, September 5, 2012. 

Photos of the talk

This talk given at the Sala Underground, Barcelona, Spain, September 26, 2012. It was a blast to perform with animal liberation bands, Major Arcana and Blendeskil!

In this March 15, 2011 file photo, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks at the National Fusion Center Conference in Denver. A multibillion-dollar information-sharing program that was created in the aftermath of 9/11 has improperly collected information about innocent Americans and produced no valuable intelligence on terrorism, according to a Senate report that describes an effort that ballooned far beyond anyone’s ability to control.

A multibillion-dollar information-sharing program created in the aftermath of 9/11 has improperly collected information about innocent Americans and produced little valuable intelligence on terrorism, a Senate report concludes. It portrays an effort that ballooned far beyond anyone’s ability to control.

What began as an attempt to put local, state and federal officials in the same room analyzing the same intelligence has instead cost huge amounts of money for data-mining software, flat screen televisions and, in Arizona, two fully equipped Chevrolet Tahoes that are used for commuting, investigators found.

The lengthy, bipartisan report is a scathing evaluation of what the Department of Homeland Security has held up as a crown jewel of its security efforts. The report underscores a reality of post-9/11 Washington: National security programs tend to grow, never shrink, even when their money and manpower far surpass the actual subject of terrorism. Much of this money went for ordinary local crime-fighting.

Disagreeing with the critical conclusions of the report, Homeland Security says it is outdated, inaccurate and too focused on information produced by the program, ignoring benefits to local governments from their involvement with federal intelligence officials.

Because of a convoluted grants process set up by Congress, Homeland Security officials don’t know how much they have spent in their decade-long effort to set up so-called fusion centers in every state. Government estimates range from less than $300 million to $1.4 billion in federal money, plus much more invested by state and local governments. Federal funding is pegged at about 20 percent to 30 percent.

Despite that, Congress is unlikely to pull the plug. That’s because, whether or not it stops terrorists, the program means politically important money for state and local governments.

A Senate Homeland Security subcommittee reviewed more than 600 unclassified reports over a one-year period and concluded that most had nothing to do with terrorism. The panel’s chairman is Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

“The subcommittee investigation could identify no reporting which uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution such fusion center reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot,” the report said.

When fusion centers did address terrorism, they sometimes did so in ways that infringed on civil liberties. The centers have made headlines for circulating information about Ron Paul supporters, the ACLU, activists on both sides of the abortion debate, war protesters and advocates of gun rights.

One fusion center cited in the Senate investigation wrote a report about a Muslim community group’s list of book recommendations. Others discussed American citizens speaking at mosques or talking to Muslim groups about parenting.

No evidence of criminal activity was contained in those reports. The government did not circulate them, but it kept them on government computers. The federal government is prohibited from storing information about First Amendment activities not related to crimes.

“It was not clear why, if DHS had determined that the reports were improper to disseminate, the reports were proper to store indefinitely,” the report said.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Matthew Chandler called the report “out of date, inaccurate and misleading.” He said that it focused entirely on information being produced by fusion centers and did not consider the benefit the involved officials got receiving intelligence from the federal government.

The report is as much an indictment of Congress as it is the Homeland Security Department. In setting up the department, lawmakers wanted their states to decide what to spend the money on. Time and again, that setup has meant the federal government has no way to know how its security money is being spent.

Inside Homeland Security, officials have long known there were problems with the reports coming out of fusion centers, the report shows.

“You would have some guys, the information you’d see from them, you’d scratch your head and say, `What planet are you from?'” an unidentified Homeland Security official told Congress.

Until this year, the federal reports officers received five days of training and were never tested or graded afterward, the report said.

States have had criminal analysis centers for years. But the story of fusion centers began in the frenzied aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The 9/11 Commission urged better collaboration among government agencies. As officials realized that a terrorism tip was as likely to come from a local police officer as the CIA, fusion centers became a hot topic.

But putting people together to share intelligence proved complicated. Special phone and computer lines had to be installed. The people reading the reports needed background checks. Some information could only be read in secure areas, which meant construction projects.

All of that cost money.

Meanwhile, federal intelligence agencies were under orders from Congress to hire more analysts. That meant state and local agencies had to compete for smart counterterrorism thinkers. And federal training for local analysts wasn’t an early priority.

Though fusion centers receive money from the federal government, they are operated independently. Counterterrorism money started flowing to states in 2003. But it wasn’t until late 2007 that the Bush administration told states how to run the centers.

State officials soon realized there simply wasn’t that much local terrorism-related intelligence. Terrorist attacks didn’t happen often, but police faced drugs, guns and violent crime every day. Normal criminal information started moving through fusion centers.

Under federal law, that was fine. When lawmakers enacted recommendations of the 9/11 Commission in 2007, they allowed fusion centers to study “criminal or terrorist activity.” The law was co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman, the driving forces behind the creation of Homeland Security.

Five years later, Senate investigators found, terrorism is often a secondary focus.

“Many fusion centers lacked either the capability or stated objective of contributing meaningfully to the federal counterterrorism mission,” the Senate report said. “Many centers didn’t consider counterterrorism an explicit part of their mission, and federal officials said some were simply not concerned with doing counterterrorism work.”

When Janet Napolitano became Homeland Security secretary in 2009, the former Arizona governor embraced the idea that fusion centers should look beyond terrorism. Testifying before Congress that year, she distinguished fusion centers from the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces that are the leading investigative and analytical arms of the domestic counterterrorism effort.

“A JTTF is really focused on terrorism and terrorism-related investigations,” she said. “Fusion centers are almost everything else.”

Congress, including the committee that authored the report, supports that notion. And though the report recommends the Senate reconsider the amount of money it spends on fusion centers, that seems unlikely.

“Congress and two administrations have urged DHS to continue or even expand its support of fusion centers, without providing sufficient oversight to ensure the intelligence from fusion centers is commensurate with the level of federal investment,” the report said.

And following the release of the report, Homeland Security officials indicated their continued strong support for the program.

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Rapid City Journal, October, 2 2012

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