How to Deal with Agent Provocateurs and Undercover Cops at Protests

Justin King
January 6, 2014

(ANTIMEDIA) For some reason the country seemed shocked when film of two officers dressed as protesters emerged showing them pointing guns at the crowd and taking protesters into custody. This isn’t uncommon. However, outing undercover cops to the crowd and causing a scene is not the best course of action.

Understanding why cops plant protesters in the crowd:

Intelligence gathering: Even though spying on peaceful protesters is a wasteful use of department resources and contrary to everything the United States stands for, it is common practice. When gathering intelligence, officers are attempting to determine exactly what the protest’s next move will be, who the leaders are, and whether or not the crowd has people prepared for violence.

Inciting criminal activities: Officers will often incite the crowd in an attempt to justify arrest and justify their surveillance and anti-terrorism budgets. They will quietly encourage protesters to break the law and then be ready to testify once those protesters are arrested for the activity they encouraged. The FBI has made a habit of this.

Developing a cover: If an officer is preparing to go undercover in an activist group, there is nothing more convincing than news footage of the undercover officer throwing rocks at uniformed cops or cussing at them before getting arrested.

How to most effectively use undercover officers that have been discovered:

Countering Intelligence Gathering:
Don’t “burn” the officer. Don’t let the officer know you are aware that they are law enforcement. When nations discover foreign intelligence officers at work, they typically don’t arrest them. They begin to feed them incorrect information. Remember what the officer’s intent is. Intent is the key element in intelligence and counter-intelligence operations.

The officer’s intent is determining who the leaders are. Talk about a nonexistent person. Describe where he lives and give them all the information they need to find this person. The department will waste tons of resources trying to find out about a person that doesn’t exist. Make sure to include that he lives entirely “off the grid” or that he is “really paranoid.” When they can’t find out about the person, it confirms the intelligence they already gathered and they become certain they are on the right track. You have successfully exploited the department’s confirmation bias, and will wear down their intelligence apparatus as they track false leads.

If you are really committed, you could become “friends” with the officer after the protest and continue to feed the department bogus information about nonexistent protests or groups. Eventually the officer’s superiors will grow tired of the cop’s bad intel and pull him off of the assignment.

Countering Incitement Operations:
Don’t “burn” the officer. Don’t let the officer know you are aware of their profession. The goal of these operations is to get an activist to commit a crime in the presence of law enforcement. They are allowed to do this as long as they don’t entice someone into doing something they wouldn’t do otherwise. If you believe an officer is doing this, photograph him and send it to the press immediately with an explanation. Then (where legal), record the officer secretly and allow him to encourage you to break windows, or whatever he is trying to encourage. Explain that you would never do that, if he continues to attempt to encourage you; walk away, distribute the video to friends for safe keeping, and then submit it to the FBI Civil Rights Division as well as the local press. You have proven attempted entrapment. The test here is whether the officer was inciting you to do something you wouldn’t have done without the officer’s encouragement.

Cover Development Operations:
The officer is only at the protest to get arrested so that later when he shows up at an organization’s meetings, he has established credibility. There isn’t much that can be done to stop the operation, the key is to know how to spot it when it happens. Generally speaking, the wildest people at a protest are the youngest. If a person in their mid-twenties or older instigates violence with the police or is acting in a way that will overtly cause their arrest, they might be attempting to establish a cover. If the person “just moved to town,” the likelihood is even greater. If at later meetings the person that was out of control and got arrested reveals themselves to be relatively calm and very attentive to details, another warning flag should be raised. It is very rare for somebody in their mid-twenties or later that is just suddenly become wild and violent, if the person has no previous footage of them engaging in similar behavior or lacks an arrest record, the likelihood of it actually being an activist decreases immensely. Outspoken people are well known; use social media to see if the person is known within the movement. If the person is unknown within the movement and their only claim to legitimacy is an arrest at a protest, you are most likely dealing with an undercover officer sent to gather intelligence on peaceful protesters. (See: Countering Intelligence Gathering Operations)

Important Author’s Note: The tactics listed above will only work inside peaceful activist groups. If you belong to a group that advocates violence, these tactics are worthless to you. 

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