All posts by Brewing activist security culture

Skullface

“. . . Security culture is a set of customs shared by a community whose members may engage in illegal activities, the practice of which minimizes the risks of such activities.” – Wikipedia

Creating a security culture is about understanding the destructiveness of “big-mouths” and boasting. The practice extends far beyond not talking and ensuring the confidentiality of your internet conversations. It also means watching your friends and creating an environment where lying, gossip, bragging, and indirect bragging are not welcome.

Observing security culture is not the same as being so paranoid about everything and everyone that you become paralyzed and ineffective at resisting the system. Government surveillance has two distinct purposes — actually monitoring individuals with an eye towards arresting or repressing them, and even more importantly, making everyone think they are always being watched. People who spend all their time worrying about being watched don’t do anything in the first place, and the government knows this. The government doesn’t have enough resources to watch everyone all the time. The trick to getting security culture right is not making silly mistakes, and yet not losing the spirit and courage necessary to fight the system.

Many common behaviors violate security culture and should be avoided. Nocompromise.org defines four categories :

“Liars– To impress other activists, they claim to have done actions. Such lies not only compromise the person’s security–as cops will not take what is said as a lie–but also hinders movement solidarity and trust.

Gossips– Some weak characters think they can win friends because they are privy to special information. These gossips will tell others about who did what action or, if they don’t know who did it, guess at who they think did what actions or just spread rumors about who did it when they really have no clue. This sort of talk is very damaging. People need to remember that rumors are all that are needed to instigate a grand jury. Usually gossips are also liars which only worsens the situation.

Braggers– It is possible that some people who partake in illegal direct action might brag about it to their friends in an attempt to receive respect and admiration. If someone did such a thing, it would not only jeopardize the bragger’s security, but also that of the other people involved with the action (as they may be suspected by association), as well as the people who he told (they can become accessories after the fact).

Indirect-Braggers– Indirect-braggers are people who make a big production on how they want to remain anonymous, avoid protests, and stay “underground.” They might not come out and say that they do illegal direct action, but they make sure everyone within ear-shot knows they are up to something. They are no better than braggers, but they try to be more sophisticated about it by pretending to maintain “security.” However, if they were serious about security, they would just make up a good excuse as to why they are not as active, or why they can’t make it to the protest. It is doubtful these people ever really do anything.”

Often, we break our own rules when we get too excited. Even simply reminiscing the blows we caused our oppressors is a risk; especially the blows we hope to cause in the future. Sometimes we need to step back and look at groups and individuals involved with resistance work. Not everyone can be trusted.

So how do we do this?

NEVER talk about you or someone else’s involvement with underground or illegal groups. NEVER ask someone else about their involvement in past or present illegal actions or groups. NEVER talk about you or someone else’s plans for future action. NEVER allow yourself to become vulnerable to someone asking these sort of questions or talking about illegal actions.

Affinity groups are made up of people in very small groups that you are familiar with. These groups should have full trust in each other, but you should be as careful as ever when working with others. No conversations concerning future actions should be over the internet, the phone, snail mail, or any car or home of an activist. If it is important to mention an action, protest, or illegal activity, do not mention specifics.

If you are detained or arrested, do not answer questions that could implicate you or anyone else in a future or previous crimes. It is better to stay silent, no matter what coercion is used against you. They may ask you why you were at the protest or action, who you usually meet with, what groups you’re a part of, what the times and dates of future protests and meetings are, or what your beliefs are. They may offer to let you go or to give you time off your sentence or try to pick at your weaknesses and tell you that your comrades are lying to you. If you don’t respond, eventually, they will give up.

When you encounter people with poor security skills, do not shun them immediately. Try to educate them on discussions that are not appropriate. There are cases where the circumstances are too peculiar and the people involved are too sketchy. In these cases, it is best to avoid these people and situations. It is better to criticize actions and not engage in witchhunts for suspected cops in the absence of solid information

Activists are restless and resistance is on the rise. Some people are adopting radical and confrontational tactics. The more we organize and are effective, the more police forces will escalate their activities against us. For direct action movements to continue, we need to make security one of our strengths.

To Know • To Will • To Dare • To Keep Silent