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How to Deal with Nosey FBI
This advice comes from our good friends at the Animal Liberation Front Press Office, but it applies to any activist.
A Southern California animal rights activist was approached Thursday, August 23, by an FBI agent who asked about her knowledge of an illegal activity which occurred in the Southern California area. As usual the agent tried to be friendly and asked all sorts of questions. If you are an activist in the SoCal area, expect a similar visit. Most importantly, say nothing and call an attorney.
(From Nobody Talks, Everybody Walks) ...Talking to law enforcement will always hurt, you and others. The Feds or the local police are not your friends no matter how much they ensure you that they are trying to help you. Even when some answers may seem “innocent” or you work off the assumption that they have “nothing”, any information you provide them will incriminate other activists or yourself. In the activist community, we have once simple rule: nobody talks, everybody walks. Many people often speak freely of this rule yet when the time comes to walk, they fall flat. It seems that everything discussed at security culture workshops is forgotten and a state of panic overrides common sense.
Law enforcement will always resort to fear and intimidation and we must resist such divisional tactics. They will instill paranoia of infiltration, government surveillance, pit activists against each other, or use activist drama as leverage. Although some of their advanced technology is a reality, interrogation is their primary form of dividing communities. Even if you think they know it already, don’t be fooled because they most likely do not. If they had all the information they needed, they wouldn’t be asking any questions, now would they? Talking to the Feds or local police puts you on the defense and nothing you say will ever help a situation.
There are several consequences of talking and none should be taken lightly. It cannot be stressed enough that volunteering information or answering any questions for the cops and/or agents will result in isolation from the community and your activist friends. This in turn diminishes our effectiveness as a movement and strengthens the opposition. When you talk, connections are made where there weren’t any to begin with. Even reciting what you think is “common knowledge” to the police or Feds not only gets you talking, but can get others raided, arrested or injunctions filed. Talking translates into prison time, restraining orders, or lawsuits and a guaranteed loss of trust and alienation.
In order to resist the urge to talk, there are a few things you can do:
1. Be mentally prepared: Envision what a visit would be like ahead of time. This helps you remain calm and collected, and allows you to recite your actions – shutting your mouth and the door. Just expect to get a knock, get raided, even get hauled down to the local police precinct for questioning. It makes you more prepared if it does happen. Also be prepared to stare at the wall for hours if it does happen- remember, no one can make you open your mouth and expel air across your vocal cords to form words they want to hear. It is possible to look another human in the eye and simply stare without saying a word. It makes you uncomfortable, but its even worse for the oppressors.
2. Plan on not caring if they come-ah-knockin’: If you are an effective activist, there is a possibility, even a probability, they’ll visit you. Just remember, their job is to oppress you and your community, and high on their agenda is to impede social change. By not talking, you strengthen your community and the movement.
3. Don’t let cops/agents scare you: Nothing is worse than buying into the authorities scare tactics. If they have you paranoid and scared, they have won. Just remember the silent treatment frustrates the authorities but saves activists. If they had evidence you had committed a crime, they would arrest you, not come around asking questions. And if cops scare you, just think what the animals must feel when they are hauled out of their cages to be tortured or killed. That’s something to be afraid of, not some overweight bully of a law enforcement officer asking questions.
4. Never let them see you sweat: Being overly concerned, even among friends or on the phone, will lead the authorities to your door. They will suspect you as a weak link and easy target. Keep your eye on the ball, animal suffering that we must stop using whatever means are at our disposal. Cops are just an ugly distraction.
5. Never keep it a secret: If you are not sure what to do, ask an attorney or activist friends. Don’t keep visits, calls or letters a secret and always alert (without scaring!) other activists and friends in the community.
For more information concerning security culture and activist safety, check out “If an Agent Knocks” by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
[The North American Animal Liberation Press Office was founded to communicate the actions, strategies, and philosophy of the animal liberation movement to the media and the public. Many of these actions are illegal under a current societal structure that fails to recognize the rights of non-human animals to live free of suffering, but validates and promotes the "right" of industries to do whatever they want to animals for profit or research. Within these conditions, those in the underground working for animal liberation often cannot speak out directly. Nevertheless, their actions and message is urgent and deserve to be heard and understood. Since animal liberation actions either go unreported in the media or are uncritically vilified as "violent" and "terrorist" with no attention paid to the suffering that industries and individuals gratuitously inflict on animals, NAALPO seeks to clarify the motivation and nature of actions taken in defense of animals.]