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Federal law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have a dark history of targeting radical and progressive movements. Some of the dirty tricks they use against these movements include: the infiltration of organizations to discredit and disrupt their operations; campaigns of misinformation and false stories in the media; forgery of correspondence; fabrication of evidence; and the use of grand jury subpoenas to intimidate activists. Today’s activist must know and understand the threat posed by federal law enforcement agents and their tactics as well as several key security practices that offer the best protection.
Federal agents have many tools at their disposal to target activists. While it is important to know and understand these tools and tactics, it is of critical importance that you resist any paranoia of government surveillance or fear of infiltration, which will only serve to paralyze you or your organization in your quest for social change. If fear of government repression prevents you from organizing, the agents of repression will have won without even trying.
The Center for Constitutional Rights created If an Agent Knocks to provide advice to activists likely to be targeted by FBI agents or other federal investigators. Since its original release in 1989, If an Agent Knocks has been widely circulated in progressive activist communities across the country. This guide includes both the timeless advice included in the original version and extensive updates to reflect the current state of the law and law enforcement tools. This updated edition also includes a comprehensive discussion of today’s technology, including cell phones, e-mail and web browsing. This guide should be seen as a resource for the information needed to protect yourself and other activists from government investigation and to empower you to continue the struggle.
We have attempted to provide answers to a broad range of questions for the many scenarios that one can encounter as an activist. We hope individuals and groups use this pamphlet to develop and prepare practical responses – if an agent knocks at your door.
Disclaimer: This booklet is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. CCR aims to provide a general description of the legal and practical issues that progressive or radical activists might face. Each person’s circumstances are unique, and minor factual differences may result in very different answers to the questions presented here. For answers to specific legal problems, issues or questions, obtain the advice of a qualified attorney in your area.