On Wednesday, August 4th, the Conspiracy Tour made a stop in Washington DC.  They aren’t stopping in Richmond, so the only opportunities for folks from around here to see them without traveling TOO Far were last night in DC, or tomorrow night in Carrboro.  I’d say it’s worth the drive, especially if you’re involved in any way with anarchist/anti-authoritarian projects and are unfamiliar with the scope of state repression that has been coming down on our heads in the last ten years or so.

The presentation began with a brief puppet skit about what conspiracy charges actually are.  Basically, someone can be charged with conspiracy to commit a crime if there is planning to commit a crime, and any action is taken in furtherance of that plan, EVEN if the crime is NEVER COMMITTED.  Normally for a conspiracy to exist, more than one person has to be involved, although there are some cases (such as Scott DeMuth’s) where the state will simply INVENT co-conspirators as “unknown persons” in order to charge an individual with conspiracy.
After the initial puppet skit, there was a brief history of state repression in America, discussing such topics as the FBI’s COINTELPRO program and the recent “Operation Backfire” and including information about how these programs gather their information.

COINTELPRO was the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program that began in the late ’50s and ostensibly ran until 1971.  Clearly, noone targeted by the FBI REALLY believes that the program ended in 1971. The FBI’s stated motivation at the time was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order.”

According to FBI records, 85% of COINTELPRO resources were expended on infiltrating, disrupting, marginalizing, and/or subverting groups suspected of being subversive, such as communist and socialist organizations; the women’s rights movement; militant black nationalist groups, and the non-violent civil rights movement, including individuals such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress of Racial Equality, the American Indian Movement, and other civil rights groups; a broad range of organizations labeled “New Left”, including Students for a Democratic Society, the National Lawyers Guild, the Weathermen, almost all groups protesting the Vietnam War, and even individual student demonstrators with no group affiliation; and nationalist groups such as those “seeking independence for Puerto Rico.” The other 15% of COINTELPRO resources were expended to marginalize and subvert “white hate groups,” including the Ku Klux Klan and National States’ Rights Party.  In practice, this meant that that 15% really went to fund those groups SO LONG AS THEY ONLY ATTACKED TARGETS THAT THE FBI GAVE THEM.
COINTELPRO operations included infiltration, document forgery, bombings, rumor mongering, snitch-jacketing, and even assassination of prominent members of the targeted movements.

Many of these tactics are still being used by the FBI today, especially infiltration and snitch-jacketing.  (Snitch jacketing is calling someone out as a cop when they’re not, and leads to a great deal of division within our movements if we’re not careful about who and what we believe.)

Operation Backfire was the codename of an FBI investigation into a series of Earth and Animal Liberation Front actions that occurred in the pacific Northwest in the late 90s.  It involved extensive use of wiretapping, infiltration, and informants to obtain information that eventually lead to the arrest of 13 people on 65 charges including arson, conspiracy, and use of destructive devices.  Some of those indicted took cooperating plea agreements (aka snitched), while others took non-cooperating plea agreements. More information about Operation Backfire and other instances of state repression against the earth/animal liberation movements, including information about how to contact and support individuals incarcerated for these actions, can be found at Green is the new Red .

The AETA 4 and the case of Hugh and Tiga were briefly discussed, but since their charges recently got dropped, there wasn’t a whole lot to talk about.  More information can be found at AETA 4 and Tiga and Hugh .

After this, the case of the RNC 8 was discussed.  The RNC 8 are a group of folks who were initially charged with ‘conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism’ and ‘conspiracy to commit property damage in furtherance of terrorism’ for their involvement in logistical planning for a convergence space and their involvement with the RNC Welcoming Committee, an anarchist/anti-authoritarian organization set up to facilitate resistance to the 2008 Republican national Convention in St. Paul Minnesota.  There were three Ramsay county sheriff’s department informants AND an FBI informant in the group, since the group was set up openly and aboveground.  We encourage you to learn more about their case if you’re at all involved in community organizing.  The RNC 8’s trial is coming up in October, and people are being encouraged to attend.   More information about the RNC 8 case can be found at Rnc8.org .

Next, Carrie Feldman talked about grand juries, how to resist them, and what to expect if you do resist them. Carrie was in jail for 4 months on civil contempt of court charges for her non-cooperation with the grand jury.  A friend and fellow activist of hers is currently on house arrest and has undisclosed charges pending for alleged ALF actions that occured in Iowa (or elsewhere -seriously, the indictment papers say OR ELSEWHERE) in 2004.  For more information about their case, and how to resist grand juries, check out Davenport Grand Jury .

The final segment of the presentation was a know your rights/security culture workshop.  The Wingnut will probably doing a know your rights training in the near future, but basically it boils down to: don’t talk to cops, don’t consent to searches, and don’t talk to cops.  Also, don’t talk to cops.

Security culture is the process of trying to create a system of behavior in which we don’t incriminate ourselves or anyone else through our words and actions.  This means not talking about illegal things we’ve done/are planning on doing, not talking about illegal things we think (or know) others have done, not talking about other people’s level of militancy or speculating about what potential actions they might be involved in, etc. with folks who don’t have a genuine NEED to know them.  It also encompasses not talking about these things, even with people who DO need to know them, in your house, in other people’s houses, near cellphones that have their batteries in them, in your car, in someone elses car, or in public places that you’re known to frequent.

Basically, if you’re planning on doing extra-legal activities, do them only with people you trust, and DON’T plan them in any location that could potentially be bugged.

If folks are interested in a security culture workshop, we could probably work on setting one of those up as well.

The last part of the evening was a discussion about how folks have experienced repression in our own lives, and what we can do to fight it.  If anyone has ideas for how to create stronger, safer, more supportive communities, let’s work on it!

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