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Snitch-jacketing in our movements: time to stop destructive rumours

ActivistSecurity | 27.08.2014 10:28 | Policing | Repression

Unfounded rumours are destroying the reputations of activists without good reason. In the following statement the Activist Security collective is saying that not only do we need to check this behaviour, but that people who continue to spread unfounded rumours about individuals after they’ve been asked to stop will be publicly named.

Over the years the people behind the Activist Security Handbook have been approached with rumours that any number of individuals are police / corporate informers. In several cases we have been provided with clear evidence and helped publicise this. For many, it just a suspicion and there is little more that can be done. For a couple of these 'suspects', there have been on-going rumours. However, whenever we ask what the basis of this suspicion, it has never been provided.

Simply due to the persistence of the rumours, we have dug more and the conclusion we have come to is that there is no foundation to them. In one case, it amounted to simply a personal argument, in another dislike of the individual on personal grounds. Another, scenario we encountered the allegations boiled down to a political disagreement – it be assumed that because one person disagrees with another, they must be a state agent. All this conveniently forgets that incompetence, unreliability and annoying personalities are just as likely in our movement as anywhere else, and though it might amount to disruption in practice, it does not mean they are actually working for the police or corporations.

In one recent situation, allegations were made because an individual did not present the standard mould of the anarchist or ecological activist scenes. The phrase we regularly heard was 'they dont quite fit', but there is nothing else to be pointed at – forgetting that some of the people who we now know to have been undercover police fitted all too well. We have also learned that facts were twisted to be presented an untrue picture, particularly when people were not taking time to learn the full picture and using their imagination to fill in the rest. While generally this is not being done maliciously, the effect is just the same.

It is a hideous abuse of power, amounting to trial by whispering campaign in a way that cannot be responded to. As far as we are concerned, it is not only an abuse of our politics but a divisive tactic that plays into the state's hands. There are reasons not to trust people, but to label them as an informer in an unaccountable way is to take it to an entire new level, the consequences of which are being treated too lightly.

We are issuing this statement as we think it is very important that unfounded rumours against individuals for whom nothing actually dodgy has been ever shown stop. We believe it has become so bad that a challenge needs to be put out, whereby we will be proactive in asking people to stop spreading them and encourage everyone else to do likewise. If we continue to hear that those asked to stop are remain active in these whispering campaigns, we will take the step of publicly naming them so that they can be held to account in the way they are denying to others. We do not do this lightly.

If you believe someone is informing, then it is up to you to be sure of the facts before you spread that gossip to someone else. Anyone who is told such gossip has a responsibility to not spread it without knowing it is grounded in fact, regardless of how respected the person you are hearing it from. That there has been persistent suspicion is not enough – it is more likely a sign that people have nothing to go on in the first place. Reliance on the adage, 'no smoke without fire' is simply wrong.

If you strongly believe someone is informing, then you have a responsibility to act, or ask people to act on your behalf. You need to chronicle what your suspicions are so they can be checked over as part of a process of accountability. It is important to remember that finding out someone is an informer can be a traumatic experience for people close to them. Politically, we are deeply concerned that whispering campaigns are an assertion of power, whereby someone assumes the right to judge and destroy the reputation of another person in a closed, unaccountable manner.

This is not to say that you should never discuss suspicions about an individual, but rather that you need to take into account the consequences of when that suspicion becomes a rumour that spreads and takes on a life of its own. If you are going to discuss it, you also need to be able to act or be willing to be challenged on it, as there is a good possibility you may be wrong. If you need advice on how to go about this, Activist Security is willing to provide help and guidance, and have produced a booklet, available at, on investigating informers and infiltrators.

Even if it is not appropriate to go public with the information (and there have been several of these with good reason), there needs to be some way of recording the information and getting it to those who need to know so that other activists can learn what the foundations of the allegations are and can make their own judgements.

Finally, we will reiterate one of our key tenets: paranoia is not security, but when the state makes us so fearful we allow ourselves to become ineffective.

For more information email us at info ~{at}


1. This statement has been prepared by ActivistSecurity in conjunction with a number of political activists who have been following up allegations against individuals only to be disturbed by the lack of foundation to them.

2. Snitch-jacketing is the process of making allegations against someone else in order to protect your own back or interests.

3. This article was originally published on the Activist Security "Infiltrators & Informers" blog at on 27 August 2014.

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Hide the following 8 comments

some problems with the above

27.08.2014 13:45

Snitch-jacketing doesn't seem like the appropriate word for what you are talking about - it's a loaded and emotive term which implies being deliberately malicious - spreading rumours about someone while knowing they are innocent. What is described sounds more like careless and irresponsible gossip.

Of course we should avoid discussing rumours without some objective evidence. The problem is that finding that evidence usually involves having to talk to others, in order to trace rumours, collect firsthand accounts and other info, etc. It is very difficult to do this without some of it leaking out. Everyone has a responsibility to try and do this as carefully as possible, but it is impossible in practice to do it in an airtight way.

It's also worth bearing in mind how difficult it is for the average activist to establish anything like absolute proof. We don't have the state's investigative resources. There has to be a balance between requiring absolute proof on the one hand (infiltrators go unchecked because no-one can be certain) and operating on mere hunches (divisive rumours tear us apart). The doctrine of absolute proof is just as destructive as that of the hunch.

Finally, I'm a bit wary of relying too much on one small group like the ActivistSecurity collective to specialize as experts in investigating such cases. It's great to have a group that spreads information and advice about best practice (so that people can do their own investigations autonomously, deciding for themselves whether to follow the advice or not). However it's best if a group like that does not seek (or get given) any specific info at all about who is suspected or being investigated. Otherwise they could become a prime target for infiltration or surveillance themselves.


Internal Security

27.08.2014 14:16

Internal security in activist movenments has a long history of being compromised. At least three members of this unit were working for Military Intelligence.

Freddie Scap

Stone l Kennedy

27.08.2014 14:18

This would be the same ActivistSecurity that told us Flash Stone wa to be trusted and the rumors against him were unfounded

I think you need to clean your own house first

Very long memory

evidence from VLM please

27.08.2014 16:18

'very long memory': please substantiate your claim that AS vouched for Kennedy/Stone. I'm not sure AS even existed before Kennedy was outed - or did they?


Flash confirmation

28.08.2014 05:58

There was a meeting at the Sumac that moved to the Crown pub after where I along with others involved were told to stop the investigation into the bastard because (and this is a direct quote from memory) ,
"We have thoroughly checked him and and he is clean".

This was less than two weeks before he was confronted and he admitted to what he had been doing.

Very long memory


28.08.2014 10:07

To Very Long Memory

To clear up some points

1. Nobody from AS was at that meeting or recalls it - no idea what it was about.

2. Individuals from did not become involved with the exposing of Kennedy until after the confrontation; they were not part of the group that was investigating it. Not clear then why you think they were in a position to comment prior to that.

3. The group that investigated and confronted Kennedy kept a very tight hold on the process and did not gossip about it beforehand that we are aware of. There were very good reasons for this, partly to protect people in vulnerable positions, partly to ensure that the challenge went as it needed to. Up until that point and what was known within that tight group, there was no other solid evidence to say Kennedy was a cop - without such evidence, how would it be possible for people to turn around and declare he was a cop? There were many people who worked closely with him over the years who were equally sure that he was not a cop as well. Other than that group, nobody else had access to the 'smoking gun' in his case.

Its easy having suspicions; its possible to suspect everyone when it comes down to it.

In response to the first comment 'some problems with the above', we agree with much of what you say but to add to some of your points:

ActivistSecurity *is* more about spreading the information than doing active investigations. Generally we have supported people with suspicions rather than carried them out ourselves. Even the above statement was done in conjunction with others outside of our collective who had been doing their own investigations in to rumours and were being concerned about the damage being done.

We are not accusing people who gossip irresponsibly as snitch-jackets, but those who continue to do so even after they have been explicitly asked to stop: that is the point at which it becomes deliberately malicious and out-of-order. Maybe we could have made that clearer in hindsight.

It is hard finding the line about raising suspicions, etc. but there also needs to be a recognition when all that is going on is just unsubstantiated rumour - if there is a spreading of suspicion, then people need to also take into account their own responsibility in that, something that has not been happening in a number of cases recently. If you hear something, then you need not just to simply accept the line that 'somebody is dodgy', but ask as well what the basis of that suspicion / allegation.

There will always be cases were there is not 100% proof - we know of a number, but in those we have documented the suspicions to the point we think there is something substantial behind the suspicion. But a hunch is not enough to make allegations by itself - and it is surprising what can be found once people apply themselves to digging, as the exposure of a swath of undercover cops testifies to. But the main point is even if there is not 100% proof, there is something that can be referred back to, and people have taken the time to look into things, than letting trial by whispering campaign trundle on.

Members of ActivistSecurity are well aware that they have been targeted in the past - including being placed under surveillance and raided in the past. We have all been politically active. We do not want to be the sole and only group doing activist security. Centralisation is a bad thing, and if other collectives were to set themselves up, then we would happily support that process. Always, we would prefer that people did their own investigations first and foremost.

Not True. Correction Appeal.

01.09.2014 22:45

I was subjected to a specious personal attack on Indymedia in February 2009 alleging that I was a Special Branch informer. I was part of various campaigns including animal rights in Birmingham for a number of years. My activism was always genuine and at no time did I or have any intention to compromise fellow campaigners who I greatly respected for their dedication, commitment and friendship. I am fully prepared to take the criticism from opponents ref to my BNP involvement. The smear of being a police informer is unsubstantiated and spiteful which has no validity. Can I appeal to Indymedia and Activist Security to remove any reference to the allegation.

Dave Gardner