How Your Group Loudmouth Can Get You FBI Attention

Note: This is a post from 2016 that was lost in the Great Site Meltdown. I’ve reposting it now.

A reader emailed me regarding the previous post on infiltration. While he wants to remain anonymous, he agreed to allow me to quote his email, and to make my response public. He may regret that momentarily. But first, the email.

I took issue with your mention of people with anger issues or those who talk about violence. We are all angry, and I’m not going to kick a guy to the curb just because he says it’s time to start stringing up elected officials or talks about storming the state Capitol and shooting the traitors. It’s just talk. The guys in my group are as solid as it gets and I trust them completely. The feds can’t investigate just because people talk trash. They have to have probable cause, and that guy wouldn’t actually do what he’s saying.

There is a lot here, and I have to tell you that it’s dangerously incorrect information. If you believe this and act accordingly then you WILL be investigated, in ways you have no idea about. In fact, I would bet people who aren’t even in your group are being investigated right now because of the loudmouth in your numbers. The FBI has DECADES of history of going after people with political opinions they don’t like, and they’re especially excited by folks who make it easy for them. Allow me to explain.

Before I go any further, let me remind you that this is another example of risk assessment. Maybe once I explain this you’ll shrug your shoulders and say “so what?” But it may also make you think, which is the only real goal here. Back to the explanation.

Back in 1976, Attorney General Edward Levi created the “Attorney General’s Guidelines” for the FBI, which were supposed to govern domestic operations, to include investigations against citizens for “terrorism.” The Levi Guidelines made a point of “prohibit[ing] the FBI from engaging in disruption of protected First Amendment activity and from attempting to discredit individuals. The Guidelines specified that investigations should be limited to exposing criminal conduct and should not involve simple monitoring of unpopular political views. Investigations could only be brought where “specific and articulable facts” indicated criminal activity. Levi’s Guidelines also required reporting to the Attorney General on investigations.”

The Smith Guidelines, issued by Attorney General William French Smith a few years later in 1983, relaxed those limits, and allowed the FBI to investigate an entire organization based on the statements of one member who advocated intent of civil disobedience, unless it was apparent that there was no threat of harm. That means anyone claiming to be part of that org is now fair game if one guy decides he needs to run his mouth. It also means, for all you folks screaming for a national organization, that you could be investigated and much worse for a statement made by some idiot you never met and don’t even know exists.

That was back in 1983.

After Oklahoma City, FBI director Louis Freeh “interpreted” the Smith guidelines to allow them to open a domestic terrorism investigation when they have “Reasonable indication” (far lower than the original Smith Guidelines and not even in throwing distance of the 4th Amendment) that an organization “advocates the future, non-imminent use of violence” and that it has the means to carry it out. John Ashcroft expanded and relaxed those guidelines even more. And let’s not even get into the Patriot Act.

Now let’s say that the feds can’t even meet their own paltry reasonable suspicion standard. That’s fine, they’ll just conduct a “preliminary inquiry” to look into “an allegation or information indicating the possibility of criminal activity.” A preliminary inquiry lets them do anything they’d do in a regular investigation except for wiretaps, mail opening, and mail covers (taking pics of your envelopes to find out who you’re sending mail to or receiving it from). In this day and age, they don’t need to see your mailbox contents, and they don’t need to wiretap your phone. They can get pretty much all they need through other ways that are allowed under the Smith Guidelines and all that came after.

Several hundred law professors submitted a petition to Congress complaining about these guidelines, and you should read this carefully.

Once an organization is under investigation based on the speech of one of its members, the guidelines allow the FBI to collect information about all members who participate in its demonstrations, about the structure…as well as the relationship of the members, and even about other organizations that cooperate with it.

What does that mean for you? Let’s say you’re a proud Three Percenter, in a group claiming national legitimacy and state chapters. Some guy on the opposite coast from you posts on Facebook that it’s time to start shooting. That statement is sandwiched between pics of his guns, and pics of him in face paint and camo, out in the woods shooting them. The Smith Guidelines were interpreted to mean that even if an organization or member advocates non-imminent violence, if they have the means to carry it out, guess what? Investigation time. Do you think they can make the case that a gun owner has the means to carry out his “It’s time to start shooting” statement?

And what about motive? If someone is openly talking about the reasons behind their statement, is the motive now on a silver platter too?

Now let’s say the guy is going to a rally at the Capitol. There’s the opportunity. And it won’t just be him they’re looking at. It’s everyone who’s there. Everyone they talk to. Everyone they are friends with. Everyone who loudly claims to be part of the group he’s claiming membership in. He opened the door and let them all in, and you insisting that you’re part of a “national movement” means you’re fair game too—even if you’re across the country. Let’s not even get into those folks who are running around talking about the “evil Joos” and “animal blacks.” Yeah, they’re getting attention too, and passing all of that on to you. Unless they’re feds themselves, of course. Because that’s a thing too.

In order for civil disobedience to be considered domestic terrorism, it has to meet five criteria:

  • Violation of criminal laws
  • Acts dangerous to human life
  • Appear to be intended to influence the policy of a government
  • intimidation or coercion
  • Occur primarily within the US.

Your average civil disobedience rally meets three of those without even trying. I’ve been to (and even helped organize) some gun rallies that met a fourth one. To meet the fifth, you’d just need to block off a street, or have some moron ignore the agreed upon disobedience parameters and storm into the legislative gallery loaded and in low ready, and there’s your “acts dangerous to human life.”

The best part is that to start an investigation, FBI HQ doesn’t even need to okay it. A Special Agent in Charge (SAC) at a field office can authorize it for up to a year and simply notify DC that he’s doing it. Even a preliminary inquiry is good for 180 days.

Once that switch is flipped and you’re under actual investigation, anything is a go. Member finances, past and future goals, informants and undercover ops, the whole shebang. In an inquiry, the only thing they can’t do are open your mail and put you under non-consensual electronic surveillance. But then again, they don’t need to because they can get anything they need from private companies like Facebook, license plate readers, and anything else.  They can also follow you all over the Internet by joining the forums you’re on, the groups you’re in and the sites you visit.

Now, am I advocating that you never do anything for fear you’ll be investigated? Of course not. I promise you that if you’ve been to a gun rally, you’ve got attention. If you’re in Facebook groups talking about certain topics, or if you identify with some national Patriot type thing, you’ve got attention. And again, you may be one of those folks who doesn’t give a rip about the attention you get. I’m definitely not advocating that you all just shut up and comply, and I’m not advocating total paranoia. We all have to decide what we are willing to deal with and what we’re willing to risk.

What I AM advocating is that you think long and hard about what you choose to be associated with. We pride ourselves on free thinking, free living, being able to make your own decisions. Except, what about that guy, running around talking about how he’s mad that we aren’t shooting yet? He just took away YOUR freedom by forcing attention on you that you may not have asked for. He just made that decision for you, your family, your group. He made that decision for people he’s never even met, who now have to deal with being investigated as well. It’s one thing to choose to engage in actions that you know will bring you attention. It’s completely another to be put in that position because of someone else’s actions. And do you really want to put the work into your privacy and anonymity only to have some big mouth in your group (or even a cooperating group) get you targeted anyway?

This should also make you think twice three times over and over about whether you really want to be part of a national organization. Do you want to identify with anyone and everyone who calls themselves the same thing you do? Do you really want to be lumped in with the idiots, the violent, the ones who think that running their mouths on social media makes them sound badass? The ones who find security and OPSEC to be processes that are just too annoying for them to bother with? The ones who still, against all evidence to the contrary, think that they’ll be able to hold off an onslaught from their front porch?

There are literally a thousand reasons why local, small, and decentralized are better. This is just one of them. Keep yourself in a position where YOU control the attention you get (to whatever extent possible), YOU get to decide where your face is or who you’re associated with. If you see that you need to make some changes, make them. And always, always be aware of what you put out there and how you portray yourself. Need to know isn’t just about the extent of your food storage.

Claire Wolfe and I talk about these topics and many others in our book Basics of Resistance. You can get it at Amazon.

Facebook User Data Being Harvested By Another Company in Quizzes

And you thought I was just being a spoilsport when I kept telling you to stop doing those stupid quizzes on Facebook.

Why Gun Rallies Are Pointless

It’s spring, and that means it’s time for rally season. That’s when all the gun rallies get going for the year. In any given state, you can bet there will be at least two rallies at the state capitol, maybe another one in the (next) largest town,  and maybe one more event before winter.

They’re almost all the same; they have the same formula, the same stuff, the same attendees.  The same speakers stand at the podium and say the same things–lofty things about rights and Founders, and defiant things about all the ways that the tyrannical law du jour will be defied. What changes? Nothing.

Before you attempt to burn me at the stake, let me show you. Here’s an invite from an upcoming rally in a flyover state. I’ll take it section by section.

Each year in the spring, Second Amendment advocates gather in the State Capitol Rotunda to “rally” the gun-rights grassroots base and lobby the legislature on gun-rights issues and pending legislation. Rally Day also offers an excellent opportunity for gun owners and pro-gun legislators to get better acquainted and forge stronger alliances.

What does the word “rally” mean?

  • To call together for a common purpose; assemble.
  • To reassemble and restore to order.
  • To rouse or revive from inactivity or decline.

So what do we know from the above paragraph?

  • This rally happens every spring. That means it is expected, it is routine. That is the kiss of death. Ineffective, boring, pointless.
  • Every time they have this rally, they do the same thing. In fact, this event is so routine, it’s even called Rally Day.
  • They claim that it’s an “excellent opportunity for gun owners and pro-gun legislators to get better acquainted and forge stronger alliances.”  That’s PR-speak for schmooze.

Here’s the question of the day: why do the gun owners not already know the pro-gun legislators? Do you, as a gun owner,  need to be friends with your legislator? Do you need to share a meal with them and chitchat about gun-grabbers?

I say no, you don’t. I would argue that you need to get across to them that if they do not vote correctly, they will be removed.  You need to make them understand that if they do not do their job, you will ensure they don’t get another chance in that chair.

Rally folks might counter with, “well, that’s how you get the point across, you gotta make connections and network, and show the legislators that you mean business.” My next question is, how well has that worked out for you? I mean, considering you need to have the same event every single year and all.

The answer to my question is found in the very next paragraph.

Recent Rally Days have seen pretty dismal attendance. Given the current political climate relative to gun laws, it is absolutely critical that we have a strong turnout this year. We must fill the rotunda like we did when we were fighting for Concealed Cary and the Castle Doctrine. We are under attack and can no longer afford to be complacent!

Well, that’s awkward. Not only does no one show up to the Annual Gun Owner Feel-Good Picnic, but someone can’t spell concealed carry.

They’re right about one thing–gun owners are under attack and “can no longer afford to be complacent.” At least they admit that they have been. The problem is what their idea of “non-complacency” looks like.

Recent anti-gun marches and protests have drawn large crowds urging lawmakers to pass legislation restricting your Second Amendment rights. We must have a large turnout to counter those efforts to strip us of the hard-fought gains we have made in recent years. The anti-gun folks are well organized and well-funded. We must counteract their efforts by the grassroots action of individual gun owners.

This literally translates to “If we get bigger crowds at rallies, we will beat the anti-gunners.” Read it carefully; that’s what they’re saying.  “The anti-gunners have more money and better organization so we need you to show up to our rally and donate more money.”

If you can (take a day of vacation if necessary – it’s that important!), please join us. You could even take your kids out of school for the day and let them have a great firsthand civics lesson they will never get in school. Bring your shooting buddy who wouldn’t ordinarily come out for such an event. Bottom line, we must all dig deep and give of our time to show up and stand up for our Second Amendment rights!

I have a better idea. Instead of going to yet another rally to tell your legislators that you Really Mean It This Time And You Want To Keep Your Gun Rights, just like you did last year, and the year before, do something different. Do something unexpected.

Spend that Saturday milling out an 80% lower. Reading a book on a topic you need to learn. Spend the gas money on parts for your lower. Spend the money you were going to use on a new rally t-shirt and go get more ammo.  Go get Basics of Resistance and pick any of the ideas from the several lists the book has.

Do something…anything…besides the same things you’ve been doing. Because what the rally crowd is doing isn’t working anymore.