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.

3 Replies to “How Your Group Loudmouth Can Get You FBI Attention”

  1. The idea that the government “works for us” has gone completely by the wayside. We’ve all crossed over the line to become subjects living our lives at gunpoint. This has been unconstitutionally rammed down our throats and there’s probably no getting back.

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