Analysis Hasbara Deconstruction Site » Karen Nakamura – The Question of Agents Provocateurs

By Guest Post • Jan 3rd, 2011 at 9:40 •

In the photo, Brandon Darby "at work" - "The behaviors that are described are unacceptable, dangerous, and detrimental toward building a liberation movement no matter who engages them. Macho, adventurist, and abusive behavior should be confronted whether the person is a cop or a committed revolutionary. Security isn’t entirely about the cloak and dagger of avoiding or detecting state surveillance and infiltration. A lot of it comes down to building a movement that is liberatory, democratic, and disciplined." -g. Rowan

In the photo, Brandon Darby “at work” – “The behaviors that are described are unacceptable, dangerous, and detrimental toward building a liberation movement no matter who engages them. Macho, adventurist, and abusive behavior should be confronted whether the person is a cop or a committed revolutionary. Security isn’t entirely about the cloak and dagger of avoiding or detecting state surveillance and infiltration. A lot of it comes down to building a movement that is liberatory, democratic, and disciplined.” -g. Rowan

December 6, 2010, the Palestine Think Tank published Mary Rizzo’s investigation into the Road to Hope Convoy (RHC) incident: Truth, Justice and Peace nearly sunk as RTH convoy facts emerge

What she found was a thoroughly chaotic situation, which could easily have gone ballistic and did cause a minor international incident. The circumstances raise questions all “sincere” civil rights activists must ask themselves. What rules do we fall back on in a crisis when we have no clear picture of what’s happening? Most activists rightfully look to the examples of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. But that guidance doesn’t always apply when faced with intimidating circumstances and/or people. How do we maintain order when dealing with bullies from within or outside?

A related question is how to deal with a coupe d’ètat within the ranks in the midst of an action? Is the coupe righteous? Did the leadership abuse their power or refuse to act wisely for the benefit of the whole? Or are the coupe leaders egocentrics whose actions seriously endanger the project? Bullying to take power might be an indication of further governing style. A third question, expanded later in this article, is: Are there agents provocateurs operating within the organization/environment and if so, how are they to be dealt with?

Concerning the breakdown in the ranks in the RTH convoy or any other, Mary Rizzo emphasized that organizations need to assess and assume responsibility even before a crisis arises. What is everyone’s role? What are the organizational structures that must be agreed to by all, such as the group’s chain of command? How can deserving people move up through the ranks?

Rizzo furthered that efforts need to be “backed by clear strategic thinking, such as co-ordination of fundraising, public relations, logistics and …a unified, identifiable political sstrategy. Time spent in ‘damage control’ and ‘contingency’ is time wasted, …to be used sparingly, if at all..” Especially important is “… Assuring public support and positive media attention by a commitment to transparency and accountability. Activists must be serious, reliable and transparent. They also must maintain their actions within international law.”

And the paperwork better be in order. An examination of successful actions shows they were clearly and methodically planned with reactions of the authorities taken into account and dealt with professionally.

Despite measures to tighten the ranks, two negative types of volunteers continually appear. Both are overly ambitious, volatile, unable to work as a team unless they’re the leader and don’t go along with conflict resolution. They’re bullies. Both think they know everything better than anyone else and both try to pit member against member and/or members against the governing apparatus. They are dangerous, like flame to oil.

One example where both elements may have worked together is at large demonstrations with the damage done by ‘anarchists’. Faces covered and usually hiding in the back of the line, these idealistic young men (or so they are assumed to be) often go after the Institutes of Corruption but end up damaging small businesses and members of the middle class, potential allies in any peaceful effort to realign the power of Corporate America towards serving the American People.

Many organizers haven’t taken it upon themselves to stop the behavior. Masked youth are allowed to break windows with impunity. This was the pattern in Seattle and continues to this day. Just who are the instigators? Is the answer really ‘Anarchists’? While most anarchists believe in the destruction of the oligarchy that doesn’t include violence against the working class.

The question must be asked. Is it possible some of these testosterone-laden, easily excited and inexperienced young men and women are being led/provoked by ‘agents provocateurs’ sent to disrupt things by intelligence agencies? The media invariably grabs their sensational actions as the lead story and judges the message of the whole by the actions of the few. This, in turn, keeps away demonstrators such as church groups and families. That’s why it’s a common tactic used by government agencies. That also doesn’t mean every violent act during a demonstration is an instigated provocation.

The problem of agents provocateurs isn’t isolated to demonstrations. Brandon Darby, a spokesperson for Common Ground Relief, a well-respected NGO helping victims of Katrina, was revealed to be an FBI agent ready to testify against fellow activists from Austin Texas. The two men, arrested during a Republican Convention, were charged with making Molotov cocktails. Extremely damaging was Darby’s taping of the three discussing homemade bombs.

Did Darby also wear a mask and lead others to break windows? There are reports he encouraged compatriots to break the law although Darby denies such claims. His FBI reports, however, discussed people never accused of a crime. He wore recording devices and gave detailed narratives of meetings he attended with activists from New York, San Francisco, Montana and other places.

The Austin Informant Working Group who worked with Darby released a statement after the disclosure saying: “Through the history of our struggles for a better world, infiltrators and informants have acted as tools for the forces of misery in disrupting and derailing our movements.”

Decades later this reporter interviewed a retired undercover agent who had infiltrated the Black Panther Party in the late ’60s. He laughingly admitted there were so many agents from various intelligence groups in the BPP they kept running into each other. One woman, who marched with the BPP but wished to remain anonymous, described the ensuing discipline within the ranks.

“The more we preformed public actions, the less the umbrella group allowed anyone to step out of line. We found out there were agents from the FBI, Cointelpro, Army Intelligence, the Oakland PD, SFPD and others among us. Some of them would stand on the perimeters and spin off into a disruption or they’d agitate youngsters to do a lot of destruction and we’d get blamed.

“Some of these agents were regulars, even members, so the leadership doubled up. Anyone stepping out of line was immediately disciplined. Furthermore, rank and file cleaned up after a demonstration. ‘Do not steal even a spool of thread from the people’ defined the rules. When together, the leadership wanted to know who and where everyone was. Little Bobby Hutton died standing up for someone’s rights. Sure, many wanted to strike back but that anxiety was channeled into positive accomplishments, feeding children and publishing a newspaper. They saved violence for defense. Think about it. What they actually did was not back down to intimidation. That, their support from the community and their cause of equality for all was the source of their power.”

The greater movement must consider every possibility. All organizations have their problems and differences. So who’s sincere and who isn’t? Compassion seems to be a defining attribute of sincerity. Acceptance of the decisions of the deliberative whole is another. If you don’t like one group, there are plenty of others. Stable personalities who understand diplomacy are a key ingredient and trump the brute force boys. A firm hand on accountability, paperwork, permits, rules and regulations is a must.

Liberal activists are found at public hearings, in permit offices, testifying before congress and standing in front of Egyptian border guards. Having calm, informative, give and take, trust building, open meetings makes things much more feasible for fulfilling any mission than flying off the handle. A loose canon is treated as just that. Such actions are often either enacted by a well meaning but dangerously naive fool or… by an agent provocateur intent on destroying the misssion.

Karen Nakamura has written on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict for 18 years as an investigative reporter for the Northern California newspaper Coastal Post. (coastalpost.com) She has reported for three other newspapers and is the author of 2 novels about the 60s. She has been a civil rights activist since that time.

see also this article by Iqbal Tamimi http://palestinian.ning.com/profiles/blogs/most-alarming-phenomenonthe?xg_source=msg_mes_network on “Palestinian” infiltrates

and http://kasamaproject.org/2010/03/23/portrait-of-a-police-agent-sexism-ego-and-lies/ on Brandon Darby (especially interesting are the comments).
And for more on the RTH convoy: http://palestinethinktank.com/2010/12/21/kens-kidnapping-and-convoy-strategies-a-commenter-queries/
http://palestinethinktank.com/2010/12/14/survivor-activism-a-quiz/
http://palestinethinktank.com/2010/12/10/ken-okeefes-photos-aboard-the-mv-strofades-iv/ (Ken’s own photos that contradict his own statements)

Palestine Think Tank » Analysis Hasbara Deconstruction Site » Karen Nakamura – The Question of Agents Provocateurs.

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