VOICES | Security infiltrators: Won’t get fooled again?

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The heavy police presence promised at the RNC in St. Paul this week was like honey to a bee for a few angry troublemakers and thrill seekers. (I won’t call them anarchists, because not all anarchists are vandals and troublemakers.)

Yes, the RNC drew a few people looking for trouble and seeking excitement. They’re a tiny handful compared to the people here who are staunchly committed to ending violence of all kinds. But we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about any of the 125 groups participating in the demonstrations. The fact is, “black ops” do occur, so people shouldn’t rule out the possibility of such things happening here. The FBI and Homeland Security actively recruited informants after the RNC host city was named almost two years ago, and were successful in getting people to infiltrate activist groups. In fact, the authorities are quite proud of this feat, repeating it often at press conferences and during interviews.

History has shown that infiltrators are the most dangerous to growing movements, often taking on leadership roles and through hyper-aggressive statements and actions, bringing down the wrath of both the public and unsuspecting local law enforcement. The Black Panthers, American Indian Movement, and others were destroyed from within by violent infiltrator-leaders. Sometimes infiltration takes a different form, such as when conservatives posing as environmentalists temporarily hijacked the Sierra Club board of directors.

If you won’t take my word of caution—and why should you?—perhaps you should read this article published in the New York Times following the 2004 Republican Convention. If you think that people can’t be so easily fooled, hark back to the recent disclosure that the beloved chef Julia Child was a spy with the Office of Strategic Services!

If Rachael Ray—or anyone else—shows up with a plate of cookies for your protest-planning meeting, you may want to think twice before opening the door.

Kathlyn Stone is an independent journalist in St. Paul. She maintains a health and science news site at fleshandstone.net.