Socialism Art Nature

Useful information for all activists in these times of heightened police state repression and surveillance.


Federal law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have a dark history of targeting radical and progressive movements. Some of the dirty tricks they use against these movements include: the infiltration of organizations to discredit and disrupt their operations; campaigns of misinformation and false stories in the media; forgery of correspondence; fabrication of evidence; and the use of grand jury subpoenas to intimidate activists. Today’s activist must know and understand the threat posed by federal law enforcement agents and their tactics as well as several key security practices that offer the best protection.

Federal agents have many tools at their disposal to target activists. While it is important to know and understand these tools and tactics, it is of critical importance that you resist any paranoia of government surveillance or fear of infiltration, which will only serve to paralyze you or your organization in your quest for social change. If fear of government repression prevents you from organizing, the agents of repression will have won without even trying.

The Center for Constitutional Rights created If an Agent Knocks to provide advice to activists likely to be targeted by FBI agents or other federal investigators. Since its original release in 1989, If an Agent Knocks has been widely circulated in progressive activist communities across the country. This guide includes both the timeless advice included in the original version and extensive updates to reflect the current state of the law and law enforcement tools. This updated edition also includes a comprehensive discussion of today’s technology, including cell phones, e-mail and web browsing. This guide should be seen as a resource for the information needed to protect yourself and other activists from government investigation and to empower you to continue the struggle.

We have attempted to provide answers to a broad range of questions for the many scenarios that one can encounter as an activist. We hope individuals and groups use this pamphlet to develop and prepare practical responses – if an agent knocks at your door.


THE U.S. military can indefinitely detain U.S. citizens without trial—that’s the latest of our supposedly “inalienable rights” sacrificed by the Democratic former constitutional law professor who currently inhabits in the White House.

After promising during his campaign to roll back the abuses of the Bush administration, Barack Obama has spent the last three years pushing through attacks on civil liberties that Republicans could only dream about. He is eliminating all doubts that the Democrats are as firmly committed as the GOP to strengthening the national security state at the expense of our rights.

As part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed into law by Obama on December 31, the military—under the authority of the president—is empowered to hold anyone “who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners…without trial until the end of hostilities.”

According to legal scholar Jonathan Turley, the NDAA represents “one of the greatest rollbacks of civil liberties in the history of our country.”

 … The ACLU’s Laura Murphy pointed out that the last time Congress passed indefinite detention legislation was the Internal Security Act of 1950, passed during the McCarthy era. Then-President Harry Truman vetoed the Internal Security Act of 1950, but Congress overrode the veto.

 … Obama did attach a “signing statement” to the NDAA, proclaiming that he doesn’t want to use the massive power which he was granting to not only his own, but to successor, administrations. “I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists,” he wrote.

But then why enshrine such heinous power into law? The answer is that Obama is only too happy to have such a weapon at his disposal.

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THE QUESTION some might be asking is how Obama—the former law professor who promised to uphold the rule of law and protect civil liberties—could have so fully embraced the policies he has?

The answer isn’t a personal failing on Obama’s part, but that he and the Democratic Party are as committed as the Republicans to expanding and upholding U.S. power around the globe as the Republicans. Part of ensuring that is strengthening of the national security state to silence and repress any perceived threats to that power—whether at home or abroad.

BREAKING: Obama ushers in New Year by signing indefinite detention military defense bill (NDAA).

It sure puts a fine point on the theme of 2011 — revolution AND repression.


President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) today, allowing indefinite detention to be codified into law. As you know, the White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill. While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use it and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations.

The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.

Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again.  The ACLU believes that any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States is unconstitutional and illegal, including under the NDAA.  In addition, the breadth of the NDAA’s detention authority violates international law because it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war.