The Hunt for Red Menace: - 18

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What To Do!

Jinsoo Kim of the Movement Support Network urges that environmental activists pick up some simple security consciousness and briefly study the history of political repression against dissent in America. "There has been a whole generation of activists since the revelations about the FBI COINTELPRO program and Watergate," said Kim. "Something that happened fifteen, or even five years ago, its as if it never happened. We need to teach the lessons learned by previous movements about how to empower ourselves and fight back without losing sight of our political goals." Kim urges people to contact her at MSN if they want printed information on repression and helpful security tips, have an incident to report, or need advice.

Sheila O'Donnell, a progressive private eye for twenty years who specializes in political cases, suggests environmentalists need to be very suspicious of attempts to define individuals or groups in a way that isolates them. "Smear campaigns often are a part of disruption operations, so charges of eco-terrorism and allegations of violence should be carefully considered on the basis of documented facts, not lurid headlines," said O'Donnell. "And if people use different techniques, that's OK," added Brian Glick, "there is a place for lobbying, grassroots organizing, education, and militant action...they reinforce each other."

Susan B. Jordan, lawyer for two Earth First! activists whose car was bombed, points out that her clients "were easy people to whip up public opinion against," because of their reputation for militancy. Attorney John Williams offers this advice based on the Trutt Case and 20 years of defending political activists: "Assume the other side is listening, consider everything you do as if it will be played back in a courtroom or appear on the front page of the local newspaper. If you don't act this way, you are very foolish, and could not only go down the tubes, but take your friends and your movement with you. Fran Trutt's problem was that this never occured her. She was literally seduced. It has been a hard lesson for her to learn."

Sheila O'Donnell advises that talking to the FBI or other investigators without the advice or presence of an attorney is not a good idea. "It's hard for some people to understand this," conceeds O'Donnell, "But it simply isn't an issue of social courtesy. Individual FBI agents or other investigators might be friendly and assure you they don't think you or your friends are criminals or terrorists, but they pass along the information they glean from you to faceless bureaucracies with a history of attacking activists and derailing their movements. You never know what seemingly-harmless bit of information might get you or a friend in trouble," insists O'Donnell, "an attorney will protect your rights, not the FBI."

O'Donnell recommends all political activists use the "buddy system" where group members share phone numbers and a pledge to call each other if anything suspicious or threatening happens, no matter how seemingly silly or trivial. "By talking with friends about strange events, the events lose their sinister aspect, and you gain courage by sharing your fears," said O'Donnell. "I know talking about security makes some people nervous," she admitted. "But other political movements have adopted simple common sense attitudes about security and still reached their political goals." O'Donnell said when groups are harassed it is important to "promote caring working relationships within the membership and keep a healthy sense of skepticism and humor." One thing her investigations have shown clearly, said O'Donnell, "is that it is not only true that democracy is worth fighting for...but you also have to fight for it just to keep it alive."

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