Snitch-jacketing in our movements: time to stop destructive rumours

Unfounded rumours are destroying the reputations of activists without good reason. In the following statement the Activist Security collective is saying that not only do we need to check this behaviour, but that people who continue to spread unfounded rumours about individuals after they’ve been asked to stop will be publicly named.

Over the years the people behind the Activist Security Handbook have been approached with rumours that any number of individuals are police / corporate informers. In several cases we have been provided with clear evidence and helped publicise this. For many, it just a suspicion and there is little more that can be done. For a couple of these ‘suspects’, there have been on-going rumours. However, whenever we ask what the basis of this suspicion, it has never been provided.

Simply due to the persistence of the rumours, we have dug more and the conclusion we have come to is that there is no foundation to them. In one case, it amounted to simply a personal argument, in another dislike of the individual on personal grounds. Another, scenario we encountered the allegations boiled down to a political disagreement – it be assumed that because one person disagrees with another, they must be a state agent. All this conveniently forgets that incompetence, unreliability and annoying personalities are just as likely in our movement as anywhere else, and though it might amount to disruption in practice, it does not mean they are actually working for the police or corporations.

In one recent situation, allegations were made because an individual did not present the standard mould of the anarchist or ecological activist scenes. The phrase we regularly heard was ‘they dont quite fit’, but there is nothing else to be pointed at – forgetting that some of the people who we now know to have been undercover police fitted all too well. We have also learned that facts were twisted to be presented an untrue picture, particularly when people were not taking time to learn the full picture and using their imagination to fill in the rest. While generally this is not being done maliciously, the effect is just the same.

It is a hideous abuse of power, amounting to trial by whispering campaign in a way that cannot be responded to. As far as we are concerned, it is not only an abuse of our politics but a divisive tactic that plays into the state’s hands. There are reasons not to trust people, but to label them as an informer in an unaccountable way is to take it to an entire new level, the consequences of which are being treated too lightly.

We are issuing this statement as we think it is very important that unfounded rumours against individuals for whom nothing actually dodgy has been ever shown stop. We believe it has become so bad that a challenge needs to be put out, whereby we will be proactive in asking people to stop spreading them and encourage everyone else to do likewise. If we continue to hear that those asked to stop are remain active in these whispering campaigns, we will take the step of publicly naming them so that they can be held to account in the way they are denying to others. We do not do this lightly.

If you believe someone is informing, then it is up to you to be sure of the facts before you spread that gossip to someone else. Anyone who is told such gossip has a responsibility to not spread it without knowing it is grounded in fact, regardless of how respected the person you are hearing it from. That there has been persistent suspicion is not enough – it is more likely a sign that people have nothing to go on in the first place. Reliance on the adage, ‘no smoke without fire’ is simply wrong.

If you strongly believe someone is informing, then you have a responsibility to act, or ask people to act on your behalf. You need to chronicle what your suspicions are so they can be checked over as part of a process of accountability. It is important to remember that finding out someone is an informer can be a traumatic experience for people close to them. Politically, we are deeply concerned that whispering campaigns are an assertion of power, whereby someone assumes the right to judge and destroy the reputation of another person in a closed, unaccountable manner.

This is not to say that you should never discuss suspicions about an individual, but rather that you need to take into account the consequences of when that suspicion becomes a rumour that spreads and takes on a life of its own. If you are going to discuss it, you also need to be able to act or be willing to be challenged on it, as there is a good possibility you may be wrong. If you need advice on how to go about this, Activist Security is willing to provide help and guidance, and have produced a booklet, available at, on investigating informers and infiltrators.

Even if it is not appropriate to go public with the information (and there have been several of these with good reason), there needs to be some way of recording the information and getting it to those who need to know so that other activists can learn what the foundations of the allegations are and can make their own judgements.

Finally, we will reiterate one of our key tenets: paranoia is not security, but when the state makes us so fearful we allow ourselves to become ineffective.

For more information email us at info ~{at}


1. This statement has been prepared by ActivistSecurity in conjunction with a number of political activists who have been following up allegations against individuals only to be disturbed by the lack of foundation to them.

2. Snitch-jacketing is the process of making allegations against someone else in order to protect your own back or interests.

3. This article was originally published on the Activist Security “Infiltrators & Informers” blog at on 27 August 2014.

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