Creating A Culture Of Security: Preparing for a Raid Before it Happens
Nothing can truly prepare someone for a full-scale invasion of privacy such as a raid but taking a few of these steps will help ensure that you don't compromise your own freedom or that of others in the course of your activist life.
During recent years, some activists involved in organizing demonstrations and gatherings have found themselves on the wrong end of search warrants. Often these warrants are secured on bogus grounds, and searches are carried out as harassment tactics. As the
recent Royal Canadian Mounted Police raid of an Animal Liberation Front spokesperson's home shows (see Earth First! Journal September-October 2002), even speaking out in support of direct action can lead to equipment and materials seizures that can be personally and organizationally disruptive.
The following tips are meant to assist you in preparing for the worst: a raid on your home, office or infoshop.
• Use scenarios to strategize: Building scenarios helps you to mentally and physically
prepare for an event like this-though you will never be fully ready for an invasion of this scale. Only you know the work that you do and what specifics would be impacted in a search and seizure operation. What do you need to access daily that could be seized? Do you have other illegal items that could be used to incriminate you? Walk yourself through what you would do from the moment the police show up with a search warrant.
• Encrypt and wipe: All files-not just those that are sensitive-on your computer hard drive should be encrypted using a program such as PGP disk (available at www.pgpi.org). This includes cache files, email (your whole email program should be set up on an encrypted partition), image archives and text documents. Wipe all free space on your hard drive weekly using a program such as PGP or Burn (for Macs); this makes retrieving data from your hard drive difficult if not impossible.
• Backups, backups, backups: If you lost all your data tomorrow-how would you function? Your best strategy for getting back to work is making regular backups and quietly storing them with a trusted friend or in a safe deposit box not connected to you. Don't just back up your computer files, also make copies of any paper files that you could not live without and store them in a sealed envelope in a safe place.
• Clean up your desk and filing cabinets: Ever write down a password on a piece of paper and then shove it into a file? Ever write down a phone number of a person you don't want to be officially connected to? All those bits of paper start to add up to a lot of information after a while. Go through your desk and transfer that data into a secure place, like an encrypted disk, and then securely dispose of the paper. Likewise, go through filing cabinets every few months and pull out old phone lists, research that is no longer useful and anything else you don't want the police to get their hands on.
• Know your home and its contents: Have you had a lot of roommates or traveling friends visit throughout the years? It is essential to clean up after someone visits or moves out, so you aren't storing items you don't want to be connected to.
• Your electronic organizer and cell phone: Are all your phone numbers stored on your cell phone or palm pilot? Where would you get that information if the police had a warrant to seize those items as well? An encrypted backup zip disk should go along with your computer backups.
• Emergency numbers and support: Keep a lawyer's number on hand, as well as the
numbers of anyone who would support you during and after a raid. Make sure that the people you live with know where they can get that information if necessary, and also that they know what to do in case of a raid. Most importantly, don't forget that you should not talk to police before, during or after the raid, and you should contact a lawyer for assistance as soon as possible.
There are many reasons to develop security-consciousness in the activist community. The information provided here is an attempt to begin to satisfy the questions activists ask about computer security and overall security culture. For more information, visit security.tao.ca.