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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Claire Wolfe

Recognizing the snitch in your midst

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

I’d like to say I have no experience with snitches. In a way; I don’t. I’ve never (knock wood) gotten in trouble via a snitch.

But over the years, countless numbers of fools have approached me asking my advice on how to do illegal acts. No doubt some of them weren’t fools, but lazy or unskilled informants. I’ll never know.

Carl Bussjaeger writes a pretty good account of how that sort of thing works.

Through a combination of luck and not-total-stupidity, most of us have evaded the trap. But I’ll bet everybody here knows somebody whose life has been ruined (or even ended) through the work of a rat or that related lifeform, the agent provocateur.

If you deal drugs, if you trade guns and gun equipment (even in the most benign and legal way), if you promote unconventional ideas, if you’re an activist anywhere outside the bland center of the political spectrum, if you flirt with militia membership, if you’re a hacker or hacktivist … you will have informants around you. It’s a dead-solid certainty.

One thing that makes snitches corrosive is that, with a few notorious exceptions, they look and sound just like us, and even like friends — until the shocking moment their inner selves are revealed and our entire selves are in deep yogurt.

I know there’s no certain way to ID a snitch before disaster strikes. But still there are often telltale signs — signs that are sometimes so obvious you wonder why people fall for them.

So what are some signs to look for? And let’s lump snitches and agents provocateur together here — since they often are.

I’ll start out, then please add your $.02. The best notions will go toward The Project.


Here’s an oldie. Goes back at least to the radical political groups of the 1960s, if not beyond: “You can always tell the FBI agent (or the snitch) because he’s the one who’s always trying to get you to bomb something.”

Today — since the courts have become so absurdly tolerant of entrapment — “You can always tell the FBI agent (or the snitch) because he’s the one who’s always trying to get you to bomb something … AND supplying the equipment … AND choosing the target … AND providing the transportation … And ….”

Equally true in other areas. The drug snitch who knows you’re just a casual user will try to get you to sell from your stash. The drug snitch who knows you’re a small-time seller will try to get you to sell more to make you a bigger, more valuable bust.

Any stranger or casual acquaintance who approaches you asking you to do illegal things — or help them do illegal things — should be viewed with suspicion.

A friend — even a good friend — whose behavior toward you suddenly changes in the direction of pushing you to do illegal deeds (or advise him in doing them) may have gotten in trouble and been turned by the cops.

One particular sign is if someone asks you to do something that simply doesn’t meet a reasonable person’s smell test. Randy Weaver was entrapped by an ATF snitch who persuaded him to cut down two shotguns for a few hundred dollars. He needed the money and never asked the crucial question — Why the hell should anybody need me to saw the barrels off shotguns when anybody with a home workshop could do that for himself?

If you’re in a group — militia, Occupy, anti-war, whatever — and some new person shows up and is just oh-so “helpful” or eager or ingratiating, that might be a sign. Particularly if the person soon starts pushing the group in an illegal direction. Or starts creating divisive factions.

Blabbermouths or braggarts may either be snitches – or prime attractors of snitches.


What else? This is just off the top of my head. What would you look for — especially you voice-of-experience people?

24 Responses to “Recognizing the snitch in your midst”

  1. BusyPoorDad Says:

    Years ago, (far to many to comment on) when the NYLP was starting up a new member joined and became active. he said he was from a low income neighborhood, worked a manual labor job, and did not know much about politics. He look the part but things just did not add up.

    he knew how to set a table for a formal dinner, used the Robert’s Rules very well, and fit in very well with the highly educated members. After about four months of working with us, he just stopped coming. This sort of thing happened a lot but there were no signs of discontent. He was always willing to do everything he was asked to help do. (petition, run Nolan chart tables, etc)

    About a year later he was spotted in the NY Times holding on to someone arrested by the FBI for something.

    His background just did not fit with him. We never saw him reading books, he talked about watching TV and working at a where house, but he was able to be cultured, had a good vocabulary, and really wanted to be part of everything.

    I would say that would be something to look for from new people. Existing ones? sudden changes like you said.

  2. just waiting Says:

    I see snitches in 2 classes, the professional and the opportunistic.

    The professional snitch is a cop or other LE wannabe. He/she is the one who starts prying and asking questions about the personal information of the members your group. He/she wants to know who’s married, has kids, lives with parents; who has a drink/drug issue. He’s been trained in how to identify susceptibilty, gullibility and weakness. He/she is the one who suggests and impels the group towards illegal acts.

    LE will take weeks, months, years developing their professional snitches into valuable LE assets. They will protect these assets at all costs.

    The opportunistic snitch has just been arrested and is scared and looking for a way out. This means almost anyone you know that has recently been arrested for anything. This snitch has immediate information on their associates for LE. If nothing else, this snitch knows who they got their drugs from and who they sold to, or who they committed some other illegal act with. These associates are easy pickings for LE.

    So look for too many of the wrong questions, and any recent arrests, its the starting point for identifying a potential snitch in your midst.

  3. Chucky Says:

    Years ago a friend of mine asked me to shorten a shotgun barrel for him. Being an amateur machinist/gunsmith I initially agreed to do it. When he showed me where he wanted it cut I told him it was illegal to cut it that short. He tried _very_ hard to convince me to cut it for him, to the point I became suspicious of his motives. I refused. He tried to effect the air of a rebel and was always trying to convince me to do small illegal things. A couple of years later he was murdered with the possible involvement of a state police friend of his. He was shot through his right hand and into his face, killing him. It was ruled a suicide. To this day I think he was trying to set me up for something.

  4. Jollyprez Says:

    There’s the old joke that during the KKK days, you could tell who was the Fed infiltrator pretty easily, as they were the only ones who paid their dues. That would be a variation on the modern version where the snitch / AG pays for everything.
    I used to have an Free State Project sticker on my car. I pulled it off after I was approached at a carwash by somebody I didn’t know who started talking about doing violent and illegal acts.
    I made a couple of noncommittal noises, and sped out of there. Upon analysis, I conjectured that he was either just plain crazy, an amateur snitch-to-be, or a Fed agent provocateur.
    In my case, it was easy to not be entrapped, as I have no desire whatever to engage in violence of any sort.
    However, I decided to remove my political stickers from my car because I just don’t need to attract these people. Being in the mere vicinity of them could be dangerous.
    I consider that an abridgment of my right to free speech, obviously, but those two stickers had caused others to be attracted as well. In that case, some neighbors of mine damaged my car because they were so offended that we were Free-Staters.
    We’re talking upper class, mostly retired, and they felt it necessary to damage our car in our driveway!
    I like the idea of promoting, for example, Ron Paul. Every time I see a car with a Ron Paul sticker, I honk and wave. Would that I could carry his message myself without attracting the lice and ticks.

  5. Kent McManigal Says:

    Several years ago a high-strung friend of mine suddenly decided one day that I was a snitch or an undercover cop, and I found myself looking at a gun in his hand- not “down the barrel”, but held ready to “point and click”.

    The thing is, his reasons for getting suspicious were that I wasn’t ready to engage in violence against the authoriturds, and that someone else (whom he also suspected of being a snitch or cop) that I didn’t even know had told him I was a snitch/cop.

    This friend seemed to attract trouble of the “official sort” wherever he went. The last time I ran into him- years later and far away from where we had both lived when we had hung out together- he was still on the same path.

    I suspect he would have been just the type to get recruited- but I’m not convinced he would have ever cooperated.

  6. Jim B. Says:

    I have only one comment about being asked how to do an illegal act by someone coming to me for advice.

    I’d tell him to “Frack off, if you can’t figure it out yourself then you’re too stupid to do it.”

  7. Steve Says:

    I was quite the wastrel while young and ended up in some groups that got lots of government attention. Sometimes I think that if there had been no informants there, the rooms would have been almost empty.

    There were several types I pegged as informants. One unifying aspect was that they were always advocating illegal activities.

    First were several very ignorant and unmotivated types who all used drugs. I figured they were trying to get out of a bust.

    Then there were cop types. Very easy to spot. Accompanying them were types who didn’t look like cops but ‘smelled’ like cops. Very smart and often knew the talk. One woman turned up later in a different city with a different name. I only discovered it by accident at a reunion years later as we exchanged pictures. Nowadays I’d call them an up and coming Donnie Brasco type.

    There were out and out nutters who disrupted things by just being there. There were people who didn’t fit into any obvious group but just seemed wrong. Maybe self-appointed G-Men or journalists. There were also people who were incapable of keeping quiet about anything.

    Three of us who fairly trusted each other wondered how bad we were compromised and decided to try a test. We were, a lot of loosely organized groups with a variety of hangers on. Each of us met with some of these people and called a ‘secret’ meeting. It was a cop’s wet dream with guns, drugs and heavy people promised. One of us went to each of these meetings and it was only some of the people told about it and a massive police presence at all of them. (The smart people stayed home.) It became unpleasant when the Feds, cops and such realized it was a trick.

    It left me with the depressing feeling that it was next to impossible to put a heavyweight group of more than one person together without a snitch.

    I did learn some interesting things. 1. Never, ever advocate illegal activity in a group. Be on the record as opposing any bad stuff. Note who is advocating such stuff and get the heck out of there if it gets serious. 2. Be reticent with your full name. Perhaps have several names and appearances. 3. Never do anything illegal with any sorts of witnesses. If you’re even going to be close to such things change your appearance as much as possible.

    Some friends didn’t do that and ended up with heavyweight indictments, often for chicken manure stuff. I was told that I was all over the the files but nobody was sure of who I was and what, if anything I had done. (Of course I never did anything illegal.)

    Just being part of the gun scene now and being known to have some tooling I’ve been asked to do illegal stuff twice. I acted as if I thought the person was ignorant and explained in great detail why as if I was educating them.

    Over 40 years later the advantage is totally on the cops. Surveillance is really good and there are so many oppressive laws everybody is a felon.

    Sorry for the depressing note but I’m rather clueless about how to beat snitches.


  8. Claire Says:

    That’s about right, Jim B. Well said.

    This is a little off-topic, maybe. But anyhow …

    Often, the questions people have asked me over the years aren’t about anything overtly illegal — just the sort of “outlawish” stuff that could … well, lead to something illegal or be part of something illegal depending on how they do it (e.g. going without ID could lead to tax avoision). If I actually gave them the advice they’re looking for, I could end up implicated in some “conspiracy” I’m not even aware of.

    I don’t give the advice partly because it’s awfully cheeky of strangers to ask me to become their personal counselor (and these folks often approach with a remarkable sense of entitlement). Partly, too, because they haven’t even earned “trust, but verify” status.

    But another big reason is that they’re often talking taking a step that’s going to lead them into the real, serious, complications of an alternative lifestyle. If they have to lean on a total stranger to advise them on simple stuff, they ain’t never gonna be able to do the harder stuff. After many years “underground,” hell, I found that even I wasn’t up to handling all the hard stuff and I went back into the system.

    Whether these people are dumb snitches or just dumb, lazy, clueless fools I don’t know. And don’t really care. They’re dumb and they’re not going to be good for anybody’s freedom.

  9. Claire Says:

    Might be depressing, Steve. But given your history and activities, I’d hardly say you’re clueless about beating snitches. Much good insight there.

    Kent — That’s the first time I’ve heard of somebody being accused as a snitch for not being willing enough to do illegal things. Your friend sounds … interesting.

    One of the most corrosive things about real infiltrators, informers, and snitches is that they generate so much suspicion against everybody. Cops and feds may sit back and laugh as they watch activist groups degenerate into accusations of snitching, but they don’t get how snitching corrupts the very ideas of society and community, far beyond the people they’re targeting.

    Years ago, I heard some serious accusations of snitching against a person who was then and is now (even moreso) a prominent gun-rights activist. I think he has well proved himself over the years NOT to be a snitch. Yet I find that every time I hear his name or read something he’s written, I feel a little itch of caution in my soul.

  10. Ellendra Says:

    @Jollyprez: I know a few people who put their bumper stickers on magnets so they could remove them when parked, because of a few incidences like that. It’s amazing the number of people who believe in “Free speech for me, but not for thee.” There’s a house down the road from my parent’s house that got vandalized several times just because they had a Palin sign in their yard.

  11. Matt, another Says:

    Probably not a category of snitch, but I have also learned to be leery of people that are just plain, old fashioned busybodies and troublemakers. The kind that are always looking at someone elses business, often with comments to share with others. Many just can’t stand to see other people happy or succesful and have to squelch it if they can. Others, even proffessed anarchists, will drop a dime with the authorities just because they delight in seeing someone else hurt. You might not even know these people well, but they can’t resist causing problems if they see opportunity.

    I have worked diligently to eliminate most of these people from my life and the couple I am stuck with never hear of my plans, dreams or accomplishments. I also never talk politicas or religion with these kind of people and shun them as much as possible.

    OPSEC always applies when deailing with other people, even relatives.

  12. Sam Says:

    In the early 80s I owned a small company that sold legal tax shelters, very up and up. The IRS audited me and found everything to be okay, it really was.

    Enter the snitch. He was constantly trying to one-up me, control me, or somehow embarrass me professionally. He never succeeded. I’d finally had it with him and fed him the same kind of crap he was feeding me, and embarrassed him privately. I thought that would be the end of it. He tried again in a public forum which pissed me off, so I turned the tables an really embarrassed him. Opps.

    A year later the IRS (and the state equivalent) showed up at my place of business to audit me personally and corporately, federal and state for the past three years, a total of 12 fairly complex returns. It was a nightmare that cost me over $10,000 in professional services (CPA, lawyer and overhead), plus lost revenue of almost a month with my business basically shut down (try selling a tax shelter with your office full of rude and belligerent IRS types). At the end of this, there was nothing out of order but a $2,000 deduction I’d missed, which really ticked them off.

    A few months later another tax shelter specialist took me to lunch and spilled the beans on the snitch bragging about how he hosed me with the IRS.

    Since then I’ve figured out some folks (that try to control others) have a monumental need to “win” according to their own agenda. And if they cannot “win” in some way, they go the snitch route.

    Now when I encounter a controller type person I either escape (such as taking a phony cell phone call and leave) or figure out some way around their agenda. Beware of controllers!

  13. MamaLiberty Says:

    Beware of all the million ways that something or someone can be “too good to be true.” Listen to your guts. And DON’T listen to the little bird that says you could get “such a deal.” Bargains often are not – in trade or in relationships.

  14. Mic Says:

    I am reminded of Ben Franklin’s philosophy on this situation was…

    “Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead”

    Another one that comes to mind, but not sure who is credited with coming up with it…

    “Keep your own counsel”

    In plain English keep your mouth shut, don’t express your plans or ideas to others and for god’s sake use some encryption.

  15. Latigo Morgan Says:

    Some even have had their own radio shows, i.e. Hal Turner.

  16. Claire Says:

    Hal Turner is one of those people I’ve happily ignored forever. Didn’t know he was a snitch. Didn’t know his snitching brought down the Hutaree militia.

    Guess it’s not surprising. Reading all his calls for violence against government officials — violence he never committed himself — he fits the profile.

    LOL, anyhow, it’s always appeared to me that every damned neo-Nazi and white-power type is ready to inform against any other damned neo-Nazi or white-power type at any moment. They all seem to be “cells of one,” not for security’s sake, but because they can’t stand each other. Whenever they’re not ranting against the usual targets they’re ranting even more wildly against their fellow Nazis.

  17. Bulucanagria Says:

    Some years ago I was returning from a job interview. I was changing buses in downtown Cincinnati when I saw that there was a hemp rally about to begin. Naturally I stayed on to enjoy the festivities.

    Coming from a job interview I was dressed casually, but rather nicely; slacks, button down shirt, decent shoes. Also, I’m a fairly large white guy with short hair, my preference because when my hair grows out I look like a used Q-tip.

    So, I’m standing at the back of the crowd when a band comes on to warm up the crowd. The singer intros the song by saying, “This is dedicated to all the undercover cops out there today…” and about a dozen people turn and look at me with knowing expressions. I had to laugh out loud!

    The first speaker comes out (Gatewood Galbraith RIP), and soon some naif sparks up a joint…and is immediately arrested by the tie-dyed, lang-hair, bearded hippie! Again I couldn’t help myself and laughed out loud. I’ve smoked my share of The Devil’s Lettuce but sometimes potheads just ain’t too bright.

    My point is that another potential sign of a plant is somebody who seems to match all the stereotypes of the group you’re in. The agent involved may be smart and subtle enough to provide a nuanced portrayal of a “fellow traveler”, or he may be an ignorant jackwagon who believes all the hype put out by his overlords and thinks of his quarry as cartoon characters. It’s true that stereotypes become so by generally being true, but it’s doubtful that any one individual would embrace them all.

    Again, this seems like something a savvy person would already understand but, since we’re trying to explain these things to ignorant fools (i.e. me 30 years ago), I thought I’d share.

  18. cctyker Says:

    Ignore this if it is not relevant; but I think of the people during WWII in Nazi controled territory who went underground to fight Nazism by what we call now gorrilla methods.
    How did they sort out informants? Or did they?
    They had so much to lose, so much risk of life and of being tortured.
    Makes our problems seem simple.

  19. LarryA Says:

    You might want to mention potential snitches.
    Met a guy recently who was talking up his “self reliance” skills, and we got to discussing guns. (I teach shooting.) He was bent that none of the local gunsmiths would cut down his “social shotgun” barrel to less than 18 1/4 inches. His attitude was “Eighteen is legal and that’s what I want!”
    When I pointed out that with shotgun barrels the difference between 18.0″ and 17.9″ is ten years, he replied, “Eighteen is legal so they can’t touch me.”
    I don’t think he’s a snitch yet, but with that attitude his fruit is hanging way too low for me to stay around.

  20. clark Says:

    My first “real job” was working at a truck stop at night. One evening a boisterous – the really funny type everybody seemed to like – and loud guy I knew who was always getting into trouble walks in and asks me to sell him some beer.

    He was a minor at the time yet His Approach Was One Of A Professional Sales Person rather than a bored teenager, maybe that’s why I said, no.

    At about the same time the sale would have been completed a state cop walks in. The cop acted funny, kind of surprised like? I don’t think he bought anything.

    In the entire time I worked there (other than the time a cop came in in hot pursuit looking for the team of Gypsies that had just left that were robbing stores up and down the line) I never saw a cop in the place, not even to get gasoline. So I figured that guy was a snitch. Psft, I guess they get the BoyScouts to do that type of sting nowadays?

    His other key feature was, he worked real hard to gain your trust, noticeably hard. I say that having watched him around others later on. He was a, puts-his-arm-around-you kind of guy.

    I guess I’m the, puts-my-elbow-in-your-gut-if-you-do-that kind of guy.

    Another fella I knew well who turned out to not only be a snitch (various ways I found out) but grew into a DEA guy (I saw him on the tV) was always saying how he hated cops and would try shooting it out with them if he ever got busted, as if he was waiting for me to say, me too, but I never did say that.

    After several similar attempts he suddenly turned cold on me just like that – snap – as if a switch was turned.

    He was a lot like the first guy and he loved using slang, overly so. I think they both had an inferiority complex. Are those, ‘tells’?

    I should have known better, but I was young and naive, and tended to trust People.
    Not any more.

    When I drive/speed/don’t wear my seatbelt, I just figure everybody’s a cop in an unmarked car, it’s much easier that way. Maybe it’s the same with snitches?

  21. Tom Buchanan Says:

    Here is a story from the not too distant past about informants that controlled 5 guys attempting to blow up a bridge in Ohio.

  22. Jacques Says:

    Land of the free – home of the brave. Yeah right. Snitches, b*tches and b*stards at every turn, trying to snare us into one of their gulags.

    Whatever happened to the American public? Being called as a snitch was one of the foulest accolades one could be called. It was a minor step above a child molester.

    (BTW: Look at the shoes or footwear. Denton boots that are fresh and new are a clear giveaway. Another way is unfortunately after the fact. When the arrests come, see who is treated kindly by the cops. They won’t go out of their way to hurt their own.)

  23. Victor Milán Says:

    If Nazis can’t stand each other, it means we can’t say they have no taste at all.

  24. Claire Says:

    LOL, Victor. Good point. But now your enemies will call you a “Nazi sympathizer.” [rolleyes]

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