Archive for the ‘Agent Provocateurs’ Category

An Introduction:

‘Agent Provocateur’ what does this mean exactly?  No, not the lingerie brand.  Obviously it relates, somehow, to police deviance.  This is a relatively obscure term used to describe a certain type of crime. An agent provocateur is created when an undercover agent has moved from a passive involvement in crime to an active involvement. This means that such an individual might (and as often is the case) not be a police officer.  The individual could be any number of things, from a police officer working undercover, to an informant who is paid or blackmailed, to a member of The Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) — which is not a policing agency, and is not in fact required to enforce Canadian law.

Typically, an agent provocateur is a police officer that encourages others to commit crime in order for fellow police officers to arrest said guilty parties.  These encouragements can vary depending on circumstance. They could be crimes of themselves.  And the encouragements enacted by the police officer universally stray in to that legal gray area known as entrapment – whether the act of encouraging itself is a crime or not.

A little context is, perhaps, in order.

Grant Bristow and Operation Governor:

When we speak of agents provocateur, it is important to note that agents provocateur are not a new phenomenon in Canadian legal history.

Historically, we also have the case of Grant Bristow, a former CSIS agent who worked with the Canadian chapter of the Aryan Nations.  Unfortunately, the only comprehensive resource on Grant Bristow comes from Wikipedia.  Although we do have fellow blogger, Ezra Levant‘s commentary on the matter, as well as Bristow’s interview with The Walrus to draw on. Less user-friendly is a SIRC report written in 1994 investigating CSIS and Bristow’s role in the Heritage Front Affair.

Regardless, in this case the Wiki article seems to be quite succinct on the subject of Grant Bristow according to my subsequent research.
Grant Bristow
Grant Bristow was an informant employed by CSIS who worked closely with the eventual leader of the Canadian Aryan Nations front, Wolfgang Droege in the ’80s. He has spoken to the fact that his ties with Droege allowed him to prevent various horrific acts of violence, including bombings and riots. However, further investigation has revealed that his placement as Droege’s right hand man may have been what allowed the organization to continue its operations when Droege assumed leadership. The purpose of Bristow’s infiltration was to identify the financial supporters of the Canadian Chapter of Aryan Nations. However, it was upon the impending arrest of Droege (on unrelated charges of assault) and Bristow’s subsequent departure of Aryan Nations in March 1994, that the Front disbanded.  Bristow was forced to step down, because if he had not, he would have become the de facto leader of the chapter.

In 1994, Toronto Sun reporter Bill Dunphy released an expose on Operation Governor; sadly this news article is not available on the newspaper’s website.  Without a copy, what can be said about it is this: the article negatively exposed CSIS’s role in the Heritage Front/Operation Governor Affair and ousted Grant Bristow as the agent in question.

In September 2004, Bristow sat down with the Walrus and narrated his own perspective of the operation.

Bob Lambert:

Robert Lambert

Dr. Robert Lambert is currently the co-director of the European Muslim Research Centre at the University of Exeter. He also lectures at the Centre of the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews. He was a former officer employed by the London Metropolitan Police from 1980-2008. He is the author of Countering Al Qaeda in London: Police and Muslims in Partnerships. He was inducted as a Member to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2008, for his work as a police officer.

Under the false identity “Bob Robinson,” Lambert infiltrated various environmental, animal rights, and anti-racist activist groups. I bring this case up not as a discussion of agents provocateur, but to highlight a similar issue found in the Kennedy case below: Lambert instigated an 18 month relationship with a London Greenpeace activist in an attempt to gain credibility in his undercover role. While police chiefs claim that undercover officers are expressly forbidden from engaging in sexual relations with activists, other undercover officers have come forward to say that sex is most definitely used as a tool to gain trust.

Although Lambert has never been accused of being an agent provocateur, he currently is under investigation by the Metropolitan Police in regards to whether or not he was prosecuted under his assumed identity, while undercover.

Robert Lambert

Montebello:

The Montebello Incident involved the Sûreté du Quebec using three undercover officers to infiltrate the anti-Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America protests. The SPP was an open dialogue between Canada, America, and Mexico with the purpose of enhancing trade, sharing intelligence, cooperation, environmental protection, and economic stability between the three nations. The SPP was meant to exist alongside institutions such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. The SPP was cancelled in August 2009.

In the above video, peaceful demonstrators are protesting the SPP at the North American leaders’ summit in Montebello, Quebec. The above video shows Dave Coles (president of the Communications, Energy and Paper Workers Union) ordering three masked men, who were later revealed as undercover SdQ officers, to leave. In August 2007, the SdQ admitted to its involvement.

Informants:

To further broaden our look into agents provocateur: the issue of informants is paramount.  Mother Jones offers are clear and frank exploration of the use of informants from the American perspective in its September/October 2011 article “The Informants”.  From the Canadian perspective, we have the work of Mathilde Turcotte and his study of police informants and their handlers in Quebec, in the article “Shifts in Police-Informant Negotiations.”

From the Canadian perspective we have the following: police are required to actively seek out and maintain a network of informants without much leverage.  Typically, informants are gathered through actions such as bribes, blackmail, and “flipping.” “Flipping” is where a criminal is given the opportunity to “work off” his crimes through aiding in police investigations. Blackmail is the threat of legal action before an informant is charged. This could include issues of immigration.  However, in Canada, police have no real control over the reciprocity process.  In order to prevent the abuse of power on part of the police, outside agencies have control over the reciprocity process. This creates a unique situation where the informant could gain leverage over his handler, and make demands in return for cooperation. This also puts the handler in jeopardy during the bargaining process, because he cannot be certain that any promises he makes to an informant will be carried through.

As the informant gains more power in his relationship with his handler, it is often the case that he works outside his orders and without confirmation or approval.  An example provided by Turcotte involves an informant, while wearing a wire, attempting to entrap a contact in a drug deal.  This was outside the scope of the informant’s directions, and completely illegal — any evidence he might have gathered would have been inadmissible in court.  As a civilian agent, he was not aware that his actions constituted entrapment. Fortunately, the contact did not accept the deal; if he had, the ramifications are impossible to predict, although it could be said with certainty that the Police would not have come out of it with high public opinion.

Mother Jones also brings up the issue of wires and undercover operations, in the context of terrorist sting operations.  The concern raised here is that, while technology advances further and has allowed for virtually undetectable recording devices, there are still many incidents of key interactions not being recorded. The law enforcement side of the debate offers the excuse of “technical difficulties,” while the pragmatic approach is simply one of convenience. Certain conversations are not recorded because it is “inconvenient” for the agency that they are on record.

Mark Kennedy:

Mark Kennedy

Mark Kennedy is a former London Metropolitan police officer who worked undercover for seven years, between 2003 and 2010, infiltrating various activist groups across Europe. Most recently, he was involved in the case of 20 activists convicted of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass at the Ratcliff-on-Soar Power Station. However, this conviction was overturned on Tuesday, July 19, 2011. Three appeal court judges ruled that a grave miscarriage of justice had occurred when audio evidence Kennedy had collected during the activists’ meetings was not disclosed by prosecution. The audio evidence showed Kennedy “was involved in activities which went much further than the authorization he was given, and appeared to show him as an enthusiastic supporter of the proposed occupation of the power station and, arguably, an agent provocateur.”

Kennedy’s involvement in the planned occupation of the Power Station was not passive. He recruited, drove reconnaissance, and offered financial backing. In total, 114 individuals were arrested when they gathered for a meeting in April 2009. When Kennedy’s involvement in the group as an undercover officer was exposed, he faced harsh denouncement from the activists he had infiltrated, who had considered him a close friend and confident. They express feelings of violation and betrayal. Kennedy also faces allegations that he had used sex as a means to gain trust and information while under cover.

In response to this controversy, Kennedy claims that “he was mishandled by senior officers and has been hung out to dry.” Interesting, in that this is a technique of neutralization. In the field of sociology, we would describe this as shifting blame to a higher power – in this case Kennedy’s superiors. Although it is important to qualify that what he has to say is quite logical. And not unexpected when, often, police institutions seek to single out the blame and distance the institution itself from corruption.
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1
Seven inquiries have been launched in regards to Kennedy’s infiltration and the prosecution of the activists.  In total, of the 114 individuals arrested, none have been convicted.

Analysis:

Undercover officers – what do they mean for police and police deviance?  Maurice Punch (2009), in his book Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability, and reform in policing, tells us time and again to look not at the “bad apples,” but the “bad barrels” and “bad orchards” (p. 48), meaning: look at the situation, circumstance, and environment surrounding police that might lead them to corruption. Undercover officers work with, more often than not, criminals; to put it plainly, an officer is expected to infiltrate suspected criminal groups with the intent of gathering evidence (we hope) against these criminals that can be used to bring them to justice.  It is most definitely a dirty job. Getting ‘street cred’ alone usually requires some sort of criminal act.  This common theme of “credibility” or “trust” or “information” is found in the cases of Bristow, Lambert, Kennedy, and Mother Jones’s “The Informants.” In the cases of Kennedy and Lambert, we are further introduced into the idea of sexual encounters as a point of leverage. Morals are pushed and boundaries are reformed. It is natural to assume that somewhere along the line ‘the end justifies the means.’

Gary T. Marx asks us to explore the origins and motives of informants, what they do in radical groups, and factors that enable their transformation into agents provocateur (n.d.).

This leads us first to look our cases of undercover officers as informants, identify some of the motives and concerns that might have lead them to become agents provocateurs.

Bristow’s case is interesting because, as an informant working for CSIS, he is in a different position than the others, who were actual police officers. Bristow had no overarching mandate to uphold the law. And he was tasked with uncovering the financial supporters of Aryan Nations. In his quest to do so he developed a strong relationship with Wolfgang Droege. The maintenance of that relationship required Bristow to act the part of a supporter of the white supremacist cause.  This was an “ends justify the means” situation. Or we could call it a type of Nobel Cause or Dirty Harry corruption.  Maurice Punch describes these types of corruption as specific types of police deviance, however in this case we can apply them to Bristow.  Bristow did not believe in the cause of white supremacy, yet he assumed the guise of such in his undercover role.

The SdQ undercover officer’s roles in the Montebello incident are most definitely Nobel Cause or Dirty Harry corruption. However, as SdQ is a police agency, with a legal mandate to uphold Canada’s law, we have the further issue of Accountability.  Attempting to provoke or incite violence for whatever purpose is illegal. In some cases it could be considered entrapment.  However, it is important to note that Entrapment is only a defense at law; it is not in itself illegal. (Robichaud’s Criminal Defence Legislation blog offers a clearly defined explanation of entrapment if you are so interested.)  The SdQ’s actions at Montebello neatly fall into the definitions of entrapment, although in this case the protesters resisted incitement.  Although no violence occurred, why were the police not held accountable for their actions? If Droege had been prosecuted for his involvement with the Aryan Nations Front, would he have been able to plead entrapment? The role of the agent provocateur is a convoluted one.

In the study of agents provocateur and their roles in undercover operations, the issue of accountability continues to raise its head. There is a certain “legal gray area” that clouds the use of informants and the use of police undercover agents. We can identify some of the motives of agents provocateur, chiefly the types of corruption Maurice Punch labels as Noble Cause, or Dirty Harry corruption.  We cannot, however identify the solution to agents provocateur, because there is so little investigation into the use of them, and there is no transparent accountability structure in place.  CSIS informants hide behind the veil of “National Security.”

Further, what are the ramifications of the agent provocateur? As eluded to above, and as found conclusively in the case of Mark Kennedy, the identification of an agent provocateur can, and will, lead to acquittal.  So what then, makes an individual decide to jeopardize any possible legal action by inciting crime? In Bristow’s case, his purpose was not to arrest Droege – or anyone for that matter. He was tasked with identifying certain individuals and he had no interest in criminal charges.  We see a similar theme in Lambert’s and Kennedy’s situations – they were tasked with gathering information, as well. Is there a distinction between “information gathering” and “nailing the bad guy for a crime”? The literature on police deviance would suggest not.  Mathilde’s and Mother Jones’s articles both allude to the situation of the informant as key to the creation of the agent provocateur.

To look at the cases of Lambert and Kennedy again: I bring them up together because they share similar themes. While Lambert’s case was not one of the agent provocateur (he was an undercover police officer and is currently under speculation for false testimony, not inciting crime), both he and Kennedy were deep undercover agents who operated for years. They created intense interpersonal relationships with the people they were tasked to observe. And they both faced harsh criticism for they duality. They are also both former police officers. Under Peel’s principles that “the police are the public and the public are the police,” we have a concern. The controversy these two individuals are involved in seriously affects the relationship between the public and the police.

Ultimately, the damage the agent provocateur does, to the public and the agency to which he or she belongs, seems to outweigh any benefit. And yet, still these instances occur. What is so very tempting in tempting others into crime?

References:

Marx, G. (n.d.). “Thoughts on a Neglected Category of Social Movement Participant: The Agent Provocateur and the Informant,” American Journal of Sociology 80(2): 402-442.

Punch, Maurice. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability, and reform in policing. Portland, Oregon: Willan Publishing.

Turcotte, Mathilde. (2008). Shifts in police-informant negotiations. Global Crime, 9(4), 291-305. doi: 10.1080/17440570802543508.

And all the electronic resources cited here-above.

Advertisements

The Undercover Provocateur

Posted: December 1, 2011 by dhaliwal15 in Agent Provocateurs
Tags: , ,

A Police Agent Provocateur is a particular type of undercover police infiltrator. However, this undercover agent does not necessarily have to be a Police officer; the agent could be any public civilian who is hired by the Police Department for a special assignment, depending on the circumstances. Police Agent Provocateurs play a vital role for law enforcement and other government agencies, when trying to catch citizens, who the police deem as criminals. Agent Provocateurs are similar to spies who infiltrate an organization.

However, one main difference is that Provocateurs may provoke or influence a person or a group into committing an illegal action rather than just collecting as visual surveillance. This is done so arrests and convictions can be made against non-law abiding citizens. However, provoking someone to commit an act of violence should not be considered fair, and agencies should not be allowed to try and force civilians into commit violent acts. By provoking someone to commit an act, law enforcement agencies are setting citizens up to fail. In these cases, people who are arrested, prosecuted, and sent to jail had no intent to commit any criminal acts until they were provoked by law-enforcement agencies. No individual person is greater than the law, therefore agencies that use agents as provocateurs do not have any special authority to break the law.

According to Gary T. Marx (1974), of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Center for Criminal Justice, agent provocateurs can range from all kinds of undercover officers, from Special Forces, to ordinary police officers, and even ordinary citizens. An agent provocateur could be considered an undercover spy who is pretending to fit into a certain group, in order to gain further intelligence.

After an agent has infiltrated an organization and become a member, after he or she has been accepted, the agent may be asked or have to do many immoral acts, which may go against his or her desires. Marx (1974) states that “the agent may go along with the illegal actions of the group, he [or she] may actually provoke such actions, or he [or she] may set up a situation in which the group appears to have taken or to be about to take an illegal action” (Marx, 1974, 405). Furthermore, Marx (1974)  states that an agent is not just randomly chosen by he or she must also fit a certain set of characteristics. An agent is carefully examined at how well he or she matches and fits into with a group. For example, age, race, and religion are just some of the characteristics that may be looked at.

Marx (1974) introduces an interesting point while discussing the characteristics of a agent who may be chosen. Furthermore, he states that civilians rather than professionally trained and sworn police are used as agents who act as informant.Po lice agencies may influence a civilian to take on the role of an agent provocateur for a number of reasons, including the promise of financial rewards or a reduction in a charge or sentence.  Also a civilian may share much more attributes of a group that he or she is asked to infiltrate. Furthermore, Marx (1974) talks about using police officers as agents. These police officers, who are chosen to perform such a task, are usually young inexperienced officer, who have just recently joined the police force.

In Canada, there have been several big accusations made against Police agent provocateurs, especially in massive protests, which occurred in Canada’s largest Metropolitan area, Toronto, Ontario. In addition, some agent provocateur operations have not gone so well as others, for example, Montebello, Quebec. Protestors did not turn violent, and the Quebec Provincial police had to admit their mistake.

In Montebello, Quebec, the Sûreté du Québec, which is the Provincial police force of Quebec was accused of using police agent provocateurs in a wrongful manner. Many people gathered to protest meetings of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America on August 20 2007. The protest was intended to be a peaceful one, however three individuals who had their faces covered, and wore similar boots to those of the police officers dressed in riot gear, were essentially asked to leave the protest; due to them trying to turn the protest violent.

A video posted on YouTube, by user leper99 is about a CBC News World clip about the use of agent provocateurs regarding the Montebello summit. In the video clip criminal lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon talks about how the use of agent provocateurs is not a proper use of police resources. In addition, he states that there should be guidelines and other regulations set out for police organization, when dealing with large crowds. Furthermore, the video states that the police use agent provocateurs so that they may disperse crowds quickly and gather up as many protestors as possible. Also that the use of agent provocateurs is endorsed by politicians, because it is gives the police an opportunity to move in the with riot squad and disperse the large crowd as soon as possible.

The G20 Summit riots on June 26 2010 occurred in Canada’s largest metropolitan area Toronto, Ontario. Many conspiracies began to arise of the Toronto Police Department  using officers as provocateurs, in order to provoke the protesters to become violent. Similar to the Montebello incident, many rioters were seen wearing similar boots as Toronto Police officers that day. Rioters wearing similar shoes as officers were caught on pictures destroying local stores, and even going as far as to jumping on top of police cars.

More than a year later as Jerry Colangelo (2011) states that at least two police officers infiltrated activist groups that were planning to cause trouble in the streets of Toronto. Recently police officers have come forward and admitted “that not only did they join the group, but that they also took part in and encouraged several acts of vandalism” (Colangelo, 2011). The two officers who took part in this operation have not been yet identified, however, one is a male, and one is a female. While the two were undercover “they promoted vandalism and violence at strategy sessions — once suggesting that they vandalise building equipment — and took part in an unsuccessful attempt to interfere with the Vancouver Olympic torch run” (Colangelo, 2011).

Furthermore, relating to the Toronto G20 riots, CTV Southwestern Ontario conducted an interview with activist, Julian Ichim. Ichim discusses how he had close contact with officers who were part of the actions committed by rioters. As Ichim discusses with CTV Southwestern Ontario, about the undercover police officers actions, he states that the officers “offered to drive to events like the Olympic Torch relay to protest as it passed through a number of locations, including Guelph, Kitchener and northern Ontario” (2011). Furthermore, “Ichim says the officer was one of the big organizers of the torch protest and was even arrested while trying to block the flame in northern Ontario” (CTV Southwestern Ontario, 2011). Whether the officer organized the protest against the torch in order to cause some sort of a violent scene, such as a riot is still unknown. In addition, the Ontario Provincial Police have refused to release the final amount of how much these undercover operation cost taxpayers (CTV Southwestern Ontario, 2011).

Marx (1974) states that agent provocateurs are used most often in political cases. Agents work undercover and the public does not know about these police operations. However, Simon Kitson (1999) states that “between the political policing exercised by democracies and by dictatorships, certain general characteristics serve as common denominators” (p. 98). How can two different types of political views be so similar, this seems as if the police are following in a dictatorship way.

Furthermore, According to Jean-Paul Brodeur (2007), low policing is defined as the policing of criminal acts, which are not deemed a threat to national security. For example, littering or spray painting on private property is not seen as a major crime. On the other hand, high policing is based on the threat of national security. As Brodeur (2007) states that high policing has more to do with intelligence gathering, and is left aside by some smaller police organization, rather high policing is handled mostly by many federal organizations such as, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) in the United State of America, and in Canada, CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service). However, many local police forces may be responsible for planting agent provocateurs into a crowd, although this may involve more than one organization, such as the RCMP, OPP, and the Toronto Police Service all working together during the Toronto G20 Riots. Finally, Brodeur (2007) discusses the importance of humans going under cover, “…despite the growing reliance on technical sources, the infiltration of human informants remains the primary tool of high policing” (p. 35).

In the United States of America, there been several interesting incidents involving undercover police informants. The Black Panthers have had their fair share of the police and other government agencies infiltrating their group. According to the New York Times, a New York Police Detective helped the Black Panthers open up a location in the Bronx. At the time, the Police Detective was undercover acting as a spy. This should be considered an act of deviance on behalf of not only the Detective, but also the NYPD as a whole. The NYPD as a department allowed one of their own Detectives to participate in illegal activity, and helping to expand the illegal activity. Furthermore, the FBI in the United State of America has been involved in several undercover operations.

There are many cautious circumstances that law enforcement agencies have to be aware of when dealing with agents who go undercover in order to and infiltrate a certain group. Known as The Double Agent, the agent plays a role were he or she is truly an activist for the group which he or she is supposed to infiltrate. The purpose of The Double Agent is to trick and manipulate the law enforcement agencies by providing false information. Marx (1974) states that “He [or she] may enjoy a sense of power by deceiving everyone, experience cross-pressures, and be unclear as to which side he [or she] is really on”(Marx, 1974, 417). Another reason why many law enforcement agencies must be aware of when dealing with agents is that some may have mixed views and opinions. According to Marx (1974), if an agent shares similar characteristics of a group that he or she has infiltrated, he or she may convert and become part of the group, rather than just an undercover member. In order to first become an accepted member of a group an agent must build trust, and loyalties within a particular group. However, the more trust and loyalties he or she builds, the more his or her opinions may change about the group and the people within.

When a police officer becomes an undercover agent, he or she may be involved in dealing with many dangerous criminals and befriending them. Everett Hughes (1962), states that being an undercover agent and trying to befriend a criminal, while also looking for a conviction is considered to be “dirty work”. Hughes (1962) also goes on to say that leaders do not want direct involvement with criminal organizations, rather the leaders find someone who is useful enough to go and do the dirty work that is required of agents. When a police agent is doing undercover work illegal actions should not be permitted for the agent, as these actions would be going against many laws which are set out by the state. However, many undercover operations may end up being a total failure if some illegal actions are not to be permitted, because an agent may not be able gather enough evidence in a legal manner, therefore, an arrest or a charge may not be possible. This is very similar to the “Dirty Harry” phenomena, were the “means” are justified by a successful ending, such as catching the criminal (Punch, 2009, 24). As Marx (1974) states, some agents may contribute to violence, whether directly or indirectly, through these kinds of illegal actions one is able to entrap other committing illegal actions as well. Similar to the “Dirty Harry” phenomena, the term “Noble Causers” seems to fit in well with an agent provocateur. Although some agents may break the law and go against social norms, they however, are breaking the law for a greater cause. As Stated by Punch (2009), Noble Causers, break the law because officers believe it to be for the good of the public.

Police organizations that plan to provoke peaceful crowds into to turning violent should be held accountable for their actions. Officers along with the organizations that they belong to should be held responsible, similar to the members of the public who may be charged with an offence. The police are there to keep peace within and control any situations from arising. However, the more undercover officers provoke a crowd it is not only a danger towards the general public, but also it can cause a huge amount of property damage and put many officers lives at risk; with such a violent crowd. The police make the public look like a bunch of anarchists. However, many undercover officers influence acts of anarchy to be pursued by certain individuals.

Agent provocateurs do not only provoke criminal organizations and other citizens into committing illegal actions. Agent Provocateurs are also responsible for gathering vital information, which may possibly lead to further arrests of criminal organization groups. In addition, these agents are responsible for gathering a huge amount of intelligence from inside a secret organization. Throughout history there have been many incidents involving law enforcement agencies infiltrating certain groups, not only is this a dangerous role for officers and citizens to play, it is also dirty work as many people may be easily influenced.

After searching for “Police Agent Provocateurs” on Google, many different kinds of websites appeared on the first page of results there were about 5,560,000 hits.  Surprisingly, the Wikipedia page does contain of a decent amount of Canadian content, compared to other countries. Also, the Wikipedia page introduces the incident which took place in Montebello, Quebec. Furthermore, several multimedia websites such as You Tube appeared with videos of undercover officers provoking rioters, and escalating the violence.  Several newspaper articles appeared, such as The Star. In addition, some newspapers from the United Kingdom appeared such as: The Guardian which discussed the G20 protests in London also resulted in a similar situation as Toronto, and The Independent. A non-profit organization known as the Center for Research on Globalization (CRG) based out of Quebec, displayed several pictures of rioters and police officers wearing the exact same boots.  The Articles are fairly recent dating back to 2007.

References

Brodeur, J. P. (2007). High and low policing in post-9/11 times. Policing, 1(1), 25-37. doi: 10.1093/police/pam002

Colangelo, J. (2011, November 28). G20 protest group infiltrated by police. The Brock Press. Retrieved from http://www.brockpress.com/news/external-news/g20-protest-group-infiltrated-by-police-1.2717238

Southwestern Ontario, C. (2011, November 23). Police went undercover with activists before g20 riot. CTV News. Retrieved from http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20111123/undercover-g20-activist-operation-111123/20111123/?hub=TorontoNewHome

Hughes, E. 1962. “Good People and Dirty Work.” Social Problems 10 (Summer): 3-11

Kitson, S. (1999). Political policing. Crime, History & Societies, 3(2), 92-102. Retrieved from http://chs.revues.org/index893.html

leper99. (2007, August 23). quebec police admit going undercover at montebello protests [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAfzUOx53Rg

Marx. Gary. T (1974) Thoughts on a Neglected Category of Social Movement Participant: The Agent Provocateur and the Informant. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 80 (2), 402-442.

New York Times. (1971, February 3).

New York Times. (1971, February 17).

Punch, Maurice (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing. Devon: Willan Publishing (Routledge)

The Vancouver Sun. (2004, September 12). B.C.’s Hells Angels: Rich and Powerful. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from http://www.canada.c/vancouver/vancouversun/news/observer/story.html?id=f525bc8a-d80a-4ece-9ffc-f5a2a55a43b0

To expand my previous definition, an agent provocateur is created when an undercover agent has moved from a passive involvement in crime to an active involvement. This means that such an individual might (and as often is the case) not be a police officer.  The individual could be any number of things, from a police officer working undercover, to an informant who is paid or blackmailed, to a member of The Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) — which is not a policing agency, and is not in fact required to enforce Canadian law.

When we speak of agents provocateur (AP), it is important to note that AP’s are not a new phenomenon in Canadian legal history.  Although, generally, the newer cases of Montebello and Toronto G20 come to mind.

Historically, we also have the case of Grant Bristow, a former CSIS agent who worked with the Canadian chapter of the Aryan Nations.  Unfortunately, the only comprehensive resource on Grant Bristow comes from Wikipedia.  Although we do have fellow blogger, Ezra Levant‘s commentary on the matter, as well as Bristow’s interview with The Walrus to draw on. Less user-friendly is a SIRC report written in 1994 investigating CSIS and Bristow’s role in the Heritage Front Affair.  Interesting to note is that as I write, this website seems to be no longer available. I will have to look into it.

Irregardless, in this case the Wiki article seems to be quite succinct on the subject of Grant Bristow according to my subsequent research.

Grant Bristow and Operation Governor:
Grant Bristow Undercover Grant Bristow was an informant employed by CSIS who worked closely with the eventual leader of the Canadian Aryan Nations front, Wolfgang Droege in the ’80s. He has spoken to the fact that his ties with Droege allowed him to prevent various horrific acts of violence, including bombings and riots. However, further investigation has revealed that his placement as Droege’s right hand man may have been what allowed the organization to continue its operations when Droege assumed leadership. The purpose of Bristow’s infiltration was to identify the financial supporters of the Canadian Chapter of Aryan Nations. However, it was upon the impending arrest of Droege (on unrelated charges of assault) and Bristow’s subsequent departure of Aryan Nations in March 1994, that the Front disbanded.  Bristow was forced to step down, because if he had not, he would have become the de facto leader of the chapter.

In 1994, Toronto Sun reporter Bill Dunphy released an expose on Operation Governor, sadly this news article is not available on the newspaper’s website.  Without a copy, what can be said about it is this: the article negatively exposed CSIS’s role in the Heritage Front/Operation Governor Affair and ousted Grant Bristow as the agent in question.

In September 2004, Bristow sat down with the Walrus and narrated his own perspective of the operation.

Montabello:

The Montebello Incident involved the Surete du Quebec using three undercover officers to infiltrate the anti-Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America protests. The SPP was an open dialogue between Canada, America, and Mexico with the purpose of enhancing trade, sharing intelligence, cooperation, environmental protection, and economic stability between the three nations. The SPP was meant to exist along side institutions such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. The SPP was canceled in August 2009.

In the above video, peaceful demonstrators are protesting the SPP at the North American leaders summit in Montebello, Quebec. The above video shows Dave Coles (president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union) ordering three masked men, who were later revealed as undercover SdQ officers, to leave. In August 2007, the SdQ admitted to its involvement.

Tying into the Study of Police Deviance…:

If we take Grant Bristow’s work with Aryan Nations as a true example of an agent provocateur (it, of course has not been labeled as such by law – which brings about issues of accountability to be discussed below) and the police involvement of the Montebello incident, we have two examples of the use of Agent Provocateurs. Gary T. Marx asks us to explore the origins and motives of informants, what they do in radical groups, and factors that enable their transformation into agents provocateur (n.d.).

This leads us first to look at Bristow and the SdQ undercover officers as informants, identify some of the motives and concerns that might have lead them to become agents provocateurs.

Bristow’s case is interesting because, as an informant working for CSIS, he is in a different position than the undercover SdQ officers. Bristow had no overarching mandate to uphold the law. And he was tasked with uncovering the financial supporters of Aryan Nations. In his quest to do so he developed a strong relationship with Wolfgang Droege. Maintaining that relationship required him to act the part of a supporter of the white supremacist cause.  This was an “ends justifies the means” situation. Or we could call it a type of Nobel Cause or Dirty Harry corruption.  Maurice Punch describes these types of corruption as specific types of police deviance, however in this case we can apply them to Bristow.  Bristow did not believe in the cause of white supremacy, yet he assumed the guise of such in his undercover role.

…and Accountability:

The SdQ undercover officer’s roles in the Montebello incident are most definitely Nobel Cause or Dirty Harry corruption. However, as SdQ is a police agency, with a legal mandate to uphold Canada’s law, we have the further issue of Accountability.  Attempting to provoke or incite violence for whatever purpose is illegal. In some cases it could be considered entrapment.  (Robichaud’s Criminal Defense Legislation blog offers a clearly defined explanation of entrapment if you are so interested.)  The SdQ’s actions at Montebello neatly fall into the definitions of entrapment, although in this case the protesters resisted incitement. Although no violence occurred, why were the police not held accountable for their actions?

Informants:

To further broaden our look into APs: in my own opinion, the issue of informants is paramount.  Mother Jones offers are clear and frank exploration of the use of informants from the American perspective in its September/October 2011 article The Informants.  From the Canadian perspective, we have the work of Mathilde Turcotte and his study of police informants and their handlers in Quebec, in the article “Shifts in Police-Informant Negotiations.”

From the Canadian perspective we have the following: police are required to actively seek out and maintain a network of informants without much leverage.  Typically, informants are gathered through actions such as bribes, blackmail, and “flipping.” “Flipping” is where a criminal is given the opportunity to “work off” his crimes through aiding in police investigations. Blackmail is the threat of legal action before an informant is charged. This could include issues of immigration.  However, in Canada, police have no real control over the reciprocity process.  In order to prevent the abuse of power on part of the police, outside agencies have control over the reciprocity process. This creates a unique situation where the informant could gain leverage over his handler, and make demands in return for cooperation. This also puts the handler in jeopardy during the bargaining process, because he cannot be certain that any promises he makes to an informant will be carried through.

As the informant gains more power in his relationship with his handler, it is often the case that he works outside his orders and without confirmation or approval.  An example provided by Turcotte involves an informant, while wearing a wire, attempting to entrap a contact in a drug deal.  This was outside the scope of the informant’s directions, and completely illegal — any evidence he might have gathered would have been inadmissible in court.  As a civilian agent, he was not aware that his actions constituted entrapment. Fortunately, the contact did not accept the deal; if he had, the ramifications are impossible to predict. Although it could be said with certainty that the Police would not have come out of it with high public opinion.

Mother Jones also brings up the issue of wires and undercover operations, in the context of terrorist sting operations.  The concern raised here is that, while technology advances further and has allowed for virtually undetectable recording devices, there are still many incidents of key interactions not being recorded. The law enforcement side of the debate offers the excuse of “technical difficulties,” while the pragmatic approach is simply one of convenience. Certain conversations are not recorded because it is “inconvenient” for the agency that they be on record.

Conclusions:

In the study of agents provocateur and their roles in undercover operations, the issue of accountability continues to raise its head. There is a certain “legal gray area” that clouds the use of informants and the use of police undercover agents. We can identify some of the motives of AP’s, chiefly the types of corruption Maurice Punch labels as Noble Cause, or Dirty Harry corruption.  We cannot, however identify the solution to APs, because there is so little investigation into the use of APs, and there is no transparent accountability structure in place.  CSIS informants hide behind the veil of “National Security.” Police provocateurs have not been legally identified in contemporary cases involving clear incitement.

References:

Marx, G. (n.d.). “Thoughts on a Neglected Category of Social Movement Participant: The Agent Provocateur and the Informant,” American Journal of Sociology 80(2): 402-442.

Turcotte, M. (2008). Shifts in police-informant negotiations. Global Crime, 9(4), 291-305. doi: 10.1080/17440570802543508.

And all the electronic resources cited here-above.

Provoked Undercover

Posted: October 31, 2011 by dhaliwal15 in Agent Provocateurs
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Police Agent Provocateurs play a vital role for law enforcement and other government agencies. Agent Provocateurs are similar to spies who infiltrate an organization. However, one main difference is that Provocateurs may provoke or influence a person or a group into committing an illegal action rather than just collecting as visual surveillance. This is done so arrests and convictions can be made against non-law abiding citizens. However, provoking someone to commit an act of violence is not fair, and angencies should not be allowed to try and force civilians into commit violent acts. By provoking someone to commit an act, law enforcement agencies are setting citizens up to fail. In these cases, people who are arrested, prosecuted, and sent to jail had no intent to commit any criminal acts until they were provoked by law-enforcement agencies. No individual person is greater then the law, therefore agencies that use agents as provocateurs do not have any speacial authority to break the law.

According to Gary T. Marx (1974), of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Center for Criminal Justice, agent provocateurs can range from all kinds of undercover officers, from Special Forces, to ordinary police officers, and even ordinary citizens. An agent provocateur could be considered an undercover spy who is pretending to fit into a certain group, in order to gain further intelligence.

After an agent has infiltrated an organization and become a member, after he or she has been accepted, the agent may be asked or have to do many immoral acts, which may go against his or her desires. Marx (1974) states that “the agent may go along with the illegal actions of the group, he [or she] may actually provoke such actions, or he [or she] may set up a situation in which the group appears to have taken or to be about to take an illegal action” (Marx, 1974, 405). Furthermore, Marx (1974)  states that an agent is not just randomly chosen by he or she must also fit a certain set of characteristics. An agent is carefully examined at how well he or she matches and fits into with a group. For example, age, race, and religion are just some of the characteristics that may be looked at.

Marx (1974) introduces an interesting point while discussing the characteristics of a agent who may be chosen. Furthermore, he states that civilians rather than professionally trained and sworn police are used as agents who act as informant.Po lice agencies may influence a civilian to take on the role of an agent provocateur for a number of reasons, including the promise of financial rewards or a reduction in a charge or sentence.  Also a civilian may share much more attributes of a group that he or she is asked to infiltrate. Furthermore, Marx (1974) talks about using police officers as agents. These police officers, who are chosen to perform such a task, are usually young inexperienced officer, who have just recently joined the police force.

In the United States of America, there been several interesting incidents involving undercover police informants. The Black Panthers have had their fair share of the police and other government agencies infiltrating their group. According to the New York Times, a New York Police Detective helped the Black Panthers open up a location in the Bronx. At the time, the Police Detective was undercover acting as a spy. This should be considered an act of deviance on behalf of not only the Detective, but also the NYPD as a whole. The NYPD as a department allowed one of their own Detectives to participate in illegal activity, and helping to expand the illegal activity. Furthermore, the FBI in the United State of America has been involved in several undercover operations.

Closer to home, in a Canadian context, according to a special new article written by “The Vancouver Sun” Mickie (Phil) Smith, who has relations to the BC Hells Angels was tricked into confession of a murder and the murder victims missing body by an undercover officer. He also told the undercover agent of how he disposed of the body, and who his accomplice was.  The officer in this case was posing as an undercover crime boss.

There are many cautious circumstances that law enforcement agencies have to be aware of when dealing with agents who go undercover in order to and infiltrate a certain group. Known as The Double Agent, the agent plays a role were he or she is truly an activist for the group which he or she is supposed to infiltrate. The purpose of The Double Agent is to trick and manipulate the law enforcement agencies by providing false information. Marx (1974) states that “He [or she] may enjoy a sense of power by deceiving everyone, experience cross-pressures, and be unclear as to which side he [or she] is really on”(Marx, 1974, 417). Another reason why many law enforcement agencies must be aware of when dealing with agents is that some may have mixed views and opinions. According to Marx (1974), if an agent shares similar characteristics of a group that he or she has infiltrated, he or she may convert and become part of the group, rather than just an undercover member. In order to first become an accepted member of a group an agent must build trust, and loyalties within a particular group. However, the more trust and loyalties he or she builds, the more his or her opinions may change about the group and the people within.

When a police officer becomes an undercover agent, he or she may be involved in dealing with many dangerous criminals and befriending them. Everett Hughes (1962), states that being an undercover agent and trying to befriend a criminal, while also looking for a conviction is considered to be “dirty work”. Hughes (1962) also goes on to say that leaders do not want direct involvement with criminal organizations, rather the leaders find someone who is useful enough to go and do the dirty work that is required of agents. When a police agent is doing undercover work illegal actions should not be permitted for the agent, as these actions would be going against many laws which are set out by the state. However, many undercover operations may end up being a total failure if some illegal actions are not to be permitted, because an agent may not be able gather enough evidence in a legal manner, therefore, an arrest or a charge may not be possible. This is very similar to the “Dirty Harry” phenomena, were the “means” are justified by a successful ending, such as catching the criminal (Punch, 2009, 24). As Marx (1974) states, some agents may contribute to violence, whether directly or indirectly, through these kinds of illegal actions one is able to entrap other committing illegal actions as well. Similar to the “Dirty Harry” phenomena, the term “Noble Causers” seems to fit in well with an agent provocateur. Although some agents may break the law and go agasint social norms, they however, are breaking the law for a greater cause. As Stated by Punch (2009),  Noble Causers, break the law because officers bevleice it to be for the good of the public.

Agent provocateurs do not only provoke criminal organizations and other citizens into committing illegal actions. Agent Provocateurs are also responsible for gathering vital information, which may possibly lead to further arrests of criminal organization groups. In addition, these agents are responsible for gathering a huge amount of intelligence from inside a secret organization. Throughout history there have been many incidents involving law enforcement agencies infiltrating certain groups, not only is this a dangerous role for officers and citizens to play, it is also dirty work as many people may be easily influenced.

References

Hughes, E. 1962. “Good People and Dirty Work.” Social Problems 10 (Summer): 3-11

Marx. Gary. T (1974) Thoughts on a Neglected Category of Social Movement Participant: The Agent Provocateur and the Informant. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 80 (2), 402-442.

New York Times. (1971, February 3).

New York Times. (1971, February 17).

Punch, Maurice (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing. Devon: Willan Publishing (Routledge)

The Vancouver Sun. (2004, September 12). B.C.’s Hells Angels: Rich and Powerful. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from http://www.canada.c/vancouver/vancouversun/news/observer/story.html?id=f525bc8a-d80a-4ece-9ffc-f5a2a55a43b0

Police Agent Provocateurs

Posted: October 1, 2011 by dhaliwal15 in Agent Provocateurs
Tags: , , ,

A Police Agent Provocateur is a particular type of undercover police infiltrator. However, this undercover agent does not necessarily have to be a Police officer; the agent could be any public civilian who is hired by the Police Department for a special assignment, depending on the circumstances. The role of a police agent provocateur is to basically provoke a group or crowd of people into committing crimes against the state. Provocateurs’ main job is to essentially entice and entrap a large group of people who may be easily influenced into committing harsh and irrational acts of violence, which are subsequently responded to by the state. In Canada, there have been  several big accusations made against Police agent provocateurs, especially in massive protest which occurred in Canada’s largest Metropolitan area.

In Montebello, Quebec, the Sûreté du Québec, which is the Provincial police force of Quebec was accused of using police agent provocateurs in a wrongful manner. Many people gathered to protest meetings of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America on August 20 2007. The protest was intended to be a peaceful one, however three individuals who had their faces covered, and wore similar boots to those of the police officers dressed in riot gear, were essentially asked to leave the protest; due to them trying to turn the protest violent.

The G20 Summit riots on June 26 2010 occurred in Canada’s largest metropolitan area Toronto, Ontario. Many conspiracies have begun to arise of the Toronto Police Department  using officers as provocateurs, in order to provoke the protesters to become violent. Similar to the Montebello incident, many rioters were seen wearing similar boots as Toronto Police officers that day. Rioters wearing similar shoes as officers were caught on pictures destroying local stores, and even going as far as to jumping on top of police cars.

Police agents who provoke peaceful crowds into to turning violent should be held accountable for their actions. Officers who participate in the activities of property damage should be held responsible, similar to the members of the public who may be charged with an offence. The police are there to keep peace within and control any situations from arising. However, the more undercover officers provoke a crowd it is not only a danger towards the general public, but also it can cause a huge amount of property damage and put many officers lives at risk; with such a violent crowd. The police make the public look like a bunch of anarchists. However, many undercover officers influence acts of anarchy to be pursued by certain individuals.

After searching for “Police Agent Provocateurs” on Google, many different kinds of websites appeared on the first page of results there were about 5,560,000 hits.  Surprisingly, the Wikipedia page does contain of a decent amount of Canadian content, compared to other countries. Also, the Wikipedia page introduces the incident which took place in Montebello, Quebec. Furthermore, several multimedia websites such as You Tube appeared with videos of undercover officers provoking rioters, and escalating the violence.  Several newspaper articles appeared, such as The Star. In addition, some newspapers from the United Kingdom appeared such as: The Guardian which discussed the G20 protests in London also resulted in a similar situation as Toronto, and The Independent. A non-profit organization known as the Center for Research on Globalization (CRG) based out of Quebec, displayed several pictures of rioters and police officers wearing the exact same boots.  The Articles are fairly recent dating back to 2007.

Agent Provocateur

Posted: September 30, 2011 by meritar in Agent Provocateurs

An Overview:

‘Agent Provocateur’ what does this mean exactly?  No, not the lingerie brand.  Obviously it relates, somehow, to police deviance.  This is a relatively obscure term used to describe a certain type of crime. Namely crime that is incited by, or at the hands of police officers.

There is some debate regarding that ‘or…’ part, however.

Typically, an agent provocateur is a police officer that encourages others to commit crime in order for fellow police officers to arrest said guilty parties.  These encouragements can vary depending on circumstance. They could be crimes of themselves.  And the encouragements enacted by the police officer universally stray in to that legal gray area known as entrapment – whether the act of encouraging itself is a crime or not.

A few examples are, perhaps, in order.

An officer, working undercover, infiltrates an organized green peace protest group.  He helps them. Over the course of days, weeks, months, he becomes an integral part of the organization, contributing plans, training, and money.  This group, now, they’re going to attack a power station! They want to destroy it.  But, uh oh, they police have caught on to their plans. Now they are arrested. Now they stand trial.  Now they are acquitted because the police do not wish to reveal the extent of the undercover officer’s involvement with this organization to the public.  The truth is not yet revealed, so it cannot be said whether the officer is guilty of inciting crime or not.  He certainly enabled it, on many different fronts. (source)

An event is happening, a peaceful protest. Except a few individuals are not so peaceful. Not to worry, though, the Sûreté du Quebec is on hand to assist.  Wait, is that really necessary? When it is a small group of individuals trying to cause problems, while the majority insists on peaceful demonstration?  Oh no, those men causing trouble, they are police officers; who are trying to start a riot. (source)

Two examples. Both true (however hyperbolized), one from the UK, one from Canada. The first has not been proven, but the second is the infamous Montebello incident involving anti SPP protesters and Quebec officers.  The Sûreté du Quebec later admitted to attempting to start the riot.

The first cause, though, reveals an interesting conundrum. Undercover officers – what do they mean for police and police deviance?  Maurice Punch (2009), in his book Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability, and reform in policing, tells us time and again to look not at the “bad apples,” but the “bad barrels” and “bad orchards” (p. 48), meaning: look at the situation, circumstance, and environment surrounding police that might lead them to corruption. Undercover officers work with, more often than not, criminals.  To plainly bare-bones it, an officer is expected to infiltrate suspected criminal groups with the intent of gathering evidence (we hope) against these criminals that can be used to bring them to justice.  It is most definitely a dirty job. Getting ‘street cred’ alone usually requires some sort of criminal act.  Morals are pushed and boundaries are reformed. It is natural to assume that somewhere along the line ‘the end justifies the means’ – if it even gets that far. And now, instead of gathering evidence, we have officers planting it. Inciting it. Fabricating it. We have agents of provocateur~ing.

Who’s what of Google:

This is a public criminology project, attempting to compile useful information on the topic of Agent Provocateurs in Canada, with the intent of creating a bastion of information here, on the Internet, which anyone can access.  The overly ambitious purposes are to explore agent provocateurs, understand, perhaps, why these instances occur, and give some constructive criticism.

First, however, I must explore what is already out there. To do this, I have simply input “police+agent+provocateur” into google.ca. The first page of results was really quite interesting.

  1. Agent Provocateur: the high-end lingerie brand.  Certainly quite relevant to our topic!
  2. EXPOSED! G20 Toronto Police Agent Provocateurs: Canadian. Date: June 2010. Video footage on the theory that police were disguised as black bloc anarchists for the purpose of inciting riots.
  3. Police Provocateurs stopped by union leader at anti SPP protest: Canadian. Date: Aug. 2007. Montebello. Protestors prevent police provocateurs from inciting riot.
  4. G20 police ‘used undercover men to incite crowds’: UK. Date: May 2009. Accusations that plain clothed officers attempting to incite riots and when called out by the crowd disappeared behind police lines after flashing some sort of ID.
  5. Police under fire as trial collapses over ‘agent provocateur’ claims: UK. Date: Jan. 2011. An officer, went undercover in a green protest organization. When six of its members were brought to trial  over plans to sabotage a power station, the prosecution decided to drop the case when the question of PC Mark Kennedy’s involvement in the organization of the sabotage.
  6. The Toronto G20 Riot Fraud: undercover police engaged in purposeful provocation: Canadian. Date: June 2010. Theories that g20 toronto 2010 black bloc was infiltrated by police instigators, because of shoes worn.
  7. London UK Police Agent Provocateurs outed: UK. Date: June 2008. A police constable is outed as instigating a riot during a protest against former president G.W. Bush.
  8. Police Agent Provocateur Mark Kennedy led attack on Irish police at Rally: UK. Date: Jan. 2011. “An undercover British agent encouraged protesters to attack Irish police officers at an EU summit in Dublin, the Guardian newspaper has reported.”
  9. Black Bloc police agent provocateur caught red-handed by AP: UK. Date: 2011. A forum link to a youtube video.
  10. Police Accused of using provocateurs at summit: Canadian. Date: Aug. 2007. More on the incident involving the Sûreté du Quebec at Montebello.
  11. Agent Provocateur: A wiki page: Origin? Date: last modified 23 Sept. 2011. Short blurb on agent provocateurs. Even shorter blurbs on Russia, US, Uk, and Canadian cases involving agent provocateurs.

Let’s summarize: four Canadian links, all about the Montebello incident or involving riot conspiracy.  Five UK links, two of which are about the same undercover officer.  One superfluous lingerie website. And a wikipedia page. It’s difficult to put much stock in a wikipedia page anymore, considering there is one for virtually any and every possible thing out there in this world. And it only had two paragraphs concerning Canada, both of which were about the thrice-mentioned Montebello incident.

References List:

Punch, Maurice. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability, and reform in policing. Portland, Oregon: Willan Publishing.