Anytime law enforcement officers show up at your residence,
or the residence of someone's home who you happen
to be at, NEVER OPEN THE DOOR. Instead, tell them
you will not talk to them and to go away. Unless the
officers present a search warrant, you do not have
to talk to them or let them in. Be firm about this.
If they say that they have search warrant, make them
show you the document through a window or peak hole.
Never even crack the door. Once inside, officers can
stay and search the immediate area. Excuses such as
"there has been a death threat made against your
life, we can protect you" to "we just want
to clear a few things up" have been used. Never
fall for these or other justifications.
What is a raid?
Raids essentially give law enforcement the ability
to search your residence or car without your consent.
Before this can happen, a judge must grant approval
to the law enforcement agency. This approval comes
in the form of a search warrant. Search warrants are
typically tied in one way or another to an investigation.
However, just like the majority of investigations,
they can be used as fishing expeditions. Things such
as DNA evidence (hair samples from brushes, etc.),
phone books and contact lists, political materials,
and electronic devices (computers, cell phones, etc.)
are typically seized. Raids are one of the most deeply
disturbing forms of government oppression and can
do a lot of damage to political organizing activities
due to the loss of expensive computer equipment, literature
and other materials. While raids do not take place
as frequently as other forms of government surveillance
and harassment, you can still never be too prepared.
There are things you can and should do now to protect
yourself, your family and friends, and your movement.
• Use scenarios to strategize: Only you know
the work that you do and what specifics would be impacted
in a search and seizure operation. Build scenarios
for yourself - what do you need to access daily that
could be seized, what is your strategy for dealing
with that? Do you have other illegal items (such as
drugs) that could be used to bolster police criminalization
of you - do you care about things like this? Walk
yourself through what you would do from the moment
that the police show up with a search warrant, who
you would call, what you would do immediately following
the raid to inform people (if you weren't arrested).
Scenario building 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.
• 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 drives difficult if not impossible.
See http://security.resist.ca for more information
on file security. Along those lines, DELETE OLD E-MAILS!
They can be accessed by authorities or subpoenaed.
• Backups, backups, backups: If you lost all
your data tomorrow - how would you function? Your
best strategy for getting back to work (and thwarting
organizational disruption), is making regular backups
and storing them with a trusted friend, or in a safety
deposit box not connected to you. You don't want it
to be common knowledge who keeps your backups for
you - as police could obtain a warrant to search that
person's home for materials belonging to you as well.
Don't just back-up your computer files, but 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 desktop 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 little bits of paper start
to add up to a lot of information after awhile, especially
if cleaning office isn't your strong point. Go through
all the paper bits on your desk and transfer that
data into a secure place (like an encrypted disk or
file), and then securely dispose of the paper. Likewise,
go through filing cabinets once every few months and
pull out old phone lists, research that is no longer
useful or needed, and anything else you don't want
the police to get their hands on.
• Know your home and contents: Had a lot of
roommates or traveling friends over the years? That
means that there is a good chance that things you
are unaware of have been left behind in closets. Clean
up after someone stays or moves out, so you aren't
storing items you don't want to be. No one wants to
get caught with someone else's stolen goods or incriminating
evidence - so keeping a clean house is essential.
• Your PDA and Cell Phone: Are all your phone
numbers stored on your cell phone or palm pilot? Where
would you get that info if the police had a warrant
to seize those items as well? A back-up zip disk containing
important information of this type (encrypted) should
go along with your computer backups.
• Emergency numbers & Support: Keep a lawyer's
number on hand, as well as the numbers of any people
who would support you during and after a raid. Make
sure that the people you live with know where they
can get that info if necessary, and also that they
know what to do in case of a raid. If you live in
a house with other activists, you should all participate
in planning your security strategy and know what to
do, and how to get in touch with other housemates
if they aren't home.
happens during a raid?
• Raids very greatly depending on the investigation
and individuals being targeted. Typically, victims
will either receive a phone call from authorities
telling them that they have a matter of minutes to
leave the property because "the area must be
secured," or agents will simply come to the door
with the search warrant. Either way, at this point,
do not resist. Resisting can only legally complicate
your situation and, considering the brutality of authorities,
endanger you physically.
• The search warrant will be presented. Contained
in the search warrant will be a list of items that
can be seized. Make sure to get a copy of this document
and study it. Sometimes, search warrants can be as
broad as: all documents or materials relating to political
activity, or as narrow as: all computer equipment
and electronic devices.
• Once the search warrant is presented, non-resident
occupants will be forced to leave the location. Sometimes,
occupants can remain inside the location but will
be confined to a particular room. You have the right
to observe what is going on and what is being taken.
• If confined inside the property, you might
not be able to make phone calls. Keep asking and keep
trying. If someone is allowed to leave, the first
thing they should do is contact people on your emergency
list for support and advice. Try to get witnesses
there to watch, document and offer support. They should
have cameras and note-pads to collect as much information
• Those targeted for the search should also
try to get the names and agencies of as many officers
• During the raid agents will cover the entire
property, this can last for hours. The process of
watching your home get torn through can be horrific,
understand that this potential comes with the territory.
• DO NOT help agents open anything or search
anything. You do not have to do this.
• If you are allowed to stay inside, try as
best as you can to watch what's happening. Take notes.
Where are they focusing? What are they taking? Are
they staying within the limits of the search warrant?
BUT NOT DO TALK TO AUTHORITIES! You are only required
to present the information on your drivers license.
to do after the raid is over
• Once the raid has commenced, you will be presented
with a document listing "everything" that
was seized at your property and/or from within your
vehicle. It is generally not a good idea to sign this
document. You will generally find the list to be vague
and overly broad. References to "political pamphlets"
or "computer disks" are routinely used.
When you sign this form, you are stating that you
agree that these and only these materials were seized.
Here's where the problems can occur: they seized something
that was not on that list, you now have very little
legal recourse for getting that particular part of
your property back; you signed agreeing that "political
pamphlets" were seized, the government then takes
a doctored bomb-making zine and shoves it into the
"political pamphlets" stack- you've just
agreed that was seized at your property.
• Once officers leave, you will find your residence
to be an absolute disaster. They will not, in any
way, attempt to clean up or be orderly about searching
your property. Keep this in mind during the raid and
be prepared for the shock. Destroying your sense of
order and upsetting you are side benefits for authorities
in conducting raids.
• If you do not have support people there, call
them immediately for support, help with the clean
up and to assist with documentation.
• Before any clean up begins, two things need
to happen: take pictures of everything and document,
as best as possible, what was taken.
• Clean up and in the process, prepare for any
additional visits by authorities.
• Add all information gathered to your existing
personal file detailing your experiences with authorities.