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.

Preparing for raids
• 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 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 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.

What 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 as possible.
• Those targeted for the search should also try to get the names and agencies of as many officers as possible.
• 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.

What 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.