02 January 2009

Brandon Darby : Austin Activist Outed as FBI Spy

Austin activist and admitted FBI informant Brandon Darby.

Austin has its very own FBI spy. Recall that Scrub Bush took all the FBI agents off enforcing banking laws, and put them to work watching political groups here at home. -- Janet Gilles / The Rag Blog.

There have always been undercover cops spying on the left in Austin. The now famous right wing pundit William Bennett lived in a hive of leftists and dopers at Nueces College House in 1967-8. Long time chairman of the Republican Party in Travis County and right wing government professor, Alan Sager, hired me to be his research assistant when I returned from a year working for national SDS in 1969. Wonder why? Strange, isn't it? -- David Hamilton / The Rag Blog.

The Rag Blog’s Thorne Dreyer wrote a cover story for the Nov.17, 2006, issue of The Texas Observer about spying on campus radicals and resident bohemians at the University of Texas in Austin in the sixties. Go here to read “The Spies of Texas.”

And go here to see the “Hamilton Files” of former UT-Austin campus police chief Allen Hamilton with all the documents and photographs that accompanied Dreyer’s story.

The Rag Blog / January 2, 2009

Sometimes You Wake Up and It's Different:
Statement on Brandon Darby, aka, 'The Unknown Informant'

December 31, 2009
Also see an Open Letter from admitted FBI informant Brandon Darby, Below.
[Scott Crow, who originally posted this story, worked closely with fellow activist Brandon Darby. Darby received substantial media coverage for his role in Katrina recovery efforts in New Orleans.]

Below is a statement by a group of Austin-based community organizers that documents that a local activist, Brandon Michael Darby of Austin, is a government informant/provocateur.

Brandon now publicly acknowledges that he is working with the FBI and has been for some time.
Statement on Brandon Darby, the 'Unnamed' Informant/Provocateur in the 'Texas 2' Case from Austin, Texas.

As part of the wave of government repression against activists protesting at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota in September, 2008, the FBI arrested two men from Texas, Bradley Crowder (22) and David McKay (23), and indicted them for allegedly possessing molotov cocktails. Crowder and McKay have been in jail since the RNC. They have not been granted bail and their trial has been postponed indefinitely. They are facing 7 to 10 years in federal prison.

As outlined in the affidavit against Crowder and McKay (found here), the case was built almost entirely on the statements of two informants covertly working with the FBI, identified in the affidavit as "Confidential Human Sources" or just "CHS".

One of these informants was working in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area ("CHS 2" in the affidavit) and has been previously identified as Andy/Panda by people familiar with the situation and the informant. This statement ends speculation and anticipation concern about the identity of the other informant who was operating in Texas and Minnesota.

Using FBI documents previously unknown to us, but recently provided by one of the defendant's defense teams, we have positively confirmed the identity of the unnamed informant ("CHS 1" in the affidavit) as Brandon Michael Darby of Austin, Texas, based on the following evidence:

1) The FBI documents detail private conversations between Darby and several individuals named in the documents, including scott crow and Lisa Fithian, who have closely reviewed the documents and confirmed that they had the conversations in question with only Darby. In addition they can confirm his participation in events reported in the documents.

2) In verbatim reports from the informant to the FBI, the language, personality, skills, and interests of Darby are readily apparent to those who know him.

3) Cross-referencing the time line provided by the FBI in the documents with people familiar with the situation and course of events shows that Darby was in a position to have the incriminating conversations with McKay referenced in the affidavit.

4) In all of the documents Brandon Darby's name is conspicuously absent from any and all meetings and events which he attended and was involved in. In fact Darby's name only appears at the end of all the documents in a confession made by David McKay upon his arrest in Minnesota.

Numerous people familiar with both Brandon Darby and the legal situation of Crowder and McKay have verified this information.

Over the years Brandon Darby has established strong ties with individuals in many different radical communities across the United States. While it is not yet clear how long or to what extent Darby has been acting as an informant, the emerging truth about Darby's malicious involvement in our communities is heart-breaking and utterly ground-shattering to those of us who were closest to him.

Darby operated in and around the Austin community for about 6 years, and this is the same Brandon Darby who participated in the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans during 2005-2006. Based on the evidence we have, Brandon has been giving the state information since at least November 2007, but there is also information that suggests his informant activities may go back further, at least to 2006 or earlier. In the documents, Darby makes numerous remarks that are inflammatory and often untrue or grossly taken out of context. There is also compelling evidence to suggest that Darby, more than just reporting on Crowder and McKay's activities, was actively encouraging, enabling, and provoking the two men to take illegal action.

We recognize that suspicions and accusations of Darby have been circulating for some time now, including one corporate media article by David Hanners in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on October 29, 2008. Our aim in releasing this information is to clear the confusion that has circulated in the last few months.

We want to point out that while the conclusions of these suspicions and accusations turned out to be correct, these conclusions were not based on any verifiable facts, and thus, their public airing was inappropriate and irresponsible. When these accusations surfaced, we did what we could to quash them, trusting what we believed to be true about people in the absence of any compelling evidence to the contrary. Having been presented with new evidence, we are acting on it promptly and deliberately.

Through the history of our struggles for a better world, infiltrators and informants have acted as tools for the forces of misery in disrupting and derailing our movements. However, even more dangerous to our communities than setting people up, turning them in, or gathering information, informants sow seeds of fear, paranoia, and distrust that fester and grow in paralyzing and destructive ways. We must be forever vigilante against deceptive, malicious and manipulative actors, while we defend the trust and openness that give our communities cohesion and power.

Now we must get on with the work of supporting the "Texas 2". In light of these revelations and what we know about Brandon Darby, we believe they were set up and that the charges should be dropped. We urge you to join us in a campaign to "Free the Texas 2"

In solidarity,
The Austin Informant Working Group
Source / Infoshop News

And this on Darby:
It is not clear exactly how long [Brandon Darby] has worked for the FBI for or how many people he gave information on, but it appears that he has been an informant for about two to three years. His information led the to the arrests of two activists who are charged with making Molotov cocktails which they allegedly intended to use at the Republican National Convention protests in St. Paul this past summer.

It is also being speculated that his information may have had something to do with the arrests of eight activists who were rounded up before the week of RNC protests could even begin. The activists, known as the “RNC 8″, are being charged with four felony counts each.

Many of his peers defended him before he was officially outed, saying that he would never spy on his fellow activists and that doing so would be completely against his ideology. Darby disagreed, saying in his letter (which he ironically signed “In Solidarity”) that his ideology supports his choice, a choice he “strongly defends.”

Michael A. Weber / Planetsave
And here is an open letter from Brandon Darby, published on Dec. 30, 2008
To All Concerned,

The struggles for peace and justice have accomplished significant change throughout history. I've had the honor to work with many varying groups and individuals on behalf of marginalized communities and in various struggles. There are currently allegations in the media that I have worked undercover for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This allegation no doubt confuses many activists who know me and probably leaves many wondering why I would seemingly choose to engage in such an endeavor. The simple truth is that I have chosen to work with the Federal Bureau of investigation.

As compelling as the natural human desire to reason and express oneself can be, regardless, I must hold my comments at this time on certain aspects of the situation. That said, there are a few statements and generalizations I will make relating to my recent choices.

Though I've made and will no doubt continue to make many mistakes in efforts to better our world, I am satisfied with the efforts in which I have participated. Like many of you, I do my best to act in good conscience and to do what I believe to be most helpful to the world. Though my views on how to give of myself have changed substantially over the years, ultimately the motivations behind my choices remain the same. I strongly stand behind my choices in this matter.

I strongly believe that people innocent of an act should stand up for themselves and that those who choose to engage in an act should accept responsibility and explain the reasoning for their choices.

It is very dangerous when a few individuals engage in or act on a belief system in which they feel they know the real truth and that all others are ignorant and therefore have no right to meet and express their political views.

Additionally, when people act out of anger and hatred, and then claim that their actions were part of a movement or somehow tied into the struggle for social justice only after being caught, it's damaging to the efforts of those who do give of themselves to better this world. Many people become activists as a result of discovering that others have distorted history and made heroes and assigned intentions to people who really didn't act to better the world. The practice of placing noble intentions after the fact on actions which did not have noble motivations has no place in a movement for social justice.

The majority of the activists who went to St. Paul did so with pure intentions and simply wanted to express their disagreements with the Republican Party. It's unfortunate that some used the group as cover for intentions that the rest of the group did not agree with or knew nothing about and are now, consequently, having parts of their lives and their peace of mind uprooted over.

There is no doubt in my mind that many of you reading this letter will say and feel all possible bad things about my choices and for me. I made the choice to have my identity revealed and was well aware of the consequences for doing so. I know that the temptation to silence or ignore the voice of someone who you strongly disagree with can be overwhelming in matters such as this one; and no doubt many people will try to do just that to me. I have confidence that there will be a few people interested in discussion and in better understanding views different from their own, especially from one of their own. My sincere hope is that the entire matter results in better understanding for everyone.

Many of you went against my wishes and spoke publicly in defense of me. Those involved were correct when they wrote that I wasn't making my choices for financial reasons or to avoid some sort of prosecution. They were incorrect that my ideology didn't support such choices. One individual who publically defended me stated that they didn't believe I was working undercover because the government would have used my access to take down a more prominent activist if the allegations were true. If indeed the government or I was interested in doing so, it could have happened in such a manner. However, the incorrect notion that the government was out to silence dissent was the cause for the mistake made by that person. In defense of the individuals who openly did their best to do what they thought was defending me, they did not know the truth and they had no way of knowing the truth due to their ideological and personal attachments to me. It's unfortunate that the truth couldn't have come out sooner and that the needed preparations for such a disclosure take time. I really did mean it when I said that I didn't want to discuss it and that I didn't want folks addressing the allegations.

Again, I strongly stand behind my choices in this matter. I'm looking forward to open dialogue and debate regarding the motivations and experiences I've had and the ethical questions they pose.

In Solidarity,

Brandon Michael Darby
December 29, 2008

Source / Independent Media Center
Read The Spies of Texas by Thorne Dreyer / The Texas Observer / Nov. 17, 2006.

And see the entire "Hamilton Files" of former UT-Austin police chief Allen Hamilton that served as documentation for Dreyer's story, here.

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