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.

The Rag Blog

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14 Responses to Brandon Darby : Austin Activist Outed as FBI Spy

  1. David Ross says:

    I notice that the “Spies of Texas” link leads to an article about Juneteenth, not to Thorne Dreyer’s article.

  2. “Ethical questions”??? Brandon, whoever you really are under that sheep’s cloak, lying and misrepresenting yourself to people with whom you work, break bread, and share hardship, and ratting them out to the feds, doesn’t raise any ethical questions at all. You have chosen to be a rat, a stool pigeon, and a lying scumbag. That is the choice you now attempt to defend. The consequences will follow you forever; even other cops can never trust you now. (Oh, wait — maybe the San Antonio Vice Squad might have an opening; the only outfit dirty enough to want you anymore.)

  3. Thanks, David. No idea how that happened. The link is fixed.

    Thorne

  4. Cliff Pearson says:

    This entire issue has really been upsetting to me as I’ve thought about and worked on this issue.

    Some thoughts …

    1. Brandon Michael Darby admits to having been an FBI informant at least as far back as November 2007. He claims he was motivated by a desire to prevent imminent violence by activists in the Austin Affinity Group.

    The records that have come out so far show that Darby was the informant whose tips got the “Texas 2” arrested.

    But Darby couldn’t have turned informant to stop these guys, because he didn’t even know them in November 2007, according to the people in Austin whom I know.

    So his claim of wanting to stop violence is suspect right from the get go.

    2. If Darby was motivated by a desire to stop violence, then why did he submit the names of at least 25 people to the FBI who had never been involved in anything illegal, much less violent? Why did he submit to the FBI information about his alleged close friend, Scott Crow, who hadn’t even gone to the RNC protest in Minnesota, much less helped organize it?

    3. The question that bugs me the most is, if Brandon Darby was so worried that people were planning to be violent — specifically to kill federal agents with Molotov cocktails — then why the HELL didn’t he tell someone in the damn group?!

    He makes it look like he had no other alternative but to turn informant (FBI informant no less), but this is a false dichotomy — especially to anyone who know Scott Crow.

    Scott Crow has been my close friend for 10 years. We have done actions together. We have suffered police harassment together. We have seen a lot of shit together.

    I walked 2 miles in the pouring rain in Washington D.C. in 2001 to get his then teen-age stepson out of jail for him. I wouldn’t do that for someone violent, or dangerous.

    Scott has helped me financially and emotionally in more ways than I can count or ever hope to pay back.

    Never have I known Scott to be violent — even when he had been provoked.

    Even when his 16-year-old stepson was held in the back of a dark police van for 16 hours with no bathroom breaks, left arm tied to right leg, Scott didn’t get violent.

    Even when the cops literally mutilated his van in Philly in 2000, he didn’t get violent.

    It’s not Scott. Anyone who know him knows that.

    And Brandon Darby was Scott’s (alleged) close friend for 6 years.

    I have had some knock-down-drag-out disagreements with Scott over matters of tactics over the years, as Scott will attest.

    Many times over the years I’ve told Scott that I was worried that someone among our activist groups was planning to do actions which were violent, or might get people hurt.

    In every single case, Scott listened genuinely to my concern.

    When Scott thought I was right, that someone might be moving out of nonviolence toward violence, Scott was not timid about speaking to the people about it, or in trying to talk them out of it.

    I have witnessed on many occasions Scott asking people to leave affinity groups because they were not in sync with what the group was about.

    I remember one time in 1999 when this guy whose name escapes me at the moment (I remember he had blue hair) wanted to do something to an SUV dealership that might have resulted in injury to people, and Scott shut him down pretty fast.

    So, with all this in mind, I find myself wondering why the hell Brandon Darby, who claimed to be Scott’s close friend and to be motivated by a desire to prevent the deaths of federal agents, didn’t talk to Scott?

    Does anyone SERIOUSLY believe that if a guy said he didn’t care if his actions killed a federal agent, that if Scott Crow knew about that he wouldn’t say, “Oh, hell no!?”

    Brandon Michael Darby has no credibility when he claims he acted to stop violence, and that he had no other choice but to go to the feds and turn informant.

    I sincerely hope that this reality comes out soon.

    That’s all I have to say.

    – Cliff Pearson (Dallas, Texas)

  5. scott crow says:

    Thanks to Cliff for the support, but let’s remember a couple of things.

    This has affected many peoples lives. Not just the people named in the docs but many other unnamed lives and families as well as two young men who are facing serious prison sentences.

    This has affected communities across the country, even from people
    who didn’t even know him.

    I am only one of many whose voices who are part of the statements, but others are not receiving as much support in this or haven’t been heard from yet, but have much to say.

    The right-wing has seized on this and are using Brandon as a tool to fuel the fire of their own agendas at the expense of many good people including Lisa Fithian. She has often been a target of the right and now they are fanning the flames
    with this, renewing veiled threats
    etc.

    Lets all remember we are all in this together and there are many voices taking these chances that will tell their stories soon.

    Darby’s ongoing damage without reservation towards people who had supported him will reverberate for years to come.

    Free the Texas 2
    Support all of our comrades and communities affected.
    And remember there are many voices with stories to tell.

    More information will be forthcoming. The stories are all not written. Our futures will continue to unfold.

    scott crow

  6. Cliff Pearson says:

    Scott, et al:

    By no means did I intend to imply that this was all about you or just you and Austin.

    Of course it isn’t, and you are right to remind us of that.

    I only meant to (try to) demonstrate how obvious it was to those who know you that this guy’s claims about what motivated him are blatantly false.

    And I hoped to show that, by extension, everything about Darby’s motivations and behavior are therefore suspect.

    This doesn’t mean, and I didn’t intend to imply, that you are the one most effected by him or anything.

    It’s just that you are an example of the people who were close to him, and the person I know the best of all those involved.

    I didn’t mean to look like I was just cheer leading for Scott. I was trying to show how Darby has no credibility. That’s all.

    Yes, Scott, the Right IS using this, and I agree that the stories that have come out thus far aren’t written very well.

    And yes, I’ve had people in Dallas in our old circles even try to justify Darby’s actions to me — until I pointed out the (to me blatant) holes in Darby’s statements — then they’re like, “oh, yeah, hey, you’re right.”

    That was why I felt it was important to blog out about it.

    I hope you’re well Scott.

  7. Simon LNU says:

    According to FBI documents, Brandon Darby has been an informant since at least February 2006, making this not a last minute moral decision as being stated.

    Putting events into perpective, this was a 32 year old man, setting up and turning in two 22 yr old boys whom he had mentored in activist circles in Austin and who trusted him. You can turn people into criminals by giving them the right motivation, the materials and the knowledge – which he did – but that is entrapment.

    I’ve known Brandon since the period he began informing and I seriously question the integrity of anything he has said to the FBI. He has publicly, at common ground relief in new orleans, on many occasions (even after becoming an informant) advocated armed resistance against the government and police and tried to coerce folks into these confrontations, endangering them against their will.

    On two occasions in austin, he tried to approach me to commit illegal acts and i shut him down. 99.9% of activists avoided him like the plague because we saw him for what he was, a dangerous man who always carried a gun and loved to flash it. In his 2.5 years of informing in austin he came up with nothing actionable by the FBI. I imagine the pressure was on to produce results at the RNC)

    Can i definitively say Brandon is a liar? Yes, I have seen FBI documents where Brandon has reported my name in connection with specific groups considered “domestic terrorists” by the FBI and which i am NOT associated. He and the FBI didn’t find any grand conspiracies in austin simply because there are none, so he made a couple up.

    Brandon, i hope the Texas 2 trial exposes you for the liar and guns/violence obsessed psychopath that you are…

  8. Anonymous says:

    you moonbats are incredible. anything that disagress with your political agenda is immediately attacked with the sort of venom reserved for heartless dictators. Dont believe me? Watch the responses written about this comment.

  9. M says:

    Cliff and Others,

    Who I’m really hurting for here are the Texas 2 – the young boys of 21 and 23 whom Darby did absolutely nothing to dissuade with his larger than life personality. -The ones he simply rode along with in silent complicity, then offered up to the Feds. This I find to be simply unconscionable – all the more so knowing he himself was very armed and dangerous in NOLA 3 short years ago. I ache for the parents of these boys, and have a hard time understanding how Darby, a known hot-head, could do this to them and their families. It is clear to me that he has never been to jail. Clearly, he is tangled up in the system, though in all the wrong ways, for entirely mysterious motives, and apparently of his own volition. But to what end? That is the million dollar question. At least he had a choice, the boys did not.

    From the bedroom to the boardroom to the streets, the accounts I’ve heard of Mr. Darby lead me to one solid conclusion: The man is mentally unstable (aka bat-shit crazy). Hot and cold, lover and hater, fucker and father, pacifist and militant, revolutionary and rat…this guy is a walking disaster. At the very least I could suspect the onset of a paranoia.

    If my suspicions ring true, then it is my suggestion that the defense team for these boys demand psychological testing. If evidence of mental instability is found, then they should move to throw out any evidence garnered by Mr. Darby. Is anyone in touch with the legal team?

    I have other questions dealing with the leak (Did he leak himself, will this put him in a WP program, and is that to his advantage in any way?), but at the end of the day, my major concern is for these boys and their families.

    Information provided to the Fed through Darby should not hold up in court!

    Yours in solidarity,
    MD
    NOLA

  10. Brandon Darby is a snitch, provocateur, hypocrite, and liar. Make sure to check out and let people know about http://brandondarby.com

  11. Cliff Pearson says:

    MD,

    Thank you are you are absolutely correct.

    The primary concern IS, and I hope I didn’t imply otherwise, for the 2 kids he sent up the river.

    The secondary concern is that lots of other innocent people have been named by him to the feds and mis-identified as terrorists.

    I agree with the psychological testing. Several people have suggested this to me, and I agree.

    Last, I am glad that people are reacting to this in Austin, and some of the press has been very good (Democracy Now! in particular was excellent), but I’m concerned that some key messages are getting lost that are effecting the image.

    I think it’s important that the Austin activists speaking to the media, such as Lisa Fithian, reiterate that violence against and murder of federal agents is not what are communities are about.

    I know Lisa and friends ARE showing that Darby is lying about all that, but we we really, really need to be careful how we word and phrase our response or it will look as though we are just pissed that we tattled on, and that’s it.

    The new http://www.brandondarby.com Web site has the (I think unintentional) appearance that the problem with Darby is that he told on us. There’s nothing on that site, at least not immediately clear, that decries violence against human beings AND says it never happened. And it really needs to have that on there.

    Our message needs to be, IMO,

    1. The murder of anyone, even federal agents, is deporable and is NOT what our communities are about.

    2. BUT these 2 young men did not plan such actions until goaded into it by Darby, and manipulated and played by him for months. And Darby was a key conspirator in that plot, and managed to not get arrested. Why?

    3. Darby is the one who was violent — people avoided him like the plague because he has guns, was a known hothead, and was always calling for stuff that was over-the-top. And therefore, Darby is not credible when he claims to have been motivated to save people from violence.

    And last but not least …

    4. Darby is DEMONSTRABLY lying, as we can prove by looking at the FBI documents that have been coming out. In other words, we have it in black and white that Darby’s claims to the press don’t jibe with his own FBI notes! AND, the FBI notes aren’t true either!

    Cliff
    (not in Austin, but following closely and trying to help)

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think people protesting American imperialism should be allowed to construct and use Molotov cocktails, as well as any other weapons they want, in order to burn, destroy and kill the oppressors.

    If the government tries to stop them, that just shows what a bunch of oppressive meanies they are, trying to eradicate legitimate dissent.

    A true People’s Democracy, like North Korea or Cuba, would deal with dissent very differntly than our wicked capitalist government. You never hear about people assembling firebombs in those countries getting arrested, because the people in those countries love their governments so much.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It is like re-entering a dream after being awoken in the night. For some reason I’ve recently been drawn to this site long after leaving Austin in 1969 to move to a serene but lonely wilderness.
    At that time in 1969 there was a veritable hellstorm of this kind of informant stuff.
    Many people were thought of as Narcs.
    Several picnics with children present were attacked by jeering hooligans tossing tear gas canisters. Poets were beaten, the innocent died.
    Informants and those that handle them must bear responsibility for the terrible hurt and instability that they created. This hurt, this instability affected all political spectrums.
    I’m optimistic that the future will be better.
    pms

  14. Anonymous says:

    when i talked to b.darby about this, he said he was working for them before the rnc planning, and merely went into action in observing when he suspected violent acts being promoted to the younger activists by older ones that had even been b.s mentors in the past.that he tried to come to lisa to stop the “firebombing” and that no one was interested in stopping it. so he had to step in. the facts of course seem to point to the contrary. my question is this: what about in 2002 or 2003 during the anti iraq war protests? he was involved in a situation with unmarked police officers beating up activists. he got some innocent people to supposedly “help his friend” who was being attacked. when people went to help, they basically got kidnapped by the attackers, later to find out they were cops. i always wondered if b.d. was working for them even then or if maybe it started there. does anyone else remember this and have any thoughts?

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