The Fall of Dan Baker — Lessons in Security Culture And How this Shit Is Not a Game
Daniel Baker was arrested on January 15th by FBI agents and charged with “transmission of a threat to kidnap or injure”. This affidavit describes in full how law enforcement monitored his activities ever since he went AWOL from his airborne unit before deployment to Iraq, leading to his discharge. It traces Baker’s radical existence, from his joining the YPG to fight Daesh in Syria to his activities at home. Baker’s arrest offers some key insights into the workings of the State and how they pick off activists. First and foremost, Baker was an easy catch because he was alone and isolated, he was not in an organization, took part in no mass work and helped build no mass base. Mao said that the masses are our bastion of iron for a reason. He had a loose network of friends of varying political shades but he was not deeply involved in the day to day lives of the people — he wandered around, homeless, and bounced from protest to protest. Organizers must commit themselves to organizing in a specific neighborhood or city and forge concrete ties with the masses to lay the foundations of a real movement. Baker seems to have relied extensively on the internet, using it as his diary and oversharing every aspect of his weaknesses and personal struggles online. This enabled the FBI and other law enforcement to easily develop a pattern and make a case against him.
Secondly, he personally discussed his militant activities/history online. He was boastful about his involvement in the YPG and, as the straw that broke the camel’s back, laid out his entire tactical plan on the open internet in a series of Facebook posts which were public. He explicitly announced his plan to “start robbing the rich”, his willingness to “commit to organized crime” and “do anything to anyone”. At CHAZ/CHOP, he expressed to individuals he did not know his disappointment at the lack of militancy and the need to “get AKs and bombs”, and his desire to participate in the revolution which he believed started at this “autonomous zone”.
Again, this, along with his military training and history, (in one article he brags about killing ‘three terrorists’ in Syria during his time with an organization that has been labeled a Foreign Terrorist Organization) enabled the FBI to easily paint him as an unhinged, violent individual and cook up a credible threat of impending violence from him warranting an arrest. Whatever you put on the internet, especially Facebook and Twitter, is subject to being brought into court as evidence against you. Especially if you are what could be labeled as an extremist, which is something that is widening every day. America is the world’s most thorough surveillance state, the NSA knows what you are doing online. If they believe that you are a credible violent actor, they are going to come take you into custody. In my city last year two individuals were arrested by Federal LEO and held in custody for two weeks. One posted a “call to action/red alert” after live-streaming aspects of his involvement in the Minneapolis Uprising. He encouraged people to come to Ferguson for an unspecified purpose, presumably a militant protest. This individual is known locally for open carry demonstrations and other such things tied to firearms. The day after, he was arrested on his front lawn. Another individual, who is homeless, posted a napalm recipe on Facebook, and was taken into custody. Situations like this have happened in every city across the country, and show the need for more thorough political education and training on correct security culture.
Baker was far too open about minute aspects of his individual training and individual desire to harm individuals. He showed how he trained for unarmed combat, openly discussed his desire to purchase weapons on public Facebook posts, expressed his intense and personal desire to “slay enemies again”, and a variety of other things that enabled the FBI to credibly take him in as an immediate threat. The affidavit is full of screenshots of individual statements that can be attributed to Baker alone, not any organization, because Baker was not a member of any organization. The affidavit also shows the types of social media activity that attract attention. Memes, “anarchist” podcasts, and a variety of other things are all screencapped and used to paint the Feds’ picture. The final straw was when Baker made a public event called Defend Tallahassee with his own name attached where he offered a tactical plan to “surround them so that they cannot escape down Apalachee Parkway…and corral them into the capitol building”. This plan, if it had succeeded (it didn’t, as most militant activists in the area probably would have stayed away from this obvious insane honeypot/fedbait if Baker hadn’t been arrested two days before this thing was scheduled to happen) would probably have led to…a bunch of leftists getting surrounded and murked by armed reactionaries (Florida, hello?) who would have turned out to happily lay out some Reds and anarchists due to Baker stupidly announcing this event on Facebook. Baker remains in Federal custody without bond as of this writing.
Essentially, Baker is a lesson in what not to do. He had no organization, he seemed to have a weird pseudo-focoismo line undergirded by a strange and eclectic mishmash of all kinds of politics, he worshiped the gun and violence, he traipsed around the country looking for “the revolution”, and did not root himself in the masses. Most fatally, he was terminally online. Baker’s failings are those of the left in general, though — if he had a group of comrades steeled in revolutionary theory that could have tempered his hyper-macho militancy with mass work and thorough study of the past pitfalls of his brand of thinking and action, along with enforcing a basic social media policy, this debacle probably wouldn’t have happened. This is why revolutionary organizations are important, people like Baker exist and without guidance they will inevitably always fall into the clutches of the State. Read Sakai’s work on security culture with your comrades so you don’t end up like Baker.