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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Traditionally, an agent provocateur (plural: agents provocateurs, French for "inciting agent(s)") is a person employed by the police or other entity to act undercover to entice or provoke another person to commit an illegal act. More generally, the term may refer to a person or group that seeks to discredit or harm another by provoking them to commit a wrong or rash action.


Common usage

An agent provocateur may be a police officer or a secret agent of police who encourages suspects to carry out a crime under conditions where evidence can be obtained; or who suggests the commission of a crime to another, in hopes they will go along with the suggestion and be convicted of the crime.

A political organization or government may use agents provocateurs against political opponents. The provocateurs try to incite the opponent to counter-productive or ineffective acts to foster public disdain—or provide a pretext for aggression against the opponent (see Red-baiting).

Historically, labor spies, hired to infiltrate, monitor, disrupt, or subvert union activities, have used agent provocateur tactics.

Agent provocateur activities raise ethical and legal issues. In common law jurisdictions, the legal concept of entrapment may apply if the main impetus for the crime was the provocateur.

United States

In the United States, the COINTELPRO program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation had FBI agents pose as political radicals to disrupt the activities of radical political groups in the U.S., such as the Black Panthers, Ku Klux Klan, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

New York City police officers were accused of acting as agents provocateurs during protests against the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.[1]

Denver police officers were also found to have used undercover detectives to instigate violence against police during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. This ultimately resulted in the accidental use of chemical agents against their own men.[2]


Notorious were the activities of agents provocateurs against revolutionaries in Imperial Russia. Yevno Azef is an example of such an agent provocateur.

It is alleged by British Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake that the Metropolitan Police made use of agents provocateurs during the G20 Protests in London.[3]


Three protesters in Montebello, Canada during the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America were caught acting as police provocateurs on August 20, 2007, by Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. The entire incident was filmed and posted on YouTube before being picked up by mainstream media. The video [4] shows three masked men, one of whom was armed with a large rock, being confronted by peaceful protesters. After the men breached the police line, they were brought to the ground, handcuffed, and taken away. Photographs revealed that their boot-tread matched that of the arresting officers. Although they at first denied that the individuals in question were agents provocateurs, the Sûreté du Québec issued a news release on August 23 admitting that the three protesters were, in fact, police officers.[5][6]

See also


  1. ^ Dwyer, Jim (December 22, 2005). "New York Police Covertly Join In at Protest Rallies". The New York Times: p. A1. Retrieved 2006-09-22.  
  2. ^ Cardona, Felisa (November 7, 2008). "ACLU wants probe into police-staged DNC protest". The Denver Post: p. A1. Retrieved 2008-11-07.  
  3. ^ Doward, Jamie; Townsend, Mark (May 10, 2009). "G20 police 'used undercover men to incite crowds'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-05-10.  
  4. ^ Web page describing the event and linking to the video
  5. ^ Quebec police admit they went undercover at Montebello protest
  6. ^ | News | Police accused of using provocateurs at summit


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Agent provocateur m. (genitive Agent provocateur, plural Agents provocateurs)

  1. Alternative spelling of Agent Provocateur.

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