My friend Mike Elk has a story so head-spinning and pathetic that it must be enjoyed in one long read. D.C. labor activists suspected that plainclothes cops were infiltrating protests. Jeffrey Light and Sean Canavan, lawyers with United Students Against Sweatshops, wondered about the identity of a woman who kept showing up at protests but no other organizing meetings. They eventually figured out that the woman was a cop, Nicole Rizzi.
They figured this out because she wrote about her work, online.
A post on Rizzi’s since-deleted Tumblr account seemed to indicate that Rizzi worked undercover. In response to a post from a reader asking her how flexible her dress code was as a police officer, Rizzi said she wore “ordinary clothes,” but made a distinction between her position and that of a “plainclothes” patrol cop: “In the position I’m in, it’s beneficial to wear ordinary clothes. Plainclothes assignments too, you wear what would blend in.” … Light and Canavan dug up evidence that Rizzi was a police officer, including a photograph posted on yfrog of Rizzi pointing out a typo on a piece of mail addressed to the “DC Metropolation [sic] Police Department.” Rizzi’s finger partially covers up the address line, but it appears to read “Director, Intelligence Branch.”
In another era, I’m sure Elk et al would have been dogged enough to dig this out. In the age of social media, Rizzi left not just bread crumbs but warm, freshly baked baguettes. It’s another example of something that makes the usual snooping work of government tougher and tougher: The Internet is here, and it can make you look ridiculous.