An agent provocateur (French for "provoking or inciting agent") is a person who incites another person to commit an illegal or rash act or who falsely implicates them in partaking in an illegal act, so as to ruin the reputation or cause legal action against the target or a group he belongs to.
In some cases, the person provoked may be able to prove entrapment, whereby a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a criminal offense that the person would have otherwise been unlikely or unwilling to commit, using this as a defense against criminal iiability. However, in a sting operation, a deceptive operation designed to catch a person committing a crime, the deception is often not considered to have risen to the level of entrapment.
Agent provocateurs have notably been used during demonstrations or other public gatherings, such as by anti-union agent provocateurs.
In the United States, the COINTELPRO program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation included FBI agents posing as political activists to disrupt the activities of political groups in the U.S., such as the Ku Klux Klan, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the American Indian Movement.