Friday, February 8, 2008

InfraGard: FBI Privatizes an "Anti-Terrorist" Force

As you read this, note that the scenarios being described by the FBI in its meetings with this privatized corporate force and what InfraGard is authorized to do when, not if, martial law is declared (this is how the FBI put it, according to the whistleblower quoted in this story) are entirely consistent with Blackwater forces' behavior in New Orleans after Katrina: protect private property and shoot at will at anyone they wanted to, with no repercussions. Blackwater beat, as you may know, the U.S. military to New Orleans.

Note my immediate last posting on White House warnings of another 9/11 too.

The hollowing out of government functions and their privatization is something that Naomi Klein details in her book, The Shock Doctrine.

Exclusive! The FBI Deputizes Business

By Matthew Rothschild, February 7, 2008

Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does—and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to “shoot to kill” in the event of martial law.

InfraGard is “a child of the FBI,” says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm.

InfraGard started in Cleveland back in 1996, when the private sector there cooperated with the FBI to investigate cyber threats.
“Then the FBI cloned it,” says Phyllis Schneck, chairman of the board of directors of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, and the prime mover behind the growth of InfraGard over the last several years.

InfraGard itself is still an FBI operation, with FBI agents in each state overseeing the local InfraGard chapters. (There are now eighty-six of them.) The alliance is a nonprofit organization of private sector InfraGard members.

“We are the owners, operators, and experts of our critical infrastructure, from the CEO of a large company in agriculture or high finance to the guy who turns the valve at the water utility,” says Schneck, who by day is the vice president of research integration at Secure Computing.

“At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector,” the InfraGard website states. “InfraGard chapters are geographically linked with FBI Field Office territories.”

In November 2001, InfraGard had around 1,700 members. As of late January, InfraGard had 23,682 members, according to its website, www.infragard.net, which adds that “350 of our nation’s Fortune 500 have a representative in InfraGard.”

To join, each person must be sponsored by “an existing InfraGard member, chapter, or partner organization.” The FBI then vets the applicant. On the application form, prospective members are asked which aspect of the critical infrastructure their organization deals with. These include: agriculture, banking and finance, the chemical industry, defense, energy, food, information and telecommunications, law enforcement, public health, and transportation.

FBI Director Robert Mueller addressed an InfraGard convention on August 9, 2005. At that time, the group had less than half as many members as it does today. “To date, there are more than 11,000 members of InfraGard,” he said. “From our perspective that amounts to 11,000 contacts . . . and 11,000 partners in our mission to protect America.” He added a little later, “Those of you in the private sector are the first line of defense.”

He urged InfraGard members to contact the FBI if they “note suspicious activity or an unusual event.” And he said they could sic the FBI on “disgruntled employees who will use knowledge gained on the job against their employers.”

In an interview with InfraGard after the conference, which is featured prominently on the InfraGard members’ website, Mueller says: “It’s a great program.”

The ACLU is not so sanguine.

“There is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate TIPS program, turning private-sector corporations—some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers—into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI,” the ACLU warned in its August 2004 report The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Businesses and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society.

InfraGard is not readily accessible to the general public. Its communications with the FBI and Homeland Security are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption, its website says. And any conversation with the public or the media is supposed to be carefully rehearsed.

“The interests of InfraGard must be protected whenever presented to non-InfraGard members,” the website states. “During interviews with members of the press, controlling the image of InfraGard being presented can be difficult. Proper preparation for the interview will minimize the risk of embarrassment. . . . The InfraGard leadership and the local FBI representative should review the submitted questions, agree on the predilection of the answers, and identify the appropriate interviewee. . . . Tailor answers to the expected audience. . . . Questions concerning sensitive information should be avoided.”

One of the advantages of InfraGard, according to its leading members, is that the FBI gives them a heads-up on a secure portal about any threatening information related to infrastructure disruption or terrorism.

The InfraGard website advertises this. In its list of benefits of joining InfraGard, it states: “Gain access to an FBI secure communication network complete with VPN encrypted website, webmail, listservs, message boards, and much more.”
InfraGard members receive “almost daily updates” on threats “emanating from both domestic sources and overseas,” Hershman says.

“We get very easy access to secure information that only goes to InfraGard members,” Schneck says. “People are happy to be in the know.”

On November 1, 2001, the FBI had information about a potential threat to the bridges of California. The alert went out to the InfraGard membership. Enron was notified, and so, too, was Barry Davis, who worked for Morgan Stanley. He notified his brother Gray, the governor of California.

“He said his brother talked to him before the FBI,” recalls Steve Maviglio, who was Davis’s press secretary at the time. “And the governor got a lot of grief for releasing the information. In his defense, he said, ‘I was on the phone with my brother, who is an investment banker. And if he knows, why shouldn’t the public know?’ ”

Maviglio still sounds perturbed about this: “You’d think an elected official would be the first to know, not the last.”
In return for being in the know, InfraGard members cooperate with the FBI and Homeland Security. “InfraGard members have contributed to about 100 FBI cases,” Schneck says. “What InfraGard brings you is reach into the regional and local communities. We are a 22,000-member vetted body of subject-matter experts that reaches across seventeen matrixes. All the different stovepipes can connect with InfraGard.”

Schneck is proud of the relationships the InfraGard Members Alliance has built with the FBI. “If you had to call 1-800-FBI, you probably wouldn’t bother,” she says. “But if you knew Joe from a local meeting you had with him over a donut, you might call them. Either to give or to get. We want everyone to have a little black book.”

This black book may come in handy in times of an emergency. “On the back of each membership card,” Schneck says, “we have all the numbers you’d need: for Homeland Security, for the FBI, for the cyber center. And by calling up as an InfraGard member, you will be listened to.” She also says that members would have an easier time obtaining a “special telecommunications card that will enable your call to go through when others will not.”

This special status concerns the ACLU.

“The FBI should not be creating a privileged class of Americans who get special treatment,” says Jay Stanley, public education director of the ACLU’s technology and liberty program. “There’s no ‘business class’ in law enforcement. If there’s information the FBI can share with 22,000 corporate bigwigs, why don’t they just share it with the public? That’s who their real ‘special relationship’ is supposed to be with. Secrecy is not a party favor to be given out to friends. . . . This bears a disturbing resemblance to the FBI’s handing out ‘goodies’ to corporations in return for folding them into its domestic surveillance machinery.”

When the government raises its alert levels, InfraGard is in the loop. For instance, in a press release on February 7, 2003, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General announced that the national alert level was being raised from yellow to orange. They then listed “additional steps” that agencies were taking to “increase their protective measures.” One of those steps was to “provide alert information to InfraGard program.”

“They’re very much looped into our readiness capability,” says Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. “We provide speakers, as well as do joint presentations [with the FBI]. We also train alongside them, and they have participated in readiness exercises.”

On May 9, 2007, George Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 51 entitled “National Continuity Policy.” In it, he instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security to coordinate with “private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure, as appropriate, in order to provide for the delivery of essential services during an emergency.”

Asked if the InfraGard National Members Alliance was involved with these plans, Schneck said it was “not directly participating at this point.” Hershman, chairman of the group’s advisory board, however, said that it was.

InfraGard members, sometimes hundreds at a time, have been used in “national emergency preparation drills,” Schneck acknowledges.

“In case something happens, everybody is ready,” says Norm Arendt, the head of the Madison, Wisconsin, chapter of InfraGard, and the safety director for the consulting firm Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. “There’s been lots of discussions about what happens under an emergency.”

One business owner in the United States tells me that InfraGard members are being advised on how to prepare for a martial law situation—and what their role might be. He showed me his InfraGard card, with his name and e-mail address on the front, along with the InfraGard logo and its slogan, “Partnership for Protection.” On the back of the card were the emergency numbers that Schneck mentioned.

This business owner says he attended a small InfraGard meeting where agents of the FBI and Homeland Security discussed in astonishing detail what InfraGard members may be called upon to do.

“The meeting started off innocuously enough, with the speakers talking about corporate espionage,” he says. “From there, it just progressed. All of a sudden we were knee deep in what was expected of us when martial law is declared. We were expected to share all our resources, but in return we’d be given specific benefits.” These included, he says, the ability to travel in restricted areas and to get people out.

But that’s not all.

“Then they said when—not if—martial law is declared, it was our responsibility to protect our portion of the infrastructure, and if we had to use deadly force to protect it, we couldn’t be prosecuted,” he says.

I was able to confirm that the meeting took place where he said it had, and that the FBI and Homeland Security did make presentations there. One InfraGard member who attended that meeting denies that the subject of lethal force came up. But the whistleblower is 100 percent certain of it. “I have nothing to gain by telling you this, and everything to lose,” he adds. “I’m so nervous about this, and I’m not someone who gets nervous.”

Though Schneck says that FBI and Homeland Security agents do make presentations to InfraGard, she denies that InfraGard members would have any civil patrol or law enforcement functions. “I have never heard of InfraGard members being told to use lethal force anywhere,” Schneck says.

The FBI adamantly denies it, also. “That’s ridiculous,” says Catherine Milhoan, an FBI spokesperson. “If you want to quote a businessperson saying that, knock yourself out. If that’s what you want to print, fine.”

But one other InfraGard member corroborated the whistleblower’s account, and another would not deny it.

Christine Moerke is a business continuity consultant for Alliant Energy in Madison, Wisconsin. She says she’s an InfraGard member, and she confirms that she has attended InfraGard meetings that went into the details about what kind of civil patrol function—including engaging in lethal force—that InfraGard members may be called upon to perform.
“There have been discussions like that, that I’ve heard of and participated in,” she says.

Curt Haugen is CEO of S’Curo Group, a company that does “strategic planning, business continuity planning and disaster recovery, physical and IT security, policy development, internal control, personnel selection, and travel safety,” according to its website. Haugen tells me he is a former FBI agent and that he has been an InfraGard member for many years. He is a huge booster. “It’s the only true organization where there is the public-private partnership,” he says. “It’s all who knows who. You know a face, you trust a face. That’s what makes it work.”

He says InfraGard “absolutely” does emergency preparedness exercises. When I ask about discussions the FBI and Homeland Security have had with InfraGard members about their use of lethal force, he says: “That much I cannot comment on. But as a private citizen, you have the right to use force if you feel threatened.”

“We were assured that if we were forced to kill someone to protect our infrastructure, there would be no repercussions,” the whistleblower says. “It gave me goose bumps. It chilled me to the bone.”

10 comments:

Jim Lippard said...

InfraGard is not a militia force. I'm a member and don't even own a gun. I'm not on call to round people up or shoot them, I've not been given a license to kill. I'm part of a group that meets periodically to hear a speaker talk about securing infrastructure, either physical or logical security, and which receives bulletins from the FBI about possible threats. Most meetings are open to the public, and anybody who can pass the screening can join InfraGard.

I'm also a civil libertarian who supports the Electronic Frontier Foundation and criticizes the abuses of the Bush administration.

Dennis Loo said...

Jim: If your group's task is to secure infrastructure, what does this mean - concretely - that InfraGard will do in case of a threat or alleged threat?

Jim Lippard said...

In the case of an actual incident, InfraGard itself won't do anything except report on it to members after the fact, *if* the members involved choose to share that information with InfraGard. InfraGard is not an incident response organization, it's an organization for sharing information and best practices, and networking with one's peers in one's own infrastructure area (mine is telecom) and others.

Individual affected InfraGard members will likely contact law enforcement or their peers as they feel appropriate in order to obtain assistance, but it's really all based on what an individual member chooses to do. There is no formal structure for InfraGard itself to take any kind of action in response to threats, because that's not the purpose of the organization.

InfraGard isn't *itself* tasked with securing infrastructure, but rather with giving information to private owners of infrastructure to secure their *own* infrastructure, enabling them to communicate with each other in a semi-secure environment (knowing that everyone who is a member has had rudimentary screening), and to develop contacts among their peers and with law enforcement that they can call upon if they need help.

In my own case, I've never shared specific incident details with InfraGard, only generic and aggregate information. I've also only gone to law enforcement for specific criminal issues, and required appropriate lawful process before providing any non-public data back to law enforcement unless reporting a crime where my company was a victim. I'm a strong opponent of amnesty for telecom providers that have engaged in illegal wiretapping.

Dennis Loo said...

Jim: I have withdrawn my descriptor of InfraGard as a militia force. I wonder about a number of things, however, and most especially what you think about the revelations in the article about martial law preparations. There is also the matter of the concerns raised by the ACLU.

Jim Lippard said...

Dennis:

I appreciate that, it shows your integrity.

Most of what I've seen claimed about impending martial law strikes me as wild fantasy from people like the Prison Planet and 9/11 Truth crowd, but I have personally thought that many of the abuses of the Bush Administration look like steps along the way to a fascist dictatorship even though I reject the extreme conspiracy claims. The PBS Frontline episode on "Cheney's Law" is what I consider an objective, well-documented report on the dangerous direction the Bush Administration has been going. And I'm completely unimpressed with the Democratic Congress's apparent complete inability to act as a check on executive abuses.

The ACLU concern about TIPS (the DOJ's Terrorism Information and Prevention System) is quite reasonable, in my opinion. I think such a program is a bad idea for many reasons--it reeks of East Germany having citizens spy on each other, and it would be subject to abuse by both the people using it to make false or misleading reports and by the people collecting the information, as we know happens on a regular basis today with *any* kind of database of information about people.

I think it's quite reasonable to raise concerns about how InfraGard collects data from its members and shares it with the FBI. I think it's reasonable to expect InfraGard to exhibit transparency and accountability for what it does, as I'd expect from any nonprofit tax-exempt organization.

Dennis Loo said...

Jim: As Naomi Wolf in her new book, The End of America, points out, correctly so, when analyzing forces such as that of Bush and Cheney and the people behind them, it's important to look at their intentions and the trajectory of what they are doing, not just what they have already done and where things are at at this moment. The extremity of their aims - let alone what they have already done - is stunning to behold.

I'd be interested in your thoughts about my article, "Fighting Terror with Terror" that you can find on my blog here - an intro to it and then a link to its posting at Project Censored. Here is an excerpt from it:

"[T]his summer several people who support or represent the White House made it astonishingly clear that another 9/11 would be good and necessary because it would justify the White House’s policies:

Dennis Milligan, new Arkansas GOP Chairman: '[A]ll we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [9/11], and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country.' (June 3, 2007).

Rick Santorum, ex-Senator from Pennsylvania: 'Between now and November, a lot of things are going to happen, and I believe that by this time next year, the American public’s going to have a very different view of this war, and it will be because, I think, of some unfortunate events, that like we’re seeing unfold in the UK. But I think the American public’s going to have a very different view.' (July 7, 2007, speaking on the Hugh Hewitt Show).

Lt.-Col. Doug Delaney, War Studies Program Chair, Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario: 'The key to bolstering Western resolve is another terrorist attack like 9/11 or the London transit bombings of two years ago.' (Delaney paraphrased by Toronto Star reporter, Andrew Chung.) 'If nothing happens, it will be harder still to say this is necessary,' adds Delaney. (July 8, 2007). (Boldfacing added)

A Sacramento Democratic strategist, paraphrased by one of the pro-impeachment Democrats at a recent Democratic gathering, offering the following as one of the reasons why he thinks impeachment is foolhardy for the Democratic Party: 'there will be another terrorist attack between now and next November…the public will run into the arms of the Republicans as a cause of that, and … Democrats are essentially helpless to do anything about that.' (July 17, 2007).

Jack Goldsmith, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel in 2003 and 2004, in his book The Terror Presidency quotes David Addington, Cheney’s current Chief of Staff, as saying in a February 2004 meeting: 'We're one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious [FISA] court.'

Or, as Nazi Leader Hermann Goring put it in 1946:
'The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders . . . tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.'"

Hank said...

"I'm a strong opponent of amnesty for telecom providers that have engaged in illegal wiretapping."

That is giving special privileges to those who aid the government in conspiring to violate the rights of American citizens, which conflicts with your self characterization of "civil libertarian". Another conflict is supporting a semi-secret semi-public semi-private fusing of government and corporations together for the purposes of "homeland security". If it smells, tastes, looks, feels, and sounds like corporatism (fascism) it most likely is.

The vast majority of talk of "martial law" is hysterical bull plop. If one objectively reviews the progress made in establishing the world's most advanced police state in the last several years in light of the long trend towards such, it is apparent there is more than a few grains of truth behind those wild seemingly baseless paranoid fears that seem more at home in the fractured mind of a schizophrenic than in a serious discussion of reality.

It would appear that Infragard is one more relatively small program amongst many more. It may or not be developed to it's potential that leads to irrational fear mongering, but given the nature of government, it is only a matter of time so long as we maintain our current path which show no signs of abatement.

Dennis Loo said...

Hank:

On Jim's behalf, he was saying with regard to the amnesty for the telecom companies that he opposes giving them amnesty. As for your point about the police state measures and the need to recognize the various permutations of that, I agree with you.

Jim Lippard said...

Dennis: You correctly interpreted my words, Hank somehow reversed what I said. BTW, I meant "immunity" rather than "amnesty." Thankfully, the House failed to vote on the telecom immunity bill, which means the temporary extension of immunity expired yesterday and the 40+ class action lawsuits can now proceed.

I'll read your blog post--I find those who say we "need" another 9/11 to be absolutely despicable, and I agree with you that the time to stop creeping fascism is before it starts.

Jim Lippard said...

Dennis: That's an excellent article, and I found myself in agreement with your position from beginning to end.