FBI and Business: Infraguard Scandal

If this is legit, this ought to be a full blown scandal. (Via RickB in comments). The Progressive:

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.

What the fuck?

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.

Want to know more? Sorry, this is beyond the FIA:

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 spying and complete lack of transparency is bad enough. The preparation for the declaration of martial law is chilling:

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.

What was that? Not be prosecuted?

“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.”

This needs to be investigated, and if true, in the public eye. Now.

UPDATE: The FBI has responded (The Lippard Blog):

The FBI has issued an official response to Rothschild’s Progressive article (PDF), which says, in part:

In short, the article’s claims are patently false. For the record, the FBI has not deputized InfraGard, its members, businesses, or anything else in the program. The title, however catchy, is a complete fabrication. Moreover, InfraGard members have no extraordinary powers and have no greater right to “shoot to kill” than other civilians. The FBI encourages InfraGard members — and all Americans — to report crime and suspected terrorist activity to the appropriate authorities.

The FBI response also states that Rothschild has “refused even to identify when or where the claimed ‘small meeting’ occurred in which issues of martial law were discussed,” and promises to follow up with further clarifying details if they get that information.

Barring any response from Rothschild, this seems to put the “shoot to kill” aspect to rest. The “spying on Americans” part is, notably, not included in the rebuttal.

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4 Responses

  1. I’ve got more factual information than Rothschild about InfraGard at my blog, including an analysis of where he went wrong. There are grains of truth in what he reported, but he exaggerated beyond what his sources actually said.

  2. Thanks for the link Jim. From your post, it looks like the “kill” quotes are questionable, and the aclu/spying complaint probable. (Note to readers, Jim is a member of Infraguard).

    I’d be interested in hearing whether those quotes can be corroborated, and if true, whether (as you note) it is FBI agents promising something they know they cannot deliver, or whether this turns out to be entirely truth or paranoia.

    I’ll remain a healthy skeptic meanwhile. I was a bit hesitant to believe this initially (hence my “if true disclaimers, which I rarely use), but at the same time, no offense, a member of Infraguard’s response leaves me looking for a bit more neutrality.

  3. Dan:

    The FBI has issued an official response to Rothschild’s article, and I’ve updated my blog post to link to it.

  4. Thanks for the info Jim. I’ve updated the post.

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