InfraGard: An Unhealthy Government Alliance

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There is an
organization that is quietly and secretly becoming very large and
powerful. The FBI started this partnership or alliance between the
federal government and the private sector in 1996 in Cleveland with
a few select people. After September 11, 2001, when the general
population replaced their rationality with fear, this organization,
called InfraGard, continued growing, and with little notice. By
2005 more than 11,000 members were involved, but as of today, according
to the InfraGard website, there are 23,682 members, including FBI
personnel. At first glance, many would think this alliance healthy
and useful in the fight against “terrorism,” but upon
further examination, one has to wonder.

InfraGard
began as an alliance between the FBI and local businesses with the
objective of investigating cyber threats. Since that time, little
resemblance to that design exists. According to InfraGard’s
own website,

InfraGard is an information sharing and analysis effort serving
the interests and combining the knowledge base of a wide range of
members. At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between
the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector. InfraGard
is an association of businesses, academic institutions, state and
local law enforcement agencies, and participants dedicated to sharing
information and intelligence [emphasis added] to prevent
hostile acts against the United States.

Every InfraGard
chapter has an FBI special agent coordinator attached to it, and
this FBI coordinator works closely with FBI headquarters in Washington,
D.C. Initially, while under the direction of the National Infrastructure
Protection Center (NIPC), the focus of InfraGard was cyberinfrastructure
protection, but things have gotten much more interesting since September
11, 2001. NIPC then expanded its efforts to include physical
as well as cyberthreats to critical infrastructures.

A progression
is occurring, but it gets even more interesting as time passes.
In March 2003, NIPC was transferred to the Department of Homeland
Security which now has total responsibility for critical infrastructure
protection (CIP) matters. Part of the Department of Homeland Security’s
mission is to facilitate InfraGard’s continuing role in CIP
activities and to further develop InfraGard’s ability to support
the FBI’s investigative mission, especially as it pertains
to counterterrorism and cyber crimes.

InfraGard’s
stated goal “is to promote ongoing dialogue and timely communications
between members and the FBI.” Pay attention to this next part:

InfraGard members gain access to information that enables them to
protect their assets and in turn give information to government
that facilitates its responsibilities to prevent and address terrorism
and other crimes.

I take from
this statement that there is a distinct tradeoff, a tradeoff not
available to the rest of us, whereby InfraGard members are privy
to inside information from government to protect themselves and
their assets; in return they give the government information it
desires. This is done under the auspices of preventing terrorism
and other crimes. Of course, as usual, “other crimes”
is not defined, leaving us to guess just what information is being
transferred. Since these members of InfraGard are people in positions
of power in the “private” sector, people who have access
to a massive amount of private information about the rest of us,
just what information are they divulging to government? Remember,
they are getting valuable consideration in the form of advance warnings
and protection for their lives and assets from government. This
does not an honest partnership make; quite the contrary.

In my article
“The
New Crime of Thinking,”
I criticized H.R.1955 and Senate
1959, which, if passed, will literally criminalize thought against
government. As usual, the exact type of thought is left undefined.
This vagueness in the thought-crime legislation together with the
secrecy of InfraGard makes for a dangerous combination. S.1959,
if passed, will be attached to the Homeland Security Act and InfraGard
is already a part of the Department of Homeland Security. This is
not a coincidence. Under section 899b of S.1959 it is stated:

Preventing the potential rise of self radicalized, unaffiliated
terrorists domestically cannot be easily accomplished solely through
traditional Federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts, and
can benefit from the incorporation of State and local efforts.

This appears
to be a direct reference to the InfraGard program. Moreover, in
section 899c of S.1959 the new commission created after passage
is to build upon and bring together the work of other entities,
and will establish, as designated under 899d, a “Center of
Excellence.” This center will be university-based, and is to
study “violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism”
in the United States. According to InfraGard’s mission statement,
it is a group of businesses, academic institutions, state and local
law enforcement, and other participants dedicated to sharing information
and intelligence. Keep in mind that this new center will be, and
InfraGard already is, a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
I'm just speculating, of course, but is it possible that InfraGard
will be a domestic police and spying arm for the government concerning
“thought crime”?

There is a
definite and natural link here, and it should give us pause. The
definitions concerning thought crime are vague and unclear, left
to the interpretation of government only. InfraGard, on the other
hand, is an organization cloaked in secrecy. It holds secret meetings
with the FBI. It also, according to FBI Director Robert Mueller,
shares information (what information, we don’t know) with the
Secret Service and all government agencies involved with
security in the United States.

One question
on InfraGard’s application for membership is, Which critical
infrastructures does your organization belong to? Some choices listed
are defense, government, banking and finance, information and telecommunications,
postal and shipping, transportation, public health, and energy.
At least 350 of the Fortune 500 companies have representation in
InfraGard, this according to their website. These representatives
have access to most of our private records, including phone and
Internet use, health records, and banking and finance records. Considering
the recent attempts by President Bush and his administration to
protect many telecommunications companies and executives from prosecution
for releasing private information, how many of the top telecom executives
are members of InfraGard? I, for one, would be very interested in
this information, but alas, it is not public information; it is
secret.

According
to InfraGard’s own policies and procedures,

The interests of InfraGard must be protected whenever presented
to non-InfraGard members. Independent of the type of presentation,
(interview, brief, or published documentation) the InfraGard leadership
and the local FBI representative should be made aware of the upcoming
presentation. The InfraGard member and the FBI representative should
agree on the theme of the presentation. The identity of InfraGard
members should be protected at all times.
This means that
no one outside InfraGard is to know who is a member unless previous
approval has been given. In addition, when interviews with members
of the press are forthcoming, all questions should be submitted in
writing prior to the interview. The InfraGard leadership and the local
FBI representative should review the submitted questions, agree on
the character of the answers, and identify the appropriate person
to be interviewed prior to the interview. Even demeanor is addressed
in this directive, and strict guidelines for behavior are listed.
You see, when I said secret, I wasn’t kidding.

The bottom
line is this: This is an organization created by the FBI, sanctioning
individuals from the private business sector to provide information,
sensitive and private information, to government agencies for special
concessions. These concessions, or favors, according to an article
titled “The FBI Deputizes Business,” in The Progressive
magazine, include advance warning on a secure portal about any threatening
information related to infrastructure disruption or terrorism. InfraGard
notes as much on their website by advertising for members “access
to an FBI secure communication network complete with VPN encrypted
website, webmail, listservs, message boards and much more.”
Also advertised: “Learn time-sensitive, infrastructure related
security information from government sources such as DHS [Department
of Homeland Security] and the FBI.” Is this elitist group of
InfraGard members a group of Americans superior to the rest of us?
Are they truly privileged or just selling their souls for protection
and favors? And how involved will they be in watchdog activities,
activities sanctioned by the U.S. government? Is this a new kind
of conscription by government meant to increase its surveillance
capabilities so that it can monitor our lives even more than it
does now?

Legislation,
bureaucracies, and government/business partnerships created since
9/11 have severely infringed our freedom. Almost all of the so-called
terror-protection legislation has been linked – and in many
cases it is linked – to increased government oversight of the
rest of us. This is evident concerning InfraGard and the Department
of Homeland Security. If this program is for the benefit of this
country, why are the members’ names and their activities kept
so secret? Why do some gain protection and early warning while the
rest of us do not? And what information and &#147intelligence”
is being shared? Since these business members are fully protected
by government, how far will they go, and when will it be too late
to stop this secret assault by this behemoth we call government?

February
23, 2008

Gary
D. Barnett [send
him mail
] is president of Barnett Financial Services, Inc.,
in Lewistown, Montana.

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