On Feb. 7, The Progressive released an article on a seemingly little-remarked FBI-private sector program called Infragard. Apprently starting way back in 1996 as a cooperative venture between the Feds and unnamed private-sector companies to sniff out threats in cyberspace, the advent of the Department of Homeland Security and the general atmosphere of paranoia surrounding 9/11 have created something of a monster: the program now grandly advertises itself as a public-private ‘collaborative for infrastructure protection’ and claims more than 20,000 members, from various industries and services presumably deemed critical to the country.
What, exactly, does Infragard do? Well, see if you can make heads or tails of this:
Well, that’s perfectly clear, isn’t it? More seriously, this appears to be a way for the agency to gain some of the objectives of the much-derided and eventually abandoned(?) TIPS program: Infragard members inform their friendly FBI contact (who they met at last month’s local chapter meeting) of a possible threat of some sort, with the quid pro quo being that they get first crack at threat assessments and warnings from the FBI and DHS, plus getting to attend lots of important presentations on infrastructure security and the like.
All good fun, of course, except for the following, slightly troubling (to me at least) points:
a) In at least one case, Infragard members were informed of a threat to public infrastructure well before the state and city officials actually responsible for that infrastructure were informed;
b) The only way to join the program is by recommendation of an existing member, pretty much guaranteeing an ‘old boys club’ cronyism among members;
c) some members report that the FBI has made presentations at chapter meetings that give the members’ corporations carte blanche to protect so-called ‘critical infrastructure’ in times of national emergency, up to and including use of deadly force, without fear of prosecution.
Questions for debate:
Does this program actually benefit the public at large?
How plausible are the claims that the program appears to verge on sanctioning the formation of armed corporate militias immune to prosecution in times of emergency?
Another sign of the New World Order taking over, or business as usual?
I’ll check in on the morrow to see which way the wind is blowing on this.