Infragard: corporate informant network?

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:

  1. Does this program actually benefit the public at large?

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

Since we still have no useful information, no one can really give you any answers, but this alone doesn’t pass the horse-laugh test. The Dystopian megacorporate future is fiction because it’s unworkable and ridiculous. Corporations don’t want to carry around a big “militia”. Heck, they’d get rid of rent-a-cops if they could because it’s not in any way productive.

What would they do with it? Exploit squatters in the barrens? Do battle aqgainst invading [strikethrough]Cyberpunks[/strikethrough], ah, errr… [strikethrough]Shadowrunners[/strikethrough], I mean… Greenpeace? Heck, it really didn’t make much sense in the fiction, either. If you have an army and you want money, you just take it, and let someone else do the work of producing it.

And “in times of emergency,” having an armed militia would do… what? Do you think having 200 [strikethrough]fanatically loyal mercenary cyber-goons with smartgun links and wired reflexes[/strikethrough] - I mean, err… rent-a-cops, will somehow help out a corporation’s bottom line?

I’m deliberately posting silly stuff mixed with actual argument. How 'bout you?

Aside from which, pal, this is The Progressive. The magazine which proudly proclaims how far-left it is and how ignorant of economics it can be, if only we all work togather for goals which a small elite of hard leftists will decide for you comrade, in the new glorious Soviet Revolution of Tommorow!

In America, you get cyberware! In Soviet Russia, Cyberware gets you!

Ok, I’ll stop with the sci-fi jokes, now. :smiley:

After checking a bit online, it actually appears to be essentially an information-sharing netowrk of random people. I doubt it’s a spy network for the FBI, because it’s going to essentially be random joes from here and there (and anyway, there’re better agencies for the job). I think it’s supposed to work like this: if there’s a problem, the FBi can get in touch with them quickly, as opposed to

As far the shoot-to-kill thing, assuming that it’s true at all (which is unknown): Frankly, it was apparently supposed to happen if martial law was decalred over the entire country. In which case, we’re all boned. But mostly, remember this is 23,000 man group in total. With 86 local groups. Good god, you can’t keep secrets in something that big. If it was anything important, it’d have more holes than swiss cheese.

Here is the wikipedia link, as well as a blog article from an infragard member, the value of which you may decide for yourself. I may not be up to speed on my Conspiracy Theories, but I’m not aware that many of them had membership applicaitons on their public websites.

http://rawstory.com/news/2008/FBI_program_alleged_to_prepare_businesses_0208.html

Want to play a game?

smiling bandit, pal, I get the distinct impression that you think I’m trying to post a polemic disquised as a call for debate; understandable considering how often it happens in this forum. I assure you that is not the case. This program, despite having a ten-year history and a semi-public Internet presence, has managed to go almost unremarked by the public, and I for one am very interested whether the claims in the linked article are accurate or not. If not, so be it.

This may very well be true, but it has nothing to do with whether or not the article itself is factual.

Agreed. Instead, they hire outifts like Blackwater on a temp basis, and that’s surely what they’d do in the case of the so-far undefined domestic emergency. I think, however. a lot of people would agree that the de facto carte blanche given to security firms such as Blackwater in Iraq to kill civilians with impunity has not been an entirely good thing, and the idea of extending that carte blanche to use lethal force against American citizens * before the nature of the emergency has even been defined* seems even less desirable.

Re: your blog link, that seems like a fairly sensible rebuttal of The Progressive article (particulalry in pointing out that the FBI really doesn’t have the authority to pre-emptively declare immunity from prosecution), but even there, the author’s last entry appears to pull back somewhat from rejecting the whole thing out of hand.

Nor does the authority exist to retroactively exempt communication companies from prosecution for tapping private communications .But,they did it. I think the vote passed today.
The times they are achanging.

So how exactly does the “license to kill” thing work, exactly?

So there’s civil unrest, and some Haliburton employees start rampaging and shooting people. The cops arrest them and charge them with murder. At the trial, the employees stand up and say, “Your Honor, we were told by an FBI contact at a secret meeting that during civil unrest we could kill anyone we liked”.

And then the judge dismisses the case, is that how it’s supposed to go?

Or does the judge say, “If Karl Rove told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it? Apparently you would, because he told you that you could shoot anyone you liked and you believed him. Bailiff, please take these men from here to a place of execution where they will hang from the neck until dead, may God have mercy on their souls. Next case!”

Well, actually, I think the justification would be more along the lines of, “Your honor, we were hired to protect a critical component of national infrastructure, designated as such by agency X. Here is a paper (a presidential signing statement, perhaps?) stating that we were to use all reasonable means to secure the installation, and although we deeply regret the loss of life, we felt that this vital facility was at significant risk and we therefore had no choice but to open fire on that carload of people when they didn’t stop on our command.”

Thinking about the whole thing a bit more, it does seem echo events like the use of militias to fire upon striking workers back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Who knows, maybe the Progressive article was written deliberately to evoke those events.

Except that still doesn’t get our murdering scum corporate goons off the hook for murder.

If any such document exists, it’s going to say something like “reasonable means”. They’re going to have to convince 12 jurors that shooting random civilian refugees was reasonable if they want to be acquitted. The FBI doesn’t have the power to nullify local law, they only have the power to refuse to cooperate and cover up and accidentally lose evidence and suchlike.

Of course, all this is silly talk, because in the event of “civil unrest” and the breakdown of societal order, people are going to be shooting at each other, and the likelyhood is that the various shooters will never be brought to trial, because there will be no witnesses, no evidence, and no cops around. That the shooters have secret “Get Out of Jail Free” cards from the FBI will be irrelevant.

The only way it could happen, AFAIK, was if the location was taken over by the military or police, and the local security “deputized or something” until the crisis passed. Even that would be a very legally “iffy” area; not something you’d want to risk yourself on.

Maybe I’m just too used to Brainglutton’s drive-by postings with a lone cite from a far-left source. Apologies!

Well, I’ve done some more poking around. I briefly considered joining up myself, since I work in one of the ‘critical infrastructures’ defined by the program, and since the program’s web site seems to suggest that just about anyone can join as long as they have a qualification and submit to a background check. But not so: buried in the application form is indeed the requirement that one’s membership application has to be sponsored by an existing member, so presumably I’d have to go to a few chapter meetings and buddy up to someone to get in. Piss on that.

Meanwhile, while the ‘deadly force authorization’ stuff does seem fairly far out there, one point the article brings up might be a more legitimate concern: members with access to their companies’ electronic customer databases potentially turning information from them over to the feds, informally, y’know, just to be helpful. Given how some of the phone companies apparently rolled over for the government when it came looking for their call records a few years ago, I’ve gotta feel the potential for such shenanigans from this outfit is not insignificant.

Lastly, I’ve been looking for some sign of oversight for this program, and so far haven’t really found any. Yeah, the FBI and DHS are involved, but the organization itself is a 501© non-profit and presumably not beholden to anyone in particular; we don’t have a clue who members are unless they announce it themselves, and then we have this slightly odd passage from their (warning: PDF)Interviewing and publication policy:

“Controlling the image?” Seems a bit heavy-handed, but whatever. I don’t know, I’m completely not a conspiracy fan, but this thing seems awfully wannabe elitist and on that basis I have to say I don’t much care for it.

It can be argued that we are heading for a 2 tiered economy. The rich will be far removed from the masses. When the masses start to get unruly they must be stopped. This could just be setting things up for what the future will hold. Oddly police and militia always side with the big businessmen and politicians.

It seems that item number 2 is very plausible:

http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/3-infragard-the-fbi-deputizes-business/