The FBI Deputizes Business
by Matthew Rothschild
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
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
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
"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."