3. INFRAGARD GUARDS ITSELF
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have effectively deputized 23,000 members of the business community, asking them to tip off the feds in exchange for preferential treatment in the event of a crisis. "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," Matthew Rothschild wrote in the March 2008 issue of The Progressive.
InfraGard was created in 1996 in Cleveland as part of an FBI probe into cyberthreats. Yet after 9/11, membership jumped from 1,700 to more than 23,000, and now includes 350 of the nation's Fortune 500 companies. Members typically have a stake in one of several crucial infrastructure industries, including agriculture, banking, defense, energy, food, telecommunications, law enforcement, and transportation. The group's 86 chapters coordinate with 56 FBI field offices nationwide.
While FBI Director Robert Mueller has said he considers this segment of the private sector "the first line of defense," the American Civil Liberties Union issued a grave warning about the potential for abuse. "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," it cautioned in an August 2004 report.
"The FBI should not be creating a privileged class of Americans who get special treatment," Jay Stanley, public education director of the ACLU's technology and liberty program, told Rothschild.
And they are privileged: a DHS spokesperson told Rothschild that InfraGard members receive special training and readiness exercises. They're also privy to protected information that is usually shielded from disclosure under the trade secrets provision of the Freedom of Information Act.
The information they have may be of critical importance to the general public, but first it goes to the privileged membership sometimes before it's released to elected officials. As Rothschild related in his story, on Nov. 1, 2001, the FBI sent an alert to InfraGard members about a potential threat to bridges in California. Barry Davis, who worked for Morgan Stanley, received the information and relayed it to his brother Gray, then governor of California, who released it to the public.
Steve Maviglio, Davis's press secretary at the time, told Rothschild, "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?'<0x2009>"
Source: "The FBI deputizes business," Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, Feb. 7, 2008.
4. ILEA: TRAINING GROUND FOR ILLEGAL WARS?
The School of the Americas earned an unsavory reputation in Latin America after many graduates of the Fort Benning, Ga., facility turned into counterinsurgency death squad leaders. So the International Law Enforcement Academy recently installed by the Unites States in El Salvador which looks, acts, and smells like the SOA is also drawing scorn.
The school, which opened in June 2005 before the Salvadoran National Assembly approved it, has a satellite operation in Peru and is funded with $3.6 million from the US Treasury and staffed with instructors from the DEA, ICE, and FBI. It's tasked with training 1,500 police officers, judges, prosecutors, and other law enforcement agents in counterterrorism techniques per year.