James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A puzzle for you...or maybe not

What follows is a report of facts, gathered from several sources, without comment from me, other than, perhaps, an occasional shot at some blatant absurdity. I make no proposal of meaning.

On Feb. 7, 2008, The Progressive magazine published -- with a somewhat breathless claim for exclusiveness -- an article about InfraGard, an organization of business people begun by the FBI during the Clinton administration and now greatly expanded and guided by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security under the Bush.

Well, OK, it is an exclusive story. That's so because the corporate news and propaganda outlets won't touch this one with long poles while wearing hazmat suits. It's toxic to both corporate and political powers, and therefore off limits.

InfraGard's purpose, said writer and Progressive editor Matthew Rothschild, is to provide information to the government about threats to the country's (apparently loosely defined) infrastructure and to protect said infrastructure. Members of the rapidly growing organization ”receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does -– and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials,” wrote Rothschild.

InfraGard now is made up of more than 23,600 individuals representing mostly big banks, utility companies and other large corporations. They are organized in 86 “chapters,” each guided by an FBI agent.

That's up from 1,700 members in 2001. The number continues to grow rapidly, Rothschild said.

An individual can't walk in off the street and sign up, however. To join, you must be sponsored by “an existing InfraGard member, chapter, or partner organization,” according to the organization's own Web site, and then approved by the FBI.

Rothschild quoted Phyillis Schneck, chair of the board of directors of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, at length. It is essentially an FBI operation, she told him: “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.”

She is, by profession, the vice president of research integration (whatever that is) at Secure Computing, a large though publicly little-known international company that provides computer hardware and software to protect the computer systems of businesses and other organizations, including government agencies, from various threats.

The article still is available, at this writing, on The Progressive's Web site: http://www.progressive.org

I strongly recommend it.

Among the major points:

* There is evidence that InfraGard is a private-sector spy organization for the FBI; its members are in a position to observe the activities of millions of their customers.

The Rothschild article also makes clear that the participating companies are in a powerful position to spy on their own employees and that the FBI might, in exchange for corporate spying, help the companies take action (unspecified) against “disgruntled employees who might use knowledge gained on the job against their employer.” The FBI offer does not state, so far as I can learn, that the “disgruntled employee” actions must be illegal before the agency will act.

* InfraGard communications with the FBI and Homeland Security have been placed beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption from that act. The exemption was put in place to stop one business from getting its hands on legitimate trade secrets from another business; it's stated purpose has nothing to do with protecting businesses that spy on individuals for government bodies. Communications of InfraGard members with the public and news organizations are to be pre-approved and rehearsed.

* Members receive “almost daily updates” on “threats” from “both domestic sources and overseas,” but we, the public, have no idea how “threats” are defined or what they are. Could they include purely business threats -– say a takeover bid -– against a corporate management? Don't know.

* InfraGard members have “contributed to about 100 FBI cases,” Schneck told the writer. “We want everyone to have a little black book,” she also said. No indication of what cases, or what kind of cases, or whether anyone actually was accused of, let alone convicted of, a crime. The American Civil Liberties Union is not at all happy about those “little black books.”

We have no idea what criticisms and accusations might be leveled against employees by their employers or whether there are any restraints to prevent a boss from going after an innocent but disliked employee.

* InfraGard members told Rothschild that they are being advised on how to deal with a “martial law situation.” In some cases, they are being given very specific directions on what to do “when, not if” martial law is declared, one member said. Others confirmed that, but would not allow their names to be used by Rothschild.

A few members reported that they were told they could “shoot to kill” to protect “infrastructure,” although others denied that. Those who talked about their possibly violent role after the declaration of martial law also said they were promised some things in return: No repercussions for killing or injuring someone while “protecting infrastructure,” and they are to have the right to protect certain other individuals from arrest and interment, for example, and the right to travel to “restricted areas.”

Schneck told Rothschild the claims of the members who said such things are not true, and an FBI spokeswoman called them “ridiculous.”

Read the article.

I know of at least one reporter who is looking for more information on InfraGard. That reporter says the Twin Cities chapter of InfraGard meets every other month, at a different location each month. Meetings are scheduled for May, July and at the Republican National Convention, which will be in St. Paul on Sept. 1 to 4.

We should note that InfraGard began with Presidential Directive 63 issued by Bill Clinton on May 22, 1998. That directive since has been “extended and amplified” by George W. Bush.

Now then:

On June 21, 2007, I published on my blog an essay that essentially is a list of what seemed to me possibly connected facts. If you are reading this on the blog, http://www.jamesclayfuller.com you can see that earlier piece by going to the list of dates on the right side of the page and clicking on 6/17/2007-6/24/2007 and then scrolling to the second article, entitled “The Picture of Dorian Bush.”

In brief, the points were these:

* The Bush administration's private army, paid for with taxpayer dollars, has grown to include hundreds of thousands of mercenary troops. The infamous Blackwater USA is the largest unit, but there are several others, mostly with names unknown to the American public.

* Under the Bush administration, much intelligence gathering also has been “privatized” -- farmed out to mercenary organizations who undergo no oversight by Congress or other governmental agencies.

* In April and May of last year, several members of the Bush administration happily told reporters that the administration was “fixing it” so that regardless of the outcome of 2008 elections, the U.S. will not be able to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

* On May 9, 2007, George Bush released National Security Presidential Directive 51, giving himself the power to take control of all branches of our government in case of a “catastrophic emergency,” and assigning solely to himself the right to define and declare such an emergency.

* In January 2006, Kellog Brown & Root, then a Halliburton subsidiary, received a $385 million contract through the Army Corps of Engineers to build “detention centers” for the Department of Homeland Security. The number and location of those “centers” still are secret, and there has been no official comment on who is to run those concentration camps –- for such they are -– and who is to be imprisoned in them. The only solid fact to be gleaned from the contract, according to various news organizations, is that each of the unspecified number of camps is to be built to hold up to 5,000 prisoners. A handful of the biggest corporate newspapers printed short reports when the contract was let, and have never again mentioned the camps.

* However, and this is new, a Feb. 13, 2008, article in the San Francisco Chronicle claims that the camps are scattered through most of the states of the union and that they may hold, in total, up to a million prisoners, although the article contains no documentation of that number.

The writers of the Chronicle article –- Lewis Seiler, president of Voice of the Environment, Inc., and Dan Hamburg, a former U.S. Congressman from California and a peace activist who now is executive director of Voice of the Environment -– also stated that the government has signed contracts with several companies to build “thousands” of rail cars, “some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees.”

* Another point which was not in my June list but should have been: The Military Commissions Act of 2006, pushed through a timid Congress right before midterm elections, gives the administration the right to imprison anyone who donates to a charity that turns up -- possibly placed there after the donations are made -- on a government list “terrorist organizations.” We don't know how such determinations are made. The bill also allows the administration to imprison people indefinitely for a wide range of administration-determined reasons and allows for secret trials of citizens and noncitizens.

* Several military and Bush administration insiders told reporters last year that our occupation of Iraq will continue for decades. That's no longer news. Recently, Republican presidential candidate John McCain said, flippantly but with serious intent, that we may be there “a hundred years.” He has not recanted.

* Last spring the administration was furiously pushing a propaganda campaign apparently aimed at arousing public support for an attack on Iran. That's eased off, of course; this is a major election year. But the threat has not been withdrawn.

* The Bush administration is building a huge U.S. government “embassy” compound on 104 acres in Baghdad at a (publicly reported) cost of slightly under $600 million – making it by far the biggest and most expensive U.S. embassy anywhere in the world. It is akin to a tiny, self-contained principality such as Monaco or Lichtenstein, but capable of being more self-sufficient. It is, in fact, a heavily protected facility capable of housing a government for Iraq.

* Although the U.S. has what diplomatic sources describe as a “critical shortage” of diplomatic personnel -– a judgment confirmed by some administration insiders -- the Bush administration has been downgrading high-level diplomats and pushing many into early retirement because they are not regarded as sufficiently loyal to Bush himself and the neocon agenda. The administration also has suspended the security clearances of dozens of Foreign Service officers, effectively ending their careers, on grounds that Foreign Service people say range from flimsy to obviously fictitious.

* In the June 21 list, I left out one point I'd meant to include: That some news organizations in the American South have reported that Homeland Security has recruited and is training a number of (mostly southern-style evangelical) clergy to calm and reassure their congregations and get them to comply with government orders in the event martial law is declared.

Now add what is said in The Progressive's article on InfraGard. Draw your own conclusions, or decide there aren't any to be drawn.