The FBI Deputizes Business
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 consulting
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
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
"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
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 more."
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
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 program."
"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
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
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,"
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
"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
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