What do you get when the US government and private businesses work together?

Something fishy, in my mind.

Today on DemocracyNow.org's podcast (www.democracynow.org/2008/2/11/report_fbi_deputizes_23_000_business ), I heard about a part of the federal government that is working with "business leaders" to help secure the infrastructure of America in case of a disaster or terrorist attack. At least that's what a group with a name like "InfraGard" suggests.

Here's a bit from InfraGard's entry at Wikipedia.org (here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InfraGuard ) that suggests something different: "InfraGard Alliances and the FBI said that they have developed a TRUST-based public-private sector partnership to ensure reliability and integrity of information exchanged about various terrorism, intelligence, criminal, and security matters."

Sounds more like domestic spying to me. What would business owners have to do with "information exchanged about various terrorism, intelligence, criminal, and security matters"? As good citizens shouldn't business leaders feel obligated to report anything suspicious they see going on?

Why do they need to be recruited, specifically? Do they get special training? Exactly what the heck is all this about?

In fact, if you have a look at the paragraph in the screencap of the InfraGard website above, you'll see that they actually describe themselves *three* different ways. Check 'em out:

1)InfraGard is an information sharing and analysis effort serving the interests and combining the knowledge base of a wide range of members.

OK, so, the FBI helps the members of InfraGard share and analyze information across all of it's various members--but what kind of information could that even be?

2) At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector.

Why would the private sector need to partner-up with the FBI? Would my friend who runs a boba drink shop benefit from InfraGard? This kind of vague language could mean anything.

3) InfraGard is an association of businesses, academic institutions, state and local law enforcement agencies, and other participants dedicated to sharing information and intelligence to prevent hostile acts against the United States.

Whoa.

So, this *is* domestic spying. It's just that the government is having businesses do the actual big-brother routine. Isn't it the job of the government to protect us from our enemies and not the Coca-Cola company?

Exactly where are our tax dollars going if the USGov needs this kind of "partnership" with some 23,000 business leaders? This is like Blackwater, only much more subtle--and therefore more scary since it's practically invisible.

What's worse is that apparently, some of InfraGard's business leaders have been told that in a time of martial law *they* can use *lethal* force if they see the need. According to journalist Matt Rothschild who wrote a piece on InfraGard for The Progressive magazine (here: www.progressive.org/mag_rothschild0308 ) and gave an interview on today's Democracy Now: "The business leaders themselves were told, at least in this one meeting, that if there is martial law declared or if there’s a time of an emergency, that members of InfraGard would have permission to protect—you know, whether it’s the local utility or, you know, their computers or the financial sector, whatever aspect. Whatever aspect of the infrastructure they’re involved with, they’d have permission to shoot to kill, to use lethal force to protect their aspect of the infrastructure, and they wouldn’t be able to be prosecuted, they were told."

He also said: "These companies, these representatives of these companies feed the FBI information about threats. They also can give the FBI information about disgruntled employees and have the FBI investigate them. So the pipeline goes that way."

So, if you're not happy at your current work place, I'd be careful how you express it. With the power to call in the FBI, you can bet *some* businessman is going to abuse that power at some point.

Rothschild added: "And the pipeline goes the other way, too. The FBI gives these 23,000 businesspeople almost daily threat warnings that the public never gets. In at least one occasion, a government official, Governor Gray Davis of California, didn’t get, until he heard from his brother, who was in InfraGard, about threats to the bridges in California."

So, now these businesses are more important than we individual citizens. The USG cares more about businesses than the citizens it is supposed to protect.

And don't think InfraGard came into being just because of 911. According to their entry in Wikipedia, they were first formed in 1996 in Cleveland, Ohio, but expanded to other cities two years later--more than three years before 911.

So, this isn't about protecting America from Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda didn't exist in 1996. This is about being paranoid.

Am I against protecting infrastructure like electricity, water and communications? Of course not--but isn't that the job of the police, the National Guard and other local authorities? Where is the check and/or balance here?

Also, why haven't we heard of InfraGard in the last ten years it's been around?

And why the hell did they spell "guard" wrong in their name?

What is our country coming to??

Wow--this was a long one