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An Important Public Private Partnership

Last week there was a rash of disturbing conspiracy theory misinformation about an organization called Infragard, a public-private partnership of the FBI and local businesses around the country. Chapter members are primarily involved in critical infrastructure and specifically cyber security in their communities, although other security-oriented companies are also involved. The organization is made up of a range of people from large companies like utility companies, to small companies like my own. Yes, I am a member of Infragard. Meetings are also populated by a number of agents from the local F.B.I. office from the cyber security arena.

This month’s meeting included a presentation by Paul Williams the Chief Technology Officer of Gray Hat Research about the vulnerabilities of what many would consider the most secure computer systems and data bases. A few months ago, we listened to a presentation from the local Protective Security Advisor of the Department of Homeland Security who is attached to the Office of Infrastructure Protection in the Risk Management Division.

Frankly, if you want to learn something about infrastructure security and the important role of private businesses and citizens in the process, it is probably worth a few minutes of your time to go through the Powerpoint presentation.

The point of all of this is that an ”exclusive” article by the “folks” at Progressive Media Project was trumpeted around the Internet last week in which they alleged having “inside information” that Infragard members were being deputized by the F.B.I. That is laughable on its face, and simply not true. More outrageous however was the allegation by an anonymous whistle blower that Infragard members were essentially given rights above the law. This anonymous "source" then related how at a “small meeting” of the organization, members were briefed about the steps they could take when (not if) martial law was declared, including the “ability to travel in restricted areas and to get people out” and in the protection of the infrastructure, the ability to use “deadly force to protect it, without fear of prosecution.”

The problem here is not that the Progressive article is true, or that Infragard is a “secret society” of snitches and industrial spies. That is simply conspiracy theory nonsense! The problem is that the Progressive article was believed by (too) many people and then was strewn around the Internet on various blogs as though it was authoritative and true. Here is a link to the F.B.I. Response to The Progressive Article Alleging that the F.B.I. Authorizes Infragard Members to “Shoot to Kill” that brands the original article a fabrication.

If, before September 11th, someone, a “normal” citizen, had noticed something that “did not look right” and reported it, who knows if history might have been different. With certainty, members of Infragard chapters around the country are offered certain “For Official Use Only” information via a secure website, often daily and sometimes weekly. I simply don’t see anything wrong with citizens being more aware of their surroundings. Last Summer, our Infragard Chapter attended a briefing meeting of the local U.S. Attorneys office given by Fred Burton of Stratfor in which he spoke largely about the vulnerability of soft targets and some targets that were Not so soft. One of Burton’s key points was that business owners and employees of businesses needed to be aware of those people who might be watching their business.

We all should be watching and aware of what occurs around us. We'd all be alot safer.