The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: Corporations Spy on Citizens for the FBI

Both The Progressive and the ACLU have stories up over on their sites about how the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have recruited tens of thousands of members of corporate America to be the “eyes and ears” of the government. In return, they receive secret briefings on terrorism. The program is called InfraGard, and from The Progressive story:

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 firm.

Much of this information is contained in a 38-page ACLU report, “The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government is Conscripting Businesses and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society.” Of course, one can go and check out InfraGard’s own website:

InfraGard is an information sharing and analysis effort serving the interests and combining the knowledge base of a wide range of members. At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector. 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. InfraGard Chapters are geographically linked with FBI Field Office territories.

This is all very scary stuff, as Daily Kos writer Sick of It notes in his essay on the subject (and a hat tip to him/her for bringing this to my attention). I highly recommend checking out all the links provided here, and especially the ACLU report. As they describe it themselves, the report covers:

Recruiting Individuals. Documents how individuals are being recruited to serve as “eyes and ears” for the authorities even after Congress rejected the infamous TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) program that would have recruited workers like cable repairmen to spy on their customers.

Recruiting Companies. Examines how companies are pressured to voluntarily provide consumer information to the government; the many ways security agencies can force companies to turn over sensitive information under federal laws such as the Patriot Act; how the government is forcing companies to participate in watchlist programs and in systems for the automatic scrutiny of individuals’ financial transactions.

Mass Data Use, Public and Private. Focuses on the government’s use of private data on a mass scale, either through data mining programs like the MATRIX state information-sharing program, or the purchase of information from private-sector data aggregators.

Pro-Surveillance Lobbying. Looks at the flip side of the issue: how some companies are pushing the government to adopt surveillance technologies and programs based on private-sector data.

The Progressive article details more how closely the FBI works with its new corporate associates:

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.”

It is necessary to fight back against this ominious threat against our civil liberties. The ACLU is asking people

to contact prominent companies – such as drugstore chains, insurance companies and retailers – to ask them to take a “no-spy pledge” to defend their customers’ privacy against government intrusion. A list of suggested companies for consumers to contact is available online at

Also posted at Invictus


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    • Valtin on February 8, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Join the ACLU’s “No Spy Pledge” Campaign

    Official monitoring of individuals in our society is on the rise, and it is not a matter of government alone. More and more information is being gathered by corporations and other private-sector institutions, and fed to or seized by security agencies.

    This trend will not stop unless individuals demand changes, not only in how information is gathered and handled by the government, but also by the private sector.


    • pfiore8 on February 8, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    featuring privatizing of three critical areas

    …our military

    …our public schools

    …our intelligence gathering and data mining

    taking our tax dollars and stuffing them into the pockets of corporations and shareholders

    this sucks. bush sucks. mukasey sucks. the democrats suck.

    this has been a bad day.

  1. this is so far past what I can hope they will roll back in my lifetime…I’d call it a chamber of commerce for authoritarian snitches, but that would probably be redundant…

    thanks for the info…i think :}

  2. how can anyone call this a democracy…..

    how can anyone but “party members” feel secure in any way…

    you got to wonder how this makes our elected officials feel……..

    thank you for the essay……

  3. Perhaps it is deceptive but it looks pretty low key and their recent meeting had to be cancelled according to their website. The chapter in the city north of me, in contrast, looks far too active and bustling.

    This whole thing is infuriating. I’m happy to say it does not make me afraid, as the Dkos version of this story suggested we feel. I am not afraid, but angry. I know that eventually innocent people will get swept up or hurt and no-one will be accountable. Good on the ACLU for countering this program.  

    • KrisC on February 8, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Corporations vs. the people….

    This story is also over at the orange.

  4. And thousands of other companies have programmed data mining engines of phenomenal capacity.

    Infraguard provides us with yet another keyword in our fight against assholianism.

    I happen to be in the electronics industry.  One of the main driving technologies they have been pushing for several years now is streaming large amounts of data over a serial communications line.  Basically that means streaming video on your cell phone.  They are also going to use the “unused” frequency spectrum formerly occupied by UHF on the air TV for broadband use.  What does this mean?

    It means super cheap spy cams, spy devices even remote colonoscopy devices all enabled through a new IP bandwidth.  Thousands more antennas on those ugly cell phone towers and a future of 35 year olds with early alzheimers symptoms from far too much EMF exposure.

  5. The article in the Progressive also had this quote:

    (re: membership in InfraGard):

    “…To join, each person must be sponsored by “an existing InfraGard member, chapter, or partner organization. The FBI then vets the applicant…”

    Sounds like a Neo-Con Club Macho…

    But for me the truly hair-raising part of the article was the “shoot to kill” part, additional quotes about that here:

    “…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…”

    ‘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.”

    Is this still America?  

  6. I am not too surprised.  With ordinary people being thrown on “watch lists,” it seemed merely a matter of time before Americans would be spying on Americans.  Gee, that strategy seems to ring a bell.

    This is one good reason why it’s so important to see that the companies guilty of telecom spying on Americans must not be able to acheive immunity.  If they receive immunity from guilt for spying on us, then the course will be set.  Meaning, that Americans will have no recourse for those Americans spying on them.

    Are we all noting the speed-up of fascism?    

    • Tigana on February 9, 2008 at 6:59 am

  7. I have come to a very definite decision – even if Obama pulls it out – I am leaving this country. Hopefully within 4 months – that is the goal.

    I needed the time off to make sure my decision is not a reaction to what I take in every day.

    It isn’t. It is my belief that America will rebound – but not in the 20, 30 if I am lucky, years I have left on this earth.

    I prefer to remember the good America can be and not be here to experience the debacle no new President,IF there is one, can fix.

    After a lifetime of fighting, I want to be happy.

    • Edger on February 9, 2008 at 9:42 am

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