By Matthew Rothschild
February 7, 2008
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 doesand, 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
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.
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 years.
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
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
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 nations 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.
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