the holistic radical

February 10, 2008

Fascismwatch: an SS? A Gestapo? A Secret Police?

When the police grow this large, anyone not in the police will become a criminal.  

WHY is this not front page news?

WHY is this being conducted through private-sector partnerships, not subject to public scrutiny?

WHY is there no outrage?

WHY is our government preparing to declare martial law? Will it happen, say, right before the election?

Write to your newspapers, people. Do not take this lying down. Then vote Ron Paul.

Oh, you think a woman will stop this? Clinton was on the board of Wal-Mart for 6 years while her husband was governor of Arkansas (discussed on Bill Moyer’s journal–I get the podcasts). Do you think she really cares about people? What has Wal-Mart done for wages, job stability, and quality of life for your community?

Support alternet:

AlterNet

FBI Deputizes Private Contractors With Extraordinary Powers, Including ‘Shoot to Kill’

By Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive
Posted on February 8, 2008, Printed on February 9, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/76388/

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 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 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 Secure Computing.

“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, http://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 or terrorism.

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 know.”

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 exercises.”

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 emergency.”

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,” Schneck says.

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 to perform.

“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 work.”

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 bone.”

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/76388/

January 18, 2008

Incredible must-read article by Nat Hentoff–what the CIA had to destroy

Hentoff is a national treasure. We are running out of time to impeach Bush, and Hentoff presents more persuasive reasons why such action is not only warranted, but necessary. Average citizens will not be protected from CIA-allowed torture in the future, and the destruction of evidence going on here is not only unjust and morally shady, but it’s outright criminal–here are the actions of power out of control, here are the frantic moves of an empire crumbling.
The whole “is waterboarding torture” debate should not be taking place, and speaks volumes about our moral degradation. Of course waterboarding is torture: it is more than “simulated drowning”–it is all but real drowning–it is oxygen deprivation and it is being used to coerce information out of people–people who do not even have to be formally charged with any crime, who can be you or me called an “enemy combatant” (see the debate on internet freedoms and why S. 1959 must be defeated–Ron Paul is the only candidate taking a stand on this). Average citizens must go on the record and display their abhorrence to it, if governments are being reprehensible about it.
http://www.villagevoice.com/generic/show_print.php?id=78870&page=&issue=0803&printcde=MzYwMTc2NzQwMg==&refpage=L2FkbWluL2VkaXQvZWRpdC5waHA/aWQ9Nzg4NzAmc2VjdGlvbj1uZXdz
Nat Hentoff
What the CIA Had to Destroy
The many reasons this torture evidence was too hot to handle
by Nat Hentoff
January 15th, 2008 6:14 PM
So what was on those videotapes destroyed by the CIA? Let’s put a face to it. Abu Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and, after being shot in the groin while trying to escape, was sent to recover in a CIA secret prison. He would be the first of the CIA’s many “ghost prisoners”—and also the first to test the value of what the president has often described as an “alternative set of [interrogation] procedures . . . that are safe and necessary.”As described by Ron Suskind in The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 , Zubaydah—held in an ice-cold cell—was denied medication for his wounds, threatened with death, prevented from sleeping, incessantly blasted with pounding rock music (by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, among others), and, at last, waterboarded. After 30 seconds of feeling that he was on the verge of drowning, he was more than eager to answer any questions.

In a September 6, 2006, speech, George W. Bush triumphantly called Zubaydah “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.” After the application of those “alternative” interrogation procedures, which the president described as “designed to . . . comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations, [and which] the Department of Justice reviewed extensively and determined to be lawful,” the detainee “disclosed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [to be] the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks” and “also provided information that helped stop a terrorist attack being planned for inside the United States.”

But, Suskind added, two weeks before Bush’s words of praise for these “coercive” interrogations, Dan Coleman—the FBI’s leading expert on Al Qaeda—asserted that Zubaydah was “insane, certifiable, split personality,” and that he wasn’t the top operative he was made out to be. The CIA was informed of Coleman’s assessment, and it was, “of course, briefed to the President and Vice President.” Undaunted, Bush made his congratulatory speech and then surreptitiously said to CIA director George Tenet: “I said he was important. You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?”

After his involuntary contribution to the advanced arts of interrogation, Zubaydah became a resident of our penal colony at Guantánamo Bay, which the president has made an entirely law-free zone, much like the CIA’s secret prisons. But after two Supreme Court decisions contradicted the commander in chief in his assertion of unfettered war powers, the Bush administration reluctantly set up a transparently prosecutorial kangaroo court there.

In April of last year, appearing before a status-review tribunal to determine whether he had been accurately designated as an enemy combatant, Zubaydah testified, as reported in the New York Times, that as a Palestinian, and because of American support for Israel, “I have been an enemy of yours since I was a child.”

However, he insisted that as a longtime adherent of “defensive jihad”—and despite what he’d said after being waterboarded—”I disagreed with the Al Qaeda philosophy of targeting innocent civilians like those at the World Trade Center. . . . I never conducted nor financially supported, nor helped in any operation against America.”

He explained that he’d made false statements while being tortured by the CIA. Asked by the president of the tribunal, an Air Force colonel, “Can you describe a little bit more about what those treatments were?”, Zubaydah obliged.

Not surprisingly, his answers are not part of the transcript. I expect that Attorney General Michael Mukasey would consider those waterboarding details to be “state secrets” involving highly classified “sources and methods.”

Paul Gimigliano, a professional Pinocchio (i.e., spokesman) for the CIA, said that however Zubaydah described his treatment, “The United States does not conduct or condone torture. The agency’s terrorist interrogation program has been implemented lawfully, with great care and close review.”

If you have any doubts, just ask Attorney General Mukasey, whose department is conducting a close review (but close for whose sake?) of the destroyed CIA interrogation tapes starring Abu Zubaydah. But the Justice Department says that it cannot tell us how long this inquiry—which is being conducted in conjunction with the CIA—will take.

That’s not surprising in view of the intricate tapestry of cover-ups woven by both agencies and by the White House. With so little time remaining before the next administration takes over, a special independent prosecutor must be appointed before more criminal evidence disappears.

According to a December 30 investigation by The New York Times, as “interrogations of Abu Zubaydah had gotten rougher” in the CIA secret prison, “each new tactic [had to be] approved by cable from headquarters.”

CIA headquarters? Justice Department headquarters? White House lawyers? Names, please!

There’s another crucial dimension to uncovering the effects of what Zubaydah— terrified that he was about to drown— allegedly revealed during those “rougher” interrogations: There are several cases of purported terrorists before our courts who are being prosecuted on the basis of Zubaydah’s desperate testimony in that CIA black site.

For example, American citizen José Padilla was arrested at O’Hare Airport in 2002, after allegedly conspiring with Zubaydah and Al Qaeda to set off a “dirty bomb” in the United States. Padilla—himself relentlessly tortured while being held for years as an “unlawful enemy combatant”—first appeared in court on those charges before none other than Michael Mukasey, at the time a federal judge in New York. Mukasey ordered him imprisoned on a material-witness warrant, based in part on the information that had been proffered by Zubaydah under waterboarding. Then, suddenly, Padilla was taken out of the federal-court system by order of George W. Bush and vanished for years without even a hearing or charges or access to a lawyer.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, says: “It is not clear whether Mukasey knew Zubaydah’s statements were obtained by torture. But since he issued the warrant, Mukasey has a real or apparent conflict of interest” as one of the heads of the current investigation into the CIA- destroyed torture videos. Mukasey has appointed a career federal prosecutor to head the investigation and report back to him.

Cohn adds: “[Mukasey] has said it is premature to appoint an outside special counsel. But like the Nixon administration, the Department of Justice cannot be trusted to investigate itself. Congress should be pressured to pass a new independent-counsel stature.”

There are bipartisan constitutional lawyers beginning to apply that pressure, but there will be passionate resistance from Congressional Republicans. Do you think that Democratic Congressional leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will give a damn?

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