Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Musings: Behind the Scenes

It was a peaceful sort of morning when Koko and I went walking. I’m not sure if it was me, or the day itself, with its minimal traffic, soft wind, golden light, warm air. But either way, things felt mellow.

Maybe it’s because I awoke soothed and happy after spending yesterday's late afternoon, with friends, laughing, sitting on black lava rocks overlooking the ocean, watching whales cavort and big waves come barreling in, carrying rainbows in their spray, as albatrosses soared just barely overhead.

Or perhaps it’s because the little Chihuahua that I saw get hit by a car a month ago was out in his yard today, apparently no worse for wear.

Life goes on.

And so, I hear, will Kaiulani Huff, whose “Songs of Sovereignty” show is set to return to the KKCR airwaves at 9 a.m. tomorrow. That’s good news for me personally, as I really like her program, and for the station, since it appears to be finally resolving something that could have been dealt with weeks ago.

The other two suspended programmers, Katy Rose and Jimmy Trujillo, still have to sign some sort of agreement, the details of which have not been presented, before they can get back on air.

Speaking of radio programs, Democracy Now! yesterday returned to the topic of InfraGard, the spooky alliance between business leaders, the FBI and Homeland Security.

Larry Geller picked up the story from the station last Friday, when he reported there’s a Hawaii Chapter, too.

Its board members are Chris Duque, 
Kenneth Newman, 
Kimman Wong,
 Miles Sato, 
Karen Lugo,
 Sterling Yee
 and Wayne Ogino.

What is it? Well, according to Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, who broke the 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.”

In his interview on Democracy Now, Rothschild said: “It’s an FBI program that works directly with businesses across the country. More than 350 of the nation’s 500 Fortune 500 companies are involved in it. And on one level, it’s like a corporate TIPS program. 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.

“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, Gov. Gray Davis of California, didn’t get, until he heard from his brother, who was in InfraGard, about threats to the bridges in California.”

The interview continues:

AMY GOODMAN: But just to clarify, Matt Rothschild, who exactly is empowered to shoot to kill if martial law were declared? The business leaders themselves?

MATT ROTHSCHILD: 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.”

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Matt Rothschild, how does this story that you’ve just exposed fit into the many stories that you write about in You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression?

MATT ROTHSCHILD: Well, it’s just another piece, you know. It’s another piece of our Bill of Rights just going down the tubes. It’s another aspect of repression that the Bush administration has built up. It goes along with, you know, the illegal searches and seizures. It goes along with Guantanamo and torture. It’s kind of all of a piece, and once you put the pieces of the puzzle together, it’s really frightening what’s happening to our democracy here, Amy.

Hmmmm. When you think about what’s going on behind the scenes in this country, it seems the peacefulness of the morning was merely an illusion.

The question now, as the Presidential race heats up, is whether any of the front-runner candidates can reverse the trend, or if they'll even get a chance to serve.


Anonymous said...

Add to that companies like Blackwater doing intelligence gathering for the US and you have an even scarier picture.
Yet, I am still optimistic - GOBAMA!!

Anonymous said...

It's important that each of us take part in resisting this slide toward repression.

The ripple effect of things like Infragard is the general unwillingness to speak out, particularly if one's ideas don't conform with the narrow band of political opinion reflected in the "mainstream."

However, every time one of us refuses to be silent, it counters the power of repression.

As I see it, we have a responsibility to challenge the growing consensus that "if you don't have anything to hide, you don't have anything to worry about" with greater surveillance in society; that those who complain about privacy incursions are malefactors who don't deserve freedom, anyway.

This is the dominant argument against teachers resisting random drug-testing in Hawai'i, for example.

Thanks, Joan (and Larry) for writing about InfraGard.