The vigilante country club

A friend sent this earlier from the AlterNet: FBI Deputizes Private Contractors With Extraordinary Powers, Including ‘Shoot to Kill’.

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 . . .
. . .
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.
. . .
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.

This sounds like the Bush administration is putting together a cadre of people who see themselves as privileged insiders, with a duty to spy on, and if necessary, kill, their fellow citizens. They don’t have the training, discipline, structure, or mission of police or soldiers. A group like this can be easily manipulated if they think they are protecting their country. There is no oversight or protection in place to control the kind and quality of information they receive. And no accountability or protection regarding the information they provide. A bunch of people who think they are responsible for guarding the country, who are hopped up on patriotic fervor and fear, thinking they have the right to kill people who frighten them, is something no country needs.

This looks like a country club of vigilantes, using the country club model for membership. You have to be recommended by a member in order to “join”, and are then vetted. This means that there will be an ideological similarity among the members. They are also more likely to look like each other, and less likely to look like a representative cross section of the US population. Open and inclusive are not words that describe this vigilante country club arm of government. How will they decide who looks dangerous?

The claim that Its communications with the FBI and Homeland Security are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption should send a chill down the spine of anyone who loves the United States and values the US Constitution. This extra judicial, extra constitutional privatized spying and law enforcement takes the US another step down the road to the privatized model of government found in Congo Brazzaville.