FBI looking for members of trucking industry to join InfraGard program and share information to protect country's security

Jan. 1, 2010
TAKE it from a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent named Justice: The landscape has changed since September 11, 2001. Before 9/11, I couldn't

TAKE it from a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent named Justice: The landscape has changed since September 11, 2001.

“Before 9/11, I couldn't even talk to a counter-intelligence agent in my office because of the way it was set up,” Marsha Justice said in the “InfraGard and Homeland Security” presentation made during National Tank Truck Carriers' Fall Safety Meeting in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. “Now, obviously we can. It is a totally different agency then it was before 9/11. We are still growing with this process.”

Justice said that the FBI and other agencies are asking the trucking industry to be a part of the new open environment, especially as it relates to any threat that might incapacitate or damage the economic security of the United States. She said the FBI is always looking for information about suspicious activity involving the possibility of a tank trailer or tank truck being used as an explosive weapon.

“It's the terrorism threat (that concerns us),” she said. “That's why we need experts in your field to come forward and assist us. It is hard. Now we can provide information on what cases have been enhanced. Before, we were not allowed to do that.

“It's important to have two-way communication. It is nice to know what you did helps. It is a huge help. There are cases that are open and people come forth as huge sources for investigation. There are only so many of us. You guys are out there. You guys are the experts.”

InfraGard is one of the mechanisms the FBI is using in the fight to protect homeland security. It offers tank truck carriers a replacement for the Highway Watch program that was shut down by the Department of Homeland Security.

InfraGard is an FBI program that began in the Cleveland Field Office in 1996 as a local effort to gain support from the information technology industry and academia for the FBI's investigative efforts in the cyber arena. The program expanded to other FBI Field Offices, with the FBI assigning national program responsibility for InfraGard to the former National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) in 1998 and to the Cyber Division in 2003. InfraGard and the FBI have developed a relationship of trust and credibility in the exchange of information concerning various terrorism, intelligence, criminal, and security matters.

InfraGard is an information-sharing and analysis effort that serves the interests and combines the knowledge base of a wide range of members. At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the FBI and the private sector. It 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. Each chapter has an FBI special agent coordinator assigned to it, and the FBI coordinator works closely with supervisory special agent program managers in the Cyber Division at FBI Headquarters in Washington DC.

Mission expanded

While under the direction of NIPC, the focus of the program was cyber infrastructure protection. After September 11, 2001, NIPC expanded its efforts to include physical as well as cyber threats to critical infrastructures. InfraGard's mission expanded accordingly.

In March 2003, NIPC was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which now has responsibility for Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) matters. The FBI retained InfraGard as an FBI-sponsored program, and will work with DHS in support of its CIP mission, facilitate InfraGard's continuing role in CIP activities, and further develop InfraGard's ability to support the FBI's investigative mission, especially as it pertains to counterterrorism and cyber crimes.

The goal of InfraGard is to promote ongoing dialogue and timely communication between members and the FBI. Program members gain access to information that enables them to protect their assets and in turn give information to government that facilitates its responsibilities to prevent and address terrorism and other crimes.

The relationship supports information sharing at national and local levels, with these objectives:

  • Increase the level of information and reporting between InfraGard members and the FBI on matters related to counterterrorism, cyber crime, and other major crime programs.

  • Increase interaction and information sharing among InfraGard members and the FBI regarding threats to the critical infrastructures, vulnerabilities, and interdependencies.

  • Provide members value-added threat advisories, alerts, and warnings.

  • Promote effective liaison with local, state and federal agencies, to include the Department of Homeland Security.

  • Provide members a forum for education and training on counterterrorism, counterintelligence cyber crime and other matters relevant to informed reporting of potential crimes and attacks on the nation and US interests.

Justice said that the FBI is looking to expand the membership of InfraGard.

In order to maintain a level of trust within the membership, all applicants undergo a background check performed by the FBI (for this reason InfraGard membership is currently limited to United States citizens). Applications are then screened according to a defined criteria and then passed to the local chapter for final acceptance (individual chapters may have more strict criteria).

Along with membership comes great responsibility. The organization values active members who are willing to devote their time, effort, and talent to help build this organization and achieve the goal of protecting the American people. It is the nation's largest volunteer organization dedicated to critical infrastructure protection.

The benefits include:

  • Networking with other companies that help maintain the national infrastructure. InfraGard officials said 350 of the nation's Fortune 500 companies have representatives in the program.

  • Gaining access to an FBI secure communication network complete with a VPN-encrypted Web site, Web mail, listservs, and message boards, and much more.

  • Learning time-sensitive, infrastructure-related security information from government sources such as DHS and the FBI.

  • Getting invitations and discounts to important training seminars and conferences.

There is no cost to join InfraGard, which can be done by going to http://www.infragard.net.

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.