Sunday, November 28, 2010
FBI To Brooklyn: Watch Your Neighbors For Us
The federal law enforcement agency is ramping up its “InfraGard” program, which recruits residents for an elite organization of terrorist watchdogs. Over the last month, Special Agent Jim Capozzi has been visiting Brooklyn community boards to make a pitch for InfraGard, a 14-year-old program that takes the notion of “See something, say something” to the next level.
“We want to educate [residents] and train them [to become members of InfraGard],” said Capozzi. “If they see precursors, perhaps this is the beginning of an attack — or reconnaissance. Then they can call or e-mail me and I would route their information to the proper agents.”
Under the program, vetted members are given access to a secure website where the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security post information regarding the latest threats to “critical infrastructure or a key resources.” They also are able to network with the FBI about national security.
The ideal member, Capozzi said, is someone working in the private sector who has contact with a potential terrorist target such as the banking industry, shipping and postal services, or agriculture.
“The FBI is in charge of protecting these sectors, but doesn’t own or operate them,” said Capozzi. “The private citizens that own or operate them — I recruit them to join the alliance so that the FBI is getting their assistance.”
Still, many New Yorkers may be uncomfortable with the notion of emboldened private citizens whose internal — and color-coded — terror alert is always a glaring red.
But Capozzi scoffed at the notion that the program cultivates suspicion or paranoia.
“It’s just about having a better-informed group of concerned citizens,” said Capozzi. “We need extra eyes and ears that may see things long before we see them.”
And there are plenty of perks to being the FBI’s eyes and ears, aside from the cool, exclusive website.
Members of InfraGard are invited to seminars dealing with national security issues, as well as more interactive events: such as a game of capture the flag with a terrorism twist.
“Have fun at our events and network with others who share your passion for the protection of our critical infrastructures,” reads a flier for the game. “During our capture the flag event many of our members came together to experience what it was like to be a defender and also as an attacker. Our members are exposed to multiple verticals and challenge each other to better understand the threats and the solutions to better guard there (sic) companies, there (sic) country and their families.”
Since taking over the citywide chapter of InfraGard last year, Capozzi has sought to spread the word about the program, which has over 40,000 members nationwide.
“If the local schoolteacher wants to join, she can,” said Capozzi. “If they’re in the position to see something and share something, I want them. They have neighbors, they have friends — people who want to do us harm are imbedded among us!”