Monday, February 23, 2009

Upgraded BlackWaters: Information Sharing and Analysis Centers

BlackWater - or Xe as it's now called - was only the beginning of modern private mercenary market. Today there are corporate intelligence community networks springing up in large numbers, providing "intelligence" to the intelligence community while trading its shares on the market.

I stumbled across these organizations as I was breezing through this document, which a homeland security group - the Highway Watch and Information Sharing and Analysis Center - drafted in preparation for the RNC 2008. The document was recently leaked from TwinCities Indymedia. Homeland Security had ranked the anti-war and anti-capitalist groups who would attend the convention in terms of 'power centrality' and mapped places where members of the RNC Welcoming Committee had been scoping out for protest.

The HWW-ISAC also included a social networking analysis of the groups involved, which measured the groups' "betweenness", or how embedded they were with other organizer groups. The document links directly to two anarchist websites, including one from a North Austin, TX bookstore. (It would later be revealed that DHS infiltrated an Austin anarchist group, provided them with molotov-making material, and is now charging them with terrorism using the Minnesota Patriot Act.)

What do ISACs do? Where did they come from? The HWW-ISAC document revealed that these "Information Sharing and Analysis Centers" are operating under the radar to spy on people, not just in select areas. There is a much broader organizational framework involved. I was able to find a number of ISACs in operation. This includes:

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about these ISACs is that they are publicly-traded corporations. Some say they are "not for profit", others do not explain anything. But each combines law enforcement-type searches, seizures and investigative work with private enterprise. Read the "About us" on each of their pages to get a sense for how each sector ISAC operates.

ISACs are "private entities", says the Surface Transit ISAC website. They gather reports from academia, vendors, government, local, federal, state, and international law enforcement agencies. The Seattle-based Supply Chain ISAC, for example, says it is a "federally-sanctioned", "information-sharing community" whose goal is to receive "actionable intelligence" to protect the supply chain infrastructure. Among their tools include "the world's most comprehensive covert cargo monitoring".

As if being driven by profit weren't enough, through mergers these federally-sanctioned spy networks are teaming up with private security corporations. In 2006, the Supply Chain ISAC joined forces with another private corporation, LoJack, which is "globally-respected" and has "unrivaled, proven solutions and direct integration with law enforcement" according to their own website.

The Telecom ISAC has members that have "secret" or "top secret" security clearances. It has operated 24x7 since September 2001, and its lines of communication monitoring include email, alternate email, secure message forums, phones, cell phones, faxes, pagers, and in-person briefings.

Under executive orders and presidential directives, the government has authorized these ISACs to work with its DHS people. From EO 13231, October 2001, the document states via REN-ISAC,

"The President shall designate a Chair and Vice Chair to enhance the partnership of the public and private sectors in protecting information systems for critical infrastructures and provide reports on this issue to the President, as appropriate; and propose and foster improved cooperation among the ISACS, the NIPC, and other federal government entities."


JCD said...

This was a good read; yet another thing that needs to be levered against.

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