The Times and USA Today have Missed the Bigger Story -- Again
By Greg Palast
- -I know you're shocked -- SHOCKED! -- that George
Bush is listening in on all your phone calls. Without a warrant.
That's nothing. And it's not news.
This is: the snooping into your phone bill is just the snout of
the pig of a strange, lucrative link-up between the
Administration's Homeland Security spy network and private
companies operating beyond the reach of the laws meant to
protect us from our government. You can call it the
privatization of the FBI -- though it is better described as the
creation of a private KGB.
The leader in the field of what is called "data mining," is a
company, formed in 1997, called, "ChoicePoint, Inc," which has
sucked up over a billion dollars in national security contracts.
Worried about Dick Cheney listening in Sunday on your call to
Mom? That ain't nothing. You should be more concerned that they
are linking this info to your medical records, your bill
purchases and your entire personal profile including, not
incidentally, your voting registration. Five years ago, I
discovered that ChoicePoint had already gathered 16 billion data
files on Americans -- and I know they've expanded their ops at
an explosive rate.
They are paid to keep an eye on you -- because the FBI can't.
For the government to collect this stuff is against the law
unless you're suspected of a crime. (The law in question is the
Constitution.) But ChoicePoint can collect if for "commercial"
purchases -- and under the Bush Administration's suspect reading
of the Patriot Act -- our domestic spying apparatchiks can then
BUY the info from ChoicePoint.
Who ARE these guys selling George Bush a piece of you?
ChoicePoint's board has more Republicans than a Palm Beach
country club. It was funded, and its board stocked, by such
Republican sugar daddies as billionaires Bernie Marcus and Ken
Langone -- even after Langone was charged by the Securities
Exchange Commission with abuse of inside information.
I first ran across these guys in 2000 in Florida when our
Guardian/BBC team discovered the list of 94,000 "felons" that
Katherine Harris had ordered removed from Florida's voter rolls
before the election. Virtually every voter purged was innocent
of any crime except, in most cases, Voting While Black. Who came
up with this electoral hit list that gave Bush the White House?
And worse, they KNEW the racially-tainted list of felons was
bogus. And when we caught them, they lied about it. While
they've since apologized to the NAACP, ChoicePoint's ethnic
cleansing of voter rolls has been amply assuaged by the man the
And now ChoicePoint and George Bush want your blood. Forget your
phone bill. ChoicePoint, a sickened executive of the company
told us in confidence, "hope[s] to build a database of DNA
samples from every person in the United States ...linked to all
the other information held by CP [ChoicePoint]" from medical to
And ChoicePoint lied about that too. The company publicly denied
they gave DNA to the Feds -- but then told our investigator,
pretending to seek work, that ChoicePoint was "the number one"
provider of DNA info to the FBI.
"And that scares the hell out of me," said the executive (who
has since left the company), because ChoicePoint gets it WRONG
so often. We are not contracting out our Homeland Security to
James Bond here. It's more like Austin Powers, Inc. Besides the
97% error rate in finding Florida "felons," Illinois State
Police fired the company after discovering ChoicePoint had
produced test "results" on rape case evidence ... that didn't
exist. And ChoicePoint just got hit with the largest fine in
Federal Trade Commission history for letting identity thieves
purchase 145,000 credit card records.
But it won't stop, despite Republican senators shedding big
crocodile tears about "surveillance" of innocent Americans.
That's because FEAR is a lucrative business -- not just for
ChoicePoint, but for firms such as Syntech, Sybase and
Lockheed-Martin -- each of which has provided lucrative posts or
profits to connected Republicans including former Total
Information Awareness chief John Poindexter (Syntech), Marvin
Bush (Sybase) and Lynn Cheney (Lockheed-Martin).
But how can they get Americans to give up our personal files,
our phone logs, our DNA and our rights? Easy. Fear sells better
than sex -- and they want you to be afraid. Back to today's New
York Times, page 28: "Wider Use of DNA Lists is Urged in
Fighting Crime." And who is providing the technology? It comes,
says the Times, from the work done on using DNA fragments to
identity victims of the September 11 attack. And who did that
job (for $12 million, no bid)? ChoicePoint, Inc. Which is NOT
mentioned by the Times.
"Genetic surveillance would thus shift from the individual [the
alleged criminal] to the family," says the Times -- which will
require, of course, a national DNA database of NON-criminals.
It doesn't end there. Turn to the same newspaper, page 23, with
a story about a weird new law passed by the state of Georgia to
fight illegal immigration. Every single employer and government
agency will be required to match citizen or worker data against
national databases to affirm citizenship. It won't stop illegal
border crossing, but hey, someone's going to make big bucks on
selling data. And guess what local boy owns the data mine?
ChoicePoint, Inc., of Alpharetta, Georgia.
The knuckleheads at the Times don't put the three stories
together because the real players aren't in the press releases
their reporters re-write.
But that's the Fear Industry for you. You aren't safer from
terrorists or criminals or "felon" voters. But the national
wallet is several billion dollars lighter and the Bill of Rights
is a couple amendments shorter.
And that's their program. They get the data mine -- and we get
Greg Palast is author of Armed Madhouse: Who's
Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, The Scheme to
Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left and Other Dispatches from the
Front Lines of the Class War, out June 6.
You can order it now.
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