[Mb-civic] Greg Palast: DON'T LOOK AT THE FLASH

ean at sbcglobal.net ean at sbcglobal.net
Thu Sep 9 19:01:22 PDT 2004

September 8, 2004
by Greg Palast

On September 11, 2001, we Americans were the victims of a terrible attack.

By September 12, we became the suspects.

Not one single U.S. citizen hijacked a plane, yet President Bush and
Attorney General John Ashcroft, through powers seized and codified in the
USA PATRIOT Act, fingered 270 million of us for surveillance, for
searches, for tracking, for watching.

And who was going to play Anti-Santa, watching to see when we've been good
or bad?  A guy named Derek Smith.

And that made September 11, 2001 Derek's lucky day. 

Even before the spying work could begin, there were all those pieces of
people to collect - tubes marked "DM" (for "Disaster Manhattan") - from
which his company, ChoicePoint Inc, would extract DNA for victim
identification, work for which the firm would receive $12 million from New
York City's government.

Maybe Smith, like the rest of us, grieved at the murder of innocent
friends and countrymen. As for the 12-million-dollar corpse identification
fee, that's chump change to the $4 billion corporation Smith had founded
only four years earlier in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Nevertheless, for Smith's ChoicePoint Inc., Ground Zero would become a
profit center lined with gold. 

As the towers fell, ChoicePoint's stock rose; and from Ground Zero,
contracts gushed forth from War on Terror fever.  Why? Because this outfit
is holding no less 16 billion records on every living and dying being in
the USA.  They're the Little Brother with the filing system when Big
Brother calls.

ChoicePoint's quick route to no-bid spy contracts was not impeded by the
fact that the company did something for George W. Bush that the voters
would not: select him as our president.

Here's how they did it. Before the 2000 election, ChoicePoint unit
Database Technologies, held a $4 million no-bid contract under the control
of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, to identify felons who had
illegally registered to vote. The ChoicePoint outfit altogether fingered
94,000 Florida residents. As it turned out, less than 3,000 had a
verifiable criminal record; almost everyone on the list had the right to

The tens of thousands of "purged" citizens had something in common besides
their innocence: The list was, in the majority, made up of African
Americans and Hispanics, overwhelmingly Democratic voters whose only crime
was V.W.B:  Voting While Black.   And that little ethnic cleansing
operation, conducted by Governor Jeb Bush's gang with ChoicePoint's aid,
determined the race in which Harris named Bush the winner by 537 votes.

To say that ChoicePoint is in the "data" business is utterly to miss their
market concept: These guys are in the Fear Industry. Secret danger lurks
everywhere. Al Qaeda's just the tip of the iceberg. What about the pizza
delivery boy? ChoicePoint hunted through a sampling of them and announced
that 25 percent had only recently come out of prison. "What pizza do you
like?" asks CEO Smith. "At what price? Are you willing to take the

War fever opened up a whole new market for the Fear Industry.  

And now Mr. Smith wants your blood.  ChoicePoint is the biggest supplier
of DNA to the FBI's "CODIS" system.  And, one company insider whispered to
me, "Derek [Smith] told me that it is his hope to build a database of DNA
samples from every person in the United States."

For now, Smith keeps this scheme under wraps, fearing "resistance" from
the public.  Instead, Smith pushes "ChoicePoint Cares" - taking DNA
samples to hunt for those missing kids on milk cartons.  It's for, "the
mothers of this country who are wrestling with threats" - you know, the
pizza guy from Al Queda, the cult kidnappers.   In other words,
ChoicePoint's real product, like our President's, is panic.

In Hollywood, Jack Nicholson picked up the zeitgeist: "If I were an Arab
American I would insist on being profiled. This is not the time for civil

Maybe Jack's right: screw rights, we want safety. 

But wait, Jack.  We're both old farts who can remember the Cuban Missile
Crisis. In 1962, the Russians were going to drop The Big One on us. But we
didn't have to worry, Mrs. Gordon told us, if we just got under the desk,
covered our necks. And she'd warned, it will all be OK as long as we,
"Don't look at the flash!"

ChoicePoint's Smith admonishes that, if we‚d only had his databases
humming at the airports on September 11, the hijackers, who used their own
names, would have been barred from boarding. However, experts inform me
that Osama no longer checks in as "Mr. bin Laden," even at the cost of
losing his frequent flyer miles.

ChoicePoint's miles of files, the FBI's CODIS system, taking off your
shoes at the airport, Code Purple days, the whole new Star-Spangled
KGB'ing of America is the new "Duck and Cover."

Thank you, ChoicePoint.  Thank you, Mr. Ashcroft. Thank you, Mr. Bush. 
We're safe now, as long as we don't look at the flash!


Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best
Democracy Money Can Buy" and "Joker's Wild: Dubya's Trick Deck" -
investigative regime change cards from Seven Stories Press. All are
available here: http://www.gregpalast.com/store.htm 

This month, Palast will release, "Bush Family Fortunes," the film based on
his investigative reports for BBC television.  View a 2-minute preview at

Sign up for Greg Palast's investigative reports at

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