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.
For the full story, see “Double Cheese With Fear,” in Armed Madhouse: Who’s Afraid of Osama Wolf and Other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War.”
The leader in the field of what is called “data mining,” is a company 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 it 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? ChoicePoint, Inc. 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 rewarded by the man the company elected. 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 voting records. 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 the shaft.
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. For more horror and humor from the War on Terror, listen to an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Armed Madhouse, Double Cheeseburger With Fear.