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.
who was going to play Anti-Santa, watching to
see when we've been good or bad? A guy named Derek
that made September 11, 2001 Derek's lucky day.
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
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,
for Smith's ChoicePoint Inc., Ground Zero would
become a profit center lined with gold.
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
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.
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 vote.
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.
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 risk?..."
fever opened up a whole new market for the Fear
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."
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.
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
Jack's right: screw rights, we want safety.
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!"
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 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."
you, ChoicePoint. Thank you, Mr. Ashcroft. Thank
you, Mr. Bush. We're safe now, as long as we don't
look at the flash!
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.
Posted: September 15, 2004