Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Speak of the devil! Mere hours ago we linked to a story describing how the DoJ, the DEA, and other federal agencies sidestep privacy laws by paying ChoicePoint, Inc., to perform surveillance on American citizens. Now Greg Palast reports that the company Katherine Harris hired to disenfranchise Florida's black voters is taking its act down Venezuela way:
Some months ago, a little birdie faxed to me what appeared to be confidential pages from a contract between John Ashcroft's Justice Department and a company called ChoicePoint, Inc., of Atlanta. The deal is part of the War on Terror.
Justice offered up to $67 million of our taxpayer money to ChoicePoint in a no-bid deal for computer profiles with private information on every citizen of half a dozen nations. The choice of citizens to spy on caught my eye. While the September 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the Arab Emirates, ChoicePoint's menu offered records on Venezuelans, Brazilians, Nicaraguans, Mexicans and Argentines. How odd. Had the CIA uncovered a Latin plot to sneak suicide tango dancers across the border with exploding enchiladas?
What do these nations have in common besides a lack of involvement in the September 11 attacks? Coincidentally, each is in the throes of major electoral contests in which the leading candidates -- presidents Lula Ignacio da Silva of Brazil, Nestor Kirschner of Argentina, Mexico City mayor Andres Lopez Obrador and Venezuela's Chavez -- have the nerve to challenge the globalization demands of George Bush . . . .
[W]hen Mexico discovered ChoicePoint had its citizen files, the nation threatened company executives with criminal charges. ChoicePoint protested its innocence and offered to destroy the files of any nation that requests it.
But ChoicePoint, apparently, presented no such offer to the government of Venezuela's Chavez.
In Caracas, I showed Congressman Nicolas Maduro the ChoicePoint-Ashcroft agreement. Maduro, a leader of Chavez' political party, was unaware that his nation's citizen files were for sale to U.S. intelligence. But he understood their value to make mischief.
If the lists somehow fell into the hands of the Venezuelan opposition, it could immeasurably help their computer-aided drive to recall and remove Chavez. A ChoicePoint flack said the Bush administration told the company they haven't used the lists that way. The PR man didn't say if the Bush spooks laughed when they said it.
Our team located a $53,000 payment from our government to Chavez' recall organizers, who claim to be armed with computer lists of the registered. How did they get those? The fix that was practiced in Florida, with ChoicePoint's help, conscious or not, appears to be retooled for Venezuela, then Brazil, Mexico and who knows where else.