May 19, 2006
Brother Inc. tries to fool Randi Rhodes — and that's not nice
I smell mendacity! The sticky-sweet Atlanta drawl of the PR flack for America's private KGB was dancing in rhetorical circles with Randi Rhodes on a recent Air America broadcast. Unfortunately for the Bush-friendly Spies-R-Us contractor, Randi also has a keen nose for the telltale scent of pure bullshit.
By "private KGB," I mean ChoicePoint, Inc., the Atlanta company that keeps over 16 billion records on Americans which it sells to the FBI, Homeland Security and, through a bit of a slip-up, identity thieves.
They are watching you because George and Dick don't have time to track everyone in America (and that would be illegal, to boot), ChoicePoint does it. Then turns over the electronic you — cross-matched profiles of voting registration, your DNA info and who knows what else — for a price.
Randi was on the phone to one James Lee, marketing director of ChoicePoint. He was trying to explain some of the good work they do for government — and responding to the evil lies about his corporation by a reporter (me).
I was listening in from a glass booth. The Eichmann treatment was required by ChoicePoint — they wouldn't let her interview the company if anyone else was in the room. They also warned her, her interview would be "taped" ... AND, they didn't have to add, they know where she lives — and where she votes and a whole lot more about Randi that maybe Randi herself doesn't know. Just a friendly warning.
It seems the data guys were upset that she had me on her show to talk about my investigations of the company, which I conducted for BBC-TV, for Harper's and for my new book, Armed Madhouse.
The company's name came up because of the Bush regime's getting caught with their hands in the data jar: spying on Americans, sucking our phone records into data bases where George and Dick can peruse them at leisure, without warrants.
ChoicePoint's the big banana in the data game, with fat no-bid contracts with Big Brother Bush's agency and the Department of Fatherland Security. (Homeland? Deutschland? Whatever.) Other governments, including Mexico, threatened ChoicePoint operatives with arrest for their use and misuse of data, but Dick and George like'm just fine. That's because ChoicePoint provides just the data that suits their needs — not necessarily accurate, but accurate is not what is needed.
For example, ChoicePoint is the company that gave Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush the list of Florida voters, most of them black, which were removed as "felons" before the 2000 election. The list was ridiculously inaccurate — these were innocent citizens — but those African-Americans lost their voting rights anyway and Jeb's brother thereby took the White House.
That's not nice, what Jeb and Katherine did — but ChoicePoint kept silent. In return, they received a high, and highly suspect, fee for their "work."
And that's dangerous. Because, after ChoicePoint selected our president for us, our president selected them for no-bid jobs to save us from terrorists — which they do by keeping track of us. (Odd, I thought Americans were the VICTIMS of terror — they've made us the SUSPECTS.)
In Armed Madhouse, I reveal that one ChoicePoint executive confidentially told me the company's chairman hoped to build a national DNA database. Dracula's got nothing on these guys: they are already the biggest providers of DNA info to the FBI, they boast. They boast about it one week — then they deny it another. This week's flavor is denial.
Back to Randi. I wasn't allowed in the room with her, so I waited in the glass booth. ChoicePoint had a huge list of complaints about my latest comment on their activities. I thought it important for the public to know how these private "data mining" companies drill into you and sell up the valuable nuggets they find to Mr. Bush's spy apparatus.
The company uses some clever rhetorical sleights of hand: "No data files or 'dossiers' exist at ChoicePoint." Now that's just darn strange for a data company.
But that's a quibble. Let's move to the out and out flaming fabrications, whoppers and what, before George Bush took office, we used to call "stinking, bald-faced lies." (Now we call it, "intelligence.")
ChoicePoint swore to Ms. Rhodes that they do not have or sell "credit" information. Yet, according to the company's own filing, among their other Big Brother products, they sell:
"...claims history data, motor vehicle records, police records, CREDIT INFORMATION and modeling services...employment background screenings and drug testing administration services, public record searches, vital record services, credential verification, due diligence information, DNA identification services, authentication services and people and shareholder locator information searches...print fulfillment, teleservices, database and campaign management services..."
Uh, oh. They are either fibbing to the Securities and Exchange Commission (their CEO is already under investigation by the SEC) — or they are prevaricating to Randi.
There's more. ChoicePoint's PR apologist says it doesn't maintain credit card records, but they fail to mention that they sell "credit report headers" — which is why the federal government just fined them a record $10 million for letting identity thieves run off with this kind of info. They sell "SSN verification" (your social security number), financial reports, education verification, reference verification, felony checks, motor vehicle records, asset location and information on criminal suspects and their neighbors and relatives.
ChoicePoint writes that it didn't get its corporate hands dirty in the racist purge of voters, which fixed the 2000 election. That was the fault of some company called "DBT" which ChoicePoint only purchased, they claim, "after DBT's work was done for the state."
Au contraire. ChoicePoint bought DBT before the election, while the purges were in full swing. Then, right after the "election," ChoicePoint's PR mouthpieces boasted about how the company was going to cash in on its "success" (their word) in purging Florida voter rolls. Their PR flack told me at the time, "Given the outcome of our work in Florida, and with a new president in place (!), we think our services will expand across the country." But then we caught them — and they quit elections games and moved on to saving us from Al Qaeda. Lord help us.
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn about ChoicePoint. They're in it for the money. If they turned a blind eye to evil, if they abetted the theft of an election and kept silent to keep the money, well, that's the Fear Industry for you.
It's not what ChoicePoint sells that terrifies me, it's whom they're selling it to: a regime for whom information is a weapon and disinformation a way of life.
View Greg Palast's reports on ChoicePoint for BBC Television, and "Double Cheese with Fear," an excerpt from his new book, Armed Madhouse: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War, at www.GregPalast.com. The above commentary first appeared on Buzzflash (www.buzzflash.com) on May 17, 2006. Reprinted, with some editing, with permission from Greg Palast.
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