GregPalast.com

The Koch Brothers' Chavez Problem

I’ve been tracking a tube of black putrid ooze, a toxic viper slowly slithering 2,000 miles across the belly of America, swallowing all water aquifers, politicians and reason in its path.

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The Real Reason Why Arizona Passed Such Harsh Immigration Laws

Our investigation in Arizona discovered the real intent of the show-me-your-papers law.

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New Bush Attorney May Have First-Hand Experience with Law-breaking

There's only one thing worse than sacking an honest prosecutor. That's replacing an honest prosecutor with a criminal.

There was one big hoohah in Washington on Tuesday as House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers pulled down the pants on George Bush's firing of US Attorneys to expose a scheme to punish prosecutors who wouldn't bend to political pressure.

But the Committee missed a big one: Timothy Griffin, Karl Rove's assistant, the President's pick as US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Griffin, according to BBC Television, was the hidden hand behind a scheme to wipe out the voting rights of 70,000 citizens prior to the 2004 election.

Key voters on Griffin's hit list: black soldiers and homeless men and women. Nice guy, eh? Naughty or nice, however, is not the issue. Targeting voters where race is a factor is a felony crime under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In October 2004, our investigations team at BBC Newsnight received a series of astonishing emails from Mr. Griffin, then Research Director for the Republican National Committee. He didn't mean to send them to us. They were highly confidential memos meant only for RNC honchos.

However, Griffin made a wee mistake. Instead of sending the emails -- potential evidence of a crime -- to email addresses ending with the domain name "@GeorgeWBush.com" he sent them to "@GeorgeWBush.ORG." A website run by prankster John Wooden who owns "GeorgeWBush.org." When Wooden got the treasure trove of Rove-ian ravings, he sent them to us.

And we dug in, decoding, and mapping the voters on what Griffin called, "Caging" lists, spreadsheets with 70,000 names of voters marked for challenge. Overwhelmingly, these were Black and Hispanic voters from Democratic precincts.

The Griffin scheme was sickly brilliant. We learned that the RNC sent first-class letters to new voters in minority precincts marked, "Do not forward." Several sheets contained nothing but soldiers, other sheets, homeless shelters. Targets included the Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida and that city's State Street Rescue Mission. Another target, Edward Waters College, a school for African-Americans.

If these voters were not currently at their home voting address, they were tagged as "suspect" and their registration wiped out or their ballot challenged and not counted. Of course, these "cages" captured thousands of students, the homeless and those in the military though they are legitimate voters. We telephoned those on the hit list, including one Randall Prausa. His wife admitted he wasn't living at his voting address: Randall was a soldier shipped overseas.

Randall and other soldiers like him who sent in absentee ballots, when challenged, would lose their vote. And they wouldn't even know it.

And by the way, it's not illegal for soldiers to vote from overseas -- even if they're black.

But it is illegal to challenge voters en masse where race is an element in the targeting. So several lawyers told us, including Ralph Neas, famed civil rights attorney with People for the American Way.

Griffin himself ducked our cameras, but his RNC team tried to sell us the notion that the caging sheets were, in fact, not illegal voter hit lists, but a roster of donors to the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. Republican donors at homeless shelters?

Over the past weeks, Griffin has said he would step down if he had to face Congressional confirmation. However, the President appointed Griffin to the law enforcement post using an odd little provision of the USA Patriot Act that could allow Griffin to skip Congressional questioning altogether.

Voting law expert Neas testified on Wednesday before Conyers' Committee on the topic of illegal voter "disenfranchisement" -- the fancy word for stealing elections by denying voters' civil rights.

Maybe Conyers should have held up a line-up of suspected vote thieves and let Neas identify the perpetrators. That would have been easy in the case of the Caging List Criminal. He only had to look for the guy wearing a new shiny lawman's badge.

Waging War on the BBC

He did not say, "hello," or even his name, just left a one-word message: "Whitewash."

It came from an embattled journalist whispering from inside the bowels of a television and radio station under siege, on a small island off the coast of Ireland: from BBC London. And another call, a colleague at the Guardian, said, "The future of British journalism is very bleak."

However, the future for fake and farcical war propaganda is quite bright indeed. Today, Lord Hutton issued his report that followed an inquiry revealing the Blair government's manipulation of intelligence to claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass murder threatening imminent attack on London.

Based on the Blair government's claim, headlines pumped the war hysteria. "Saddam Could Have Nuclear Bomb In Year," screeched the London Times; "Brits 45 Mins from Doom," shrieked the Sun newspaper. Given these facts only a sissy pacifist, a lunatic or a Saddam fellow traveler would fail to see that Prime Minister "Winston" Blair had no choice but to re-conquer its former Mesopotamian colony.

But these headlines were, in fact, false, and deadly so. Unlike America's press puppies, BBC reporters thought it their duty to check out these life-or-death claims. Reporters Andrew Gilligan and Susan Watts contacted a crucial source, Britain's and the United Nation's top weapons inspector. He told reporter Watts that the Weapons of Mass Destruction claims by Blair and our own President Bush were, "all spin." Gilligan went further, reporting that this spin, this "sexed up" version of intelligence, was the result of interventions by Blair's PR henchman, Alistair Campbell.

Whatever reading of the source's statements, it was clear that intelligence experts had deep misgivings about the strength of the evidence for war.

The source? Dr. David Kelly. To save itself after the reports by Gilligan and Watts, the government, including the Prime Minister himself, went on an internal crusade to out the name of its own intelligence operative, so it could then discredit the news items.

Publishing the name of an intelligence advisor is serious stuff. In the U.S., a special criminal prosecutor is now scouring the White House to find the person who publicly named a CIA agent. If found, the Bush-ite leaker faces jail time.

Blair's government was not so crude as to give out Dr. Kelly's name. Rather, they hit on a subterfuge of dropping clues then allowing reporters to play "20 questions" -- if they guessed Kelly's name correctly, the government would confirm it. Only the thickest reporters (I name none here) failed after more than a couple tries.

Dr. Kelly, who had been proposed for knighthood was named, harangued and his career destroyed by the outing. He then took his own life.

But today is not a day of mourning at 10 Downing Street, rather a day of self-congratulation. There were no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear warheads just short of completion, no "45 minutes to doom" bombs auguring a new London blitz. The exile group which supplied this raw claim now calls the 45 minute story, "a crock of shit."

Yet Blair's minions are proclaiming their vindication.

This is not just a story about what is happening "over there" in the United Kingdom. This we must remember: David Kelly was not only advisor to the British, but to the UN and, by extension, the expert for George W. Bush. Our commander-in-chief leaped to adopt the boogey man WMD stories from the Blair government when our own CIA was reticent.

So M'Lord Hutton has killed the messenger: the BBC. Should the reporter Gilligan have used more cautious terms? Some criticism is fair. But the extraordinary import of his and Watts' story is forgotten: Our two governments bent the information, then hunted down the questioners.

And now the second invasion of the Iraq war proceeds: the conquest of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Until now, this quasi-governmental outlet has refused to play Izvestia to any prime minister, Labour or Tory. As of today, the independence of one of the most independent major networks on the planet is under attack. Blair's government is "cleared" and now arrogantly sport their kill, the head of Gavyn Davies, BBC chief who resigned today.

"The bleak future for British journalism" portends darkness for journalists everywhere -- the threat to the last great open platform for hard investigative reporting. And frankly, it's a worrisome day for me. I'm not a disinterested by-stander. My most important investigations, all but banned from U.S. airwaves, were developed and broadcast by BBC Newsnight, the program where Watts works.

Will an iron curtain descend on the news? Before dawn today, I was reading Churchill's words to the French command in the hours before as the Panzers breached the defenses of Paris. Churchill told those preparing to surrender, "Whatever you may do, we shall fight on forever and ever and ever." This may yet be British journalism's Finest Hour.

Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His reports for BBC Newsnight and The Guardian papers and other writings may be viewed at his website.

Jim Crow Revived in Cyberspace

Birmingham, Ala. -- Astonishingly, and sadly, four decades after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. marched in Birmingham, we must ask again, "Do African-Americans have the unimpeded right to vote in the United States?"

In 1963, Dr. King's determined and courageous band faced water hoses and police attack dogs to call attention to the thicket of Jim Crow laws -- including poll taxes and so-called "literacy" tests -- that stood in the way of black Americans' right to have their ballots cast and counted.

Today, there is a new and real threat to minority voters, this time from cyberspace: computerized purges of voter rolls.

The menace first appeared in Florida in the November 2000 presidential election. While the media chased butterfly ballots and hanging chads, a much more sinister and devastating attack on voting rights went almost undetected.

In the two years before the elections, the Florida secretary of state's office quietly ordered the removal of 94,000 voters from the registries. Supposedly, these were convicted felons who may not vote in Florida. Instead, the overwhelming majority were innocent of any crime -- and just over half were black or Hispanic.

We are not guessing about the race of the disenfranchised: A voter's color is listed next to his or her name in most Southern states. (Ironically, this racial ID is required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a King legacy.)

How did mass expulsion of legal voters occur?

At the heart of the ethnic purge of voting rights was the creation of a central voter file for Florida placed in the hands of an elected, and therefore partisan, official. Computerization and a 1998 "reform" law meant to prevent voter fraud allowed for a politically and racially biased purge of thousands of registered voters on the flimsiest of grounds.

Voters whose name, birth date and gender loosely matched that of a felon anywhere in America were targeted for removal. And so one Thomas Butler (of several in Florida) was tagged because a "Thomas Butler Cooper Jr." of Ohio was convicted of a crime. The legacy of slavery -- commonality of black names -- aided the racial bias of the "scrub list."

Florida was the first state to create, computerize and purge lists of allegedly "ineligible" voters. Meant as a reform, in the hands of partisan officials it became a weapon of mass voting rights destruction. (The fact that Mr. Cooper's conviction date is shown on state files as "1/30/2007" underscores other dangers of computerizing our democracy.)

You'd think that Congress and President Bush would run from imitating Florida's disastrous system. Astonishingly, Congress adopted the absurdly named "Help America Vote Act," which requires every state to replicate Florida's system of centralized, computerized voter files before the 2004 election.

The controls on the 50 secretaries of state are few -- and the temptation to purge voters of the opposition party enormous. African-Americans, whose vote concentrates in one party, are an easy and obvious target.

The act also lays a minefield of other impediments to black voters: an effective rollback of the easy voter registration methods of the Motor Voter Act; new identification requirements at polling stations; and perilous incentives for fault-prone and fraud-susceptible touch-screen voting machines.

No, we are not rehashing the who-really-won fight from the 2000 presidential election. But we have no intention of "getting over it." We are moving on, but on to a new nationwide call and petition drive to restore and protect the rights of all Americans and monitor the implementation of frighteningly ill-conceived new state and federal voting "reform" laws.

Four decades ago, the opposition to the civil right to vote was easy to identify: night riders wearing white sheets and burning crosses. Today, the threat comes from partisan politicians wearing pinstripe suits and clutching laptops.

Jim Crow has moved into cyberspace -- harder to detect, craftier in operation, shifting shape into the electronic guardian of a new electoral segregation.

Sign the petition to Stop the Florida-tion of the 2004 Election.

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