Skip to content

Spies and Lies: Steal Your Data, Steal Your Vote

Drum Major Blog
There are kooks and cranks and crazies among you who think that George Bush lost the 2004 election. For example, there’s an audio blog going around with TV star Larry David reading a story called,”Kerry Won,” a chapter in a book called, Armed Madhouse. I know, because I wrote it.
How you go about jerry-rigging a democracy has a lot to do with two other, seemingly unrelated stories, in the news this week: illegal surveillance of our phone records and the new border war against immigrants.
The glue between these three stories — elections manipulation, War on Terror and War on Immigration — is a four letter: data.
ELECTIONS: I’m an investigative reporter for BBC TV. In that job, in November 2000, I discovered that Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush knocked tens of thousands of African-Americans off Florida voter rolls — thereby handing the Presidency to Brother George. The key to the vote heist was a database of supposed “felons” whose registration was “purged.” They were innocent, but hey, that’s the data game for you. One man’s abuse of data bases is another man’s inauguration.
On to 2004: Same game, new data bases and more purges. But there was a new twist, “caging lists” which I discovered within Republican Party files (how I got them, well, read the book). These were lists of HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Black folk (and a few Jewish voters) — i.e. Democrats — whom the Republican Party secretly planned to challenge on election day. They did. It’s illegal, but hey, when you steal the Presidency you get the Justice Department as a bonus and that means you control the civil rights enforcement cops. It’s the perfect crime.
The challenges, by the way, were based on “suspicions” about a voters’ proper address. We went through the confidential sheets and found a large group of African American soldiers whose addresses became “suspect” because they were shipped overseas.
But you can’t keep using data to bend elections without more data. Hence, the War on Terror, while thin on hunting terrorists, is fat with contracts to hunt for your data profile, from your finances to your voting records. It is not at all a coincidence that the company that ginned up the fake “felon” lists in 2000 is the same company that’s been given no-bid “counter-terrorism” contracts by Mr. Bush’s Big Brother agencies.
ChoicePoint Inc. of Georgia, the guys who came up with the Florida list, are now the biggest provider of DNA data to the FBI. And they have a “counter-terrorism” contract to trawl for data on foreigners. Fair enough: after all, every one of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. But , in our investigation for Armed Madhouse, were able to get ahold of the no-bid deal, and oddly, Saudi Arabians are not on the target list. Rather, our government was secretly grabbing the citizen voter files of Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico and several other Latin nations. [Take a look yourself] Each one of these countries on the list has an anti-Bush president running for re-election or an anti-Bush contender leading in the polls. Is this a war on terror or a war on democracy?
And now, the state of Georgia has passed a law, which other states are expected to imitate, requiring every employer to check a national special national data base before hiring any worker to insure they are US citizens or legal immigrants. Add that to Georgia’s requirement for a special ID card to vote — now being adopted by Republican-majority legislatures nationwide and we have a way to challenge voters by the thousands.
And who gets challenged? Can you guess? The federal government reports that 300,000 voters were turned away from the polls in 2004 for lack of “proper” I.D. Not lack of I.D., but lack of proper I.D. In New Mexico, for example, voters who excluded their middle initial on their driver’s license but it included it on their voter registration lost their vote. But not everyone is asked for I.D. Experts for the US Civil Rights Commission calculated that a Black voter is 900% more likely to have their ballot left uncounted than a white voter.
In response to the ugly racial purge of voters in 2000, George Bush signed the Help America Vote Act — which REQUIRES every state to create a centralized voter database just like the one that made the mass purge of voters in Florida possible. This Orwellian transformation of voter protection into voter predation, coupled with the new laws requiring voter I.D. cards and data base checks means that the 2006 and 2008 elections may already be over. But you’ll have to wait until then to find out whom the data-meisters have chosen for you.
Investigative reporter Greg Palast, winner of the George Orwell Courage in Journalism Prize, is author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His new book is 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. View Palast’s reports on the election for BBC Television at

Support the Palast Fund and keep our work alive!
Send this to a friend