September 11, 2006
by Greg Palast
It’s true. It’s weird. It’s nuts. The Department of Homeland Security, after a five-year hunt for Osama, has finally brought charges against… Greg Palast. I kid you not. Send your cakes with files to the Air America wing at Guantanamo.
Though not just yet. Fatherland Security has informed me that television producer Matt Pascarella and I have been charged with unauthorized filming of a “critical national security structure” in Louisiana.
On August 22, for LinkTV and Democracy Now! we videotaped the thousands of Katrina evacuees still held behind a barbed wire in a trailer park encampment a hundred miles from New Orleans. It’s been a year since the hurricane and 73,000 POW’s (Prisoners of W) are still in this aluminum ghetto in the middle of nowhere. One resident, Pamela Lewis said, “It is a prison set-up” — except there are no home furloughs for these inmates because they no longer have homes....
After I assured Detective Pananepinto, “I can swear to you that I’m not part of Al Qaeda,” he confirmed that, “Louisiana is still part of the United States,” subject to the first amendment and he was therefore required to divulge my accuser.
Not surprisingly, it was Exxon Corporation, one of a handful of companies not in love with my investigations. [See “A Well-Designed Disaster: the Untold Story of the Exxon Valdez.”]So I rang America’s top petroleum pusher-men and asked their media relations honcho in Houston, Marc Boudreaux, a simple question. “Do you want us to go to jail or not? Is it Exxon’s position that reporters should go to jail?” Because, all my dumb-ass jokes aside, that is what’s at stake. And Exxon knew we were journalists because we showed our press credential to the Exxon guards at the refinery entrance.
What's important here is not so much that Palast has been charged, but why he's been charged. The documentary in question strongly demonstrates the Department of Homeland Security's massive failures in the follow-up to Hurricane Katrina. I cannot emphasize this enough: this is all part of a larger picture. The entire priority of our federal government is to protect themselves (and one of their major contributors) from the embarrassment of being exposed for what they are. This is not about security, this is about payback. I have already notified my senators and am now imploring any of you who may be reading this to do the same: this is one of the most outrageous abuses of power I've ever seen. And think: if they feel they can get away with doing this to a high-profile journalist like Palast, what's to stop them from doing it to any one of us. They're sending a message and they're going for broke. They want to shut down all of their critics now, before the Democrats retake Congress.
Now is not the time to sit back and timidly take it. Now is the time to fight back. Demand the same of your senators and congressmen, Democrats and Republicans alike. We cannot afford to become a country when "Homeland Security" means intimidating critics and punishing journalism. If we lose now, we lose forever. Support Greg Palast's legal fund, and demand that your congressmen stop this before it's too late.
The right to film a very public building in a documentary is the very essence of the freedom of the press. They take that away, we live in a sham democracy. I simply cannot let this pass.