| Palast Charged with Journalism in the First Degree
September 11, 2006
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
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.
To give a sense of the full flavor and smell of the place,
we wanted to show that this human parking lot, with kids and elderly,
is nearly adjacent to the Exxon Oil refinery, the nation's second
largest, a chemical-belching behemoth.
So we filmed
it. Without Big Brother's authorization. Uh, oh.
Apparently, the broadcast of these stinking smokestacks tipped off
Osama that, if his assassins pose as poor Black folk, they can get a
cramped Airstream right next to a "critical infrastructure"
So now Matt and I have a "criminal
complaint" lodged against us with the feds.
The positive side for me as a journalist is that I get to see our
terror-busters in action. I should note that it took the Maxwell
Smarts at Homeland Security a full two weeks to hunt us down.
Frankly, we were a bit scared that, given the charges, we
wouldn't be allowed on a plane into New York last night. But
what scared us more is that we were allowed on the plane.
Once I was traced, I had a bit of an other-worldly conversation with
my would-be captors. Detective Frank Pananepinto of Homeland
Security told us, "This is a 'Critical Infrastructure' …
and they get nervous about unauthorized filming of their property.
Well, me too, Detective. In fact, I'm very nervous that
this potential chemical blast-site can be mapped in extreme detail at
What also makes me nervous is that the
Bush Terror Terriers have kindly indicated on the Internet that this
unprotected critical infrastructure can be targeted -- I mean located
-- at 30º 29' 11" N Latitude and 91º 11' 39" W
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.
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
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
The Exxon man was coy:
"Well, we'll see what we can find out…. Obviously it's
important to national security that we have supplies from that
refinery in the event of an emergency."
According to the documents our team uncovered from the offices of
Exxon's lawyer, Mr. James Baker, the oil industry is more than happy
to see a limit on worldwide crude production. Indeed, the
current squeeze has jacked the price of oil from $24 a barrel to $64
and refined products have jumped yet higher -- resulting in a
record-busting profit for Exxon of nearly $1 billion per week.
So this silly "criminal complaint" has nothing to do
with stopping Al Qaeda or keeping the oil flowing. It has
everything to do with obstructing news reports in a way that no one
would have dared attempt before the September 11 attack.
Dectective Pananepinto, in justifying our impending bust, said,
"If you remember, a lot of people were killed on 9/11."
Yes, Detective, I remember that very well: my office was
in the World Trade Center. Lucky for me, I was out of town that
day. It was not a lucky day for 3,000 others.
remember "a lot" of people were killed. So I have this
suggestion, Detective -- and you can pass it on to Mr. Bush: Go
and find the people who killed them.
It's been five years
and the Bush regime has not done that. Instead, the War on
Terror is reduced to taking off our shoes in airports, hoping we can
bomb Muslims into loving America and chasing journalists around the
bayou. Meanwhile, King Abdullah, the Gambino of oil, whose
princelings funded the murderers, gets a free ride in the President's
golf cart at the Crawford ranch.
I guess I shouldn't
complain. After all, Matt and I look pretty good in orange.
A personal request to
readers. Many have written to ask what can be done to protect
Matt and me from becoming unwilling guests of the State.
First, this ain't no foolin' around: Matt and I are
facing these nutty charges. So spread the info. We believe
that getting the word out is the best defense.
Second, call Homeland Security and turn us in.
They seem to have trouble finding us. If you get a reward, you
may choose to donate it to the Palast
Investigative Fund, a 501(c)(3) educational foundation which
supports our work and pays our legal fees.
Third, ask your
local library to order our book, Armed
Madhouse: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf? Homeland
Security now reserves the right to read over your shoulder at the
library; therefore, the more our agents are forced to read this
subversive material, the more likely we can convince them to
come in out of the cold. All kidding aside, we do ask you
to request your library order the book: not everyone can afford
to purchase this hardbound edition.
Our thanks to Amy
Goodman at Democracy
Now! and the folks at LinkTV
for broadcasting our report from New Orleans and the Exxon
refinery. And to Gil Noble, host of the ABC Television's Like It
Is, our Courage in Journalism award for broadcasting our report on his
network's New York affiliate. Catch Gil on WABC every Sunday at
In response to a deluge of requests for a copy of
the New Orleans documentary, we are preparing a DVD which you may
order at http://www.gregpalast.com/premiums.htm
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