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
Pamela Lewis said, “It is a prison set-up" -- except there are
no home furloughs for these inmates because they no longer have
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
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
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
Well, me too, Detective. In fact, I'm very nervous that this
potential chemical blast-site can be mapped in extreme detail at
Google Map location.
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 Longitude.
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.
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."
Really? 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.