Sunday :: May 4, 2003

Company That Bush Used to Disenfranchise Black Florida Voters Gets Caught Breaking the Law for Ashcroft

by Steve

When a company disenfranchises thousands of black voters in a key state governed by the brother of the GOP candidate for president, you would think that the incoming GOP administration would work overtime to keep its distance from that company.

Think again. And now it may come back and bite the Bush Administration in the ass.

It turns out that the same company that knocked thousands of black voters off the Florida election rolls without their knowledge was given a contract by the Bush Administration to illegally obtain information on Latin American citizens for John Ashcroft’s Department of Justice.

And they just got caught at it.

A data-gathering company that was embroiled in the Florida 2000 election fiasco is being paid millions of dollars by the Bush administration to collect detailed personal information on the populations of foreign countries, enraging several governments who say the records may have been illegally obtained.

US government purchasing documents show that the company, ChoicePoint, received at least $11m (6.86m) from the department of justice last year to supply data - mainly on Latin Americans - that included names and addresses, occupations, dates of birth, passport numbers and "physical description". Even tax records and blood groups are reportedly included.

Legal experts in the US and Mexico said ChoicePoint could be liable for prosecution if those who supplied it with the personal information could be proven to have broken local laws. That raises the possibility that any person whose data was accessible to American officials could take legal action against the US government.

"Anybody who felt they were affected by this could take the US government to court," said Julio Tellez, an expert in Mexican information legislation at the Tec de Monterrey University. "We could all do it ... We are not prepared to sell our intimacies for a fistful of dollars."

How the US is using the information remains mysterious, although its focus on Latin America suggests obvious applications in targeting illegal immigrants. Whatever the reasons, its commitment to ChoicePoint is long-term: last year's $11m payment was part of a contract worth $67m that runs until 2005.

So much for a good relationship with Vincente Fox. Why do I think this story has legs?

Steve :: 11:43 PM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!