Yesterday, liberal journalist Greg Palast announced on his blog that he and fellow producer Matt Pascarella have become subject to a Department of Homeland Security criminal investigation for filming the exterior of an Exxon Mobil refinery near New Orleans while working on a documentary entitled New Orleans: Big Easy to Big Empty.
“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,” writes Palast. “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 … 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.”
Palast adds, “I should note that it took the Maxwell Smarts at Homeland Security a full two weeks to hunt us down.”
News of the investigation inspired outrage in the blogosphere.
Dave Reed aptly notes in his headline, “In commemoration of Sept. 11, US government captures … Greg Palast.” Reed observes that Palast’s film was to record the living conditions of “New Orleans residents who have been living in a make-shift FEMA trailer camp since the hurricane,” and tips his hat to the president: “Sweet work, W! Way to get that coast rebuilt.”
Although bloggers are nearly unanimous in their expressions of indignation, the Lone Wacko notes with a tinge of skepticism that the news has received scant media attention outside of the blogosphere. “It would be nice to read a straight news report or a press release about the incident, because between the ‘jokes’ and the unclear writing in both his report and that from ‘Scoop NZ’ it’s a bit difficult to tell what really happened (so to speak).”
Some interpreted the news as evidence that the Bush administration is discouraging journalists from reporting on the government’s incompetence in coping with Katrina. “So what the Sam Hill was Mr. Palast doing in such a *gasp* highly sensitive area, and with a camera, yet?” asks Polite Company. “Well, he was talking to a few of the 73,000 people who live there and in places just like it. What they have to say isn’t very pretty, but they are unfortunately burdened with the crime of being alive, and thus not having the spiritual perfection that grandstanding zealotry really needs.”
Others read into the administration’s corporate interests. “Here’s the true story of big-time Bush and his investors doing a cut-and-run,” writes Swiftspeech. “What’s his biggest concern: freedom of speech or freedom of Osama?”
Others pointed out that Palast recently published a scathing article about Exxon Mobil’s accountability for the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989. In the piece, Palast describes the soft demands made by Bush-appointed judges on Exxon Mobil, and points out that Exxon Mobil was the largest campaign contributor to both of Bush’s presidential campaigns.
So far, Palast has sought to put his supporters’ minds at ease. “Let’s not get over-excited,” he remarked recently. “They haven’t measured us for our orange suits yet.”