Greg Palast is a journalist and Author. He has written or co-written 3 books, including Armed Madhouse which was recently updated and released as a new edition. Recently, he has been a guest on progressive radio programs and has given interviews to several progressive media outlets. Based on his interviews and publications, he certainly shares my concerns that the current Administration and the workings of right-wing political operatives are dangerous to America.
Unfortunately, his research methods and analysis on this issue appear to be misleading to the point of, in my opinon, being dangerous:
Greg Palast Has published 4 diaries on Daily Kos. Each of them has Included “Greg Palast” as a Tag. All but one have been featured on the "Recommended" list. Comment searching reveals 457 comments by DailyKos posters with “Greg Palast” in the comment title bar in the past 6 months. Many of these comments refer to the “500 Karl Rove emails” that “prove” Rove’s involvement in voter suppression malfeasance.
The Cause for Concern
On May 23, 2007, Greg Palast or his assistant, Zach Roberts, posted a diary that Received 480 comments and was on the Rec List.
This diary reported the following:
BBC Television’s Newsnight has 500 "missing" Rove office emails including a series of self-incriminating notes which provide "the keys to the kingdom" behind the prosecutor firings.
Greg Palast himself has never presented these emails completely in a public forum, including on his website. However, accessing the website from which Mr. Palast reports getting the emails reveals the details of how the emails were acquired:
OCTOBER, 2004: Recently, we at GeorgeWBush.org happened to notice that our mail server had a default "catch-all" mailbox, which for the past several months had been quietly gathering any and all e-mails addressed to [INSERT-ANYTHING-HERE]@georgewbush.org. We felt the need to share.
This catch process was apparently terminated by October 29, 2004:
10.29.2004 UPDATE: GeorgeWBush.org initially posted a select few highlights of the e-mails from its catch-all mailbox. But in response to overwhelming interest in this material, we have since dug back into the pile. You'll find today's newly posted e-mails in the YELLOW shaded boxes below. Also, the catch-all box has now been disabled, having been suddenly overwhelmed by thousands of spam and virus e-mails.
Looking at the published portion of emails from the website that Palast claims as his source (of which there are ~70 separated by topic and 125 total as determined by searching "To: " to include forwarded emails), one can see that they are "Republican" in flavor, but certainly not "Rove emails" or "Rove office emails". Two of the emails indicated as being sent by Tim Griffin are presented with downloadable attachments entitled "caging.xls" and "caging1.xls". The first file contains 1771 names and addresses in and around Jacksonville, FL, and the second adds another 63 names to the same list. This totals 1834 unique names. From what has been presented publicly by Greg Palast, his spokesperson Zach Roberts, and GeorgeWBush.org, this appears to be the sum total of the Rovian caging malfeasance evidence in the possession of Greg Palast.
Importantly, the website hosting the "caging lists", GeorgeWBush.org.contains the following disclaimer:
GeorgeWBush.org makes no warranties of any kind (either expressed or implied) concerning the Materials on the Site. Further, GeorgeWBush.org does not warrant that transmission of the Materials will not be interrupted nor does it warrant that the Materials will contain no errors nor that they will be accurate.
When I queried Greg Palast's spokesperson, Zach Roberts (who was diarying and commenting as "Greg Palast"), about releasing Palast's evidence publicly, the response was this:
The really important, incriminating ones are, and have been released
Unfortunately, this response is a single jpeg image posted on flickr.com, that visually excerpts the “caging” file from the pages of the website above. The image is also presented in his book. There is nothing particularly incriminating about the image shown, a screenshot of the "Caging list" with addresses circled and indicated as being a “homeless shelter” or a “deployed soldier”. I enlarged the image and compared it to "caging1.xls" downloaded from GeorgeWBush.org.
Homeless Shelter Data
The address for the entries indicated as a homeless shelter is indeed a homeless shelter. However, searching the "caging1.xls" file shows the names column in the image is sorted alphabetically and independently of the address column. In other words, the presented image does not reflect correct data. The names shown residing at the homeless shelter (Lewis, Lofton, Luckett, etc) are present in the unsorted source file and reside at different addresses. The image is further presented in a way that makes it difficult to determine the number of people at the homeless shelter address. The presentation of only last names beginning with "L" or "M" suggests many more people there. That the bottom of the list is covered with another image also leads one to believe there are more names than shown. In fact, the source file reveals 28 names at this address.
Deployed Soldiers Data
How they were identified as "deployed soldiers" is not disclosed. From the published image, the beginning and end of the list is not shown. The source file reveals 50 residents at "Naval Air Station", and again, the last names shown have been sorted independently of address to generate the image. For example, whereas the image shows 5 last names beginning with "B" at the Naval Air Station, the source file shows one. The "B" last names listed are present in the source file, but none are at the Naval Air Station.
Thus from all available evidence, the emails are not “Rove’s emails”, Rove’s office emails” or any evidence of wrongdoing beyond a list of 1834 names in an excel file attached to a Tim Griffin email from 2004 (and for which the website housing the list makes no claim to authenticity). The caging lists presented by Palast are from a public source file that has been manipulated without disclosing the manipulations. NOTE: Palast later indicated that the missorting was done at his publisher's office and he was unaware of the manipulation (See Link in update 6).
Considering this has been a "story" for over 2 years without further public disclosure, the most logical conclusion is that there is not anything (other than what has already been disclosed) incriminating present in “Greg Palast’s 500 emails”. It is not accurate to call the presented emails “Rove emails” or “Rove Office” emails. Nothing about these disclosed emails suggest they “hold the keys to the kingdom” of Rovian machinations.
Greg Palast is a BBC reporter. His first report on caging appeared on BBC newsnight in 2004.
He often makes fantastic claims based on his "Sam Spade" detective work, and then (along with his many devotees) complains when Mainstream media in this country do not report his stories. Legitimate journalists have a responsibility not to mislead people.
Claims from recent interview presented at Buzzflash:
Greg Palast: 2004. And in 2006 and 2004, they challenged tens of thousands of black soldiers. They stopped their votes from being counted when they were mailed in from Baghdad. Go to Baghdad and lose your vote -- mission accomplished.
This is unsourced.
Claims from his recent diary on caging letters:
The letters, however, were targeted at African-American homeless men, students — and soldiers send overseas — all legal voters who, because they were shipped to Iraq or for other reasons, were not at their home address.
Where is the documentation these "targeted" African American homeless men, students and soldiers?
From the same diary as well as his "press release" on his website the same day:
BBC obtained 50 ‘caging’ lists with 70,000 voters including large groups of servicemen.
The public has access to 2 files comprising one list of 1834 names and addresses. Where are the others?
I submit that many of Greg Palast's journalism methods with respect to this issue do not seem to be legitimate.
I post this diary with some element of sadness, at being compelled to investigate and, based on the available evidence, to criticize “one of our own”. Nonetheless I do this as a service to our community, and implore DailyKos readers to:
- Stop citing Palast’s “500 emails” as Rove emails or Rove office emails.
- Stop citing Palast’s “500 emails” as evidence of being important to the Prosecutor Purge, evidence of MSM ignoring a “blockbuster story”, or of Democratic collusion with Karl Rove.
- Stop citing Greg Palast as a documentary voice in our community that is based on legitimate reporting on the "500 Emails".
- Approach all claims of truth, even if they support your viewpoint, with a skeptical eye.
UPDATE for the Diligent Skeptic
How to see for yourself:
- Link to Greg Palast's Flickr page. Download.
- Link to the emails Greg Palast uses to generate Flickr image.
- Find "caging" (2 emails from Griffin way down the page)
- Download files "caging.xls" and caging1.xls
- Open caging.xls. See 1771 names and addresses.
- Open caging1.xls. See 1834 names and addresses.
- In the Caging1.xls file, select all data and "sort" using column E in ascending order.
- Look at the 28 homeless shelter addresses. 611 E Adams St.
- Look at the Flickr Image.
- Think. Reason.
- Look at the 50 Naval Air Station Addresses.
- Look at the Flickr Image.
- Think. Reason.
- Now consider the above statement by Palast's spokesman. "The really important, incriminating ones are, and have been released" and his link to the Flickr image.
- Now consider this Palast statement from his website.
And we dug in, decoding, and mapping the voters on what Griffin called, “Caging” lists, spreadsheets with 70,000 names of voters marked for challenge. Overwhelmingly, these were Black and Hispanic voters from Democratic precincts.
There are only 1834 names on the publicly available lists.
Potential explanations for differences in what you see and what you hear:
- Palast has another caging list he has not revealed to the public, or his spokesman. This contains 68,000 names.
- The lists we are looking at are all he has and he overstated the number of people.
Other journalism concerns:
- We don't know how he determined the Overwhelmingly "Black and Hispanic voters from Democratic precincts".
- He did not disclose the manipulations of the dataset to get the flickr image, nor why he did so (privacy may be one concern). NOTE: Palast indicated later that this sorting was done at his Publisher's office and he did not know it had been done]
The sum total evidence, IMHO, speaks to a lack of journalistic integrity at the least, and deception at the worst.
On the use of the word danger.
For the literalist reader, I am not suggesting that Greg Palast will kill you, harm you, or otherwise injure your person. Nor do I imply that any danger posed by blindly accepting and regurgitating Greg Palast's talking points on "500 emails" is as important as the real danger suffered by our Soldiers in Iraq, or the danger to the constitution and Democracy posed by Rove, Bush, Cheney, et al.
I believe it is dangerous to unquestionably accept and regurgitate any person's talking points.
It is dangerous to one's credibility to do this.
It is dangerous to one's knowledge and wisdom to do this.
It is dangerous for a group of individuals potential for action to: become mired or excessively focused on issues not strongly based in fact.
I present a case for Greg Palast making statements for which he has presented no evidence, or has presented evidence that has been manipulated without disclosure.
Greg Palast is aware of this Diary and is expected to comment soon (as of ~3pm central).
As of 5pm central, I gotta run. I am sorry to leave without seeing a response from Mr. Palast, but trust other readers share my concerns and will engage him appropriately. I will return tomorrow and will retract criticism if the issues I present are unfair or otherwise incorrect.
Greg Palast has commented (see final comment at bottom).
This update is from June 29, 2007. It includes a relook at this diary based on the ensuing investigation and comments from many bloggers throughout the blogosphere. I deleted some passages that were opinions presented in a way that was clearly disrespectful to Mr. Palast. This disrespect was childishly responsive to the perceived insult of the "brushoff" I felt I was given by Palast and his spokesman, but is not relevant to the central issues I presented.
More research has confirmed initial suspicions and revealed other inaccuracies in prior Palast reporting on caging, but importantly, that caging is indeed biased. Although he appears to be incorrect about many details, several of which were preliminarily outlined above, independent research has confirmed that Mr. Palast was generally correct that caging is biased against minorities. I'd like to restate that my effort was not undertaken with the purpose of discrediting or otherwise damaging Mr. Palast's reputation as an award-winning journalist on many issues important to Democratic principles and justice. Nor was it intended to minimize the importance of his primacy in bringing the issue of caging to public attention or to discredit the role he may have played in thwarting caging efforts in 2004. Greg Palast’s focus on the issue of caging indeed may help prevent unethical or illegal voter suppression in future elections- it certainly helped to get me interested in the issues. Because of his tenacity, Greg Palast is dangerous to the powers that be. However, because efforts to suppress voters by caging are serious and possibly illegal, and because the interest in the caging controversy extends to the highest levels of government, reporting on caging should be restricted to the facts, the truth, and be free of exaggeration or misinformation.
So In summary, I apologize for being disrespectful to Palast where it was unwarranted. I also apologize to readers that were offended by the aggressive tone of this post. But I do not retract my opinion that when reporting is not correct, and if the reporter making errors does not address or correct them, then the reporting and reporter are, in my opinion, dangerous.
Comments are closed on this story.