Friday, November 18, 2005

Media ignores GAO report on questionable electronic voting security

Media ignores GAO report on questionable electronic voting security

<>By Debra LoGuercio
McNaughton Newspapers

Copyright 2005

<> Everything that’s wrong with the mainstream media can be found on the Today Show. The least unwatchable of the three unwatchable morning “news” programs spent much of its airtime last week answering that mystifying question, “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?” Could I possibly care less about anything? Jennifer Aniston’s post-Brad life, maybe?

Here’s the truly mystifying question: Why was there virtually zero coverage of the Sept. 21 General Accountability Office’s report on election security? On that “news” program or any other, network or cable? Did print news do any better? A search of the Associated Press website comes up dry.

According to Brad Friedman of www.bradblog.com, which tracks the electronic voting fraud issue like a tenacious bloodhound, only columnist Arianna Huffington, Inside Bay Area and “The Daily Tar Heel” in North Carolina addressed the GAO report. Now add my name to that tiny list.

Does anyone else find this spectacularly alarming? We’re talking about the sanctity of our votes, here -- the very foundation of our democracy! Why is there a complete media blackout on this issue? What gives? To make the lack of coverage even more stupefying, the report is posted on the GAO website, www.gao.gov. You can even download a PDF of the entire 107-page report with a simple click of the mouse. If that’s too difficult, I’ll happily email it to anyone who wants it.

The stunning report confirms the findings of studies done on electronic voting machines by Compuware and RABA Technologies (which I wrote about previously): the machines can be tampered with in various ways. And these machines were used in the 2004 Presidential election.

Bear in mind that the GAO isn’t the tool of MoveOn.org or organized by Michael Moore. The GAO describes itself as “the investigative arm of Congress or the congressional watchdog… independent and nonpartisan.” The GAO works cooperatively with our government. This government. Yes, this Bush Administration. And it’s reporting significant problems with the electronic voting machines used in the 2004 Presidential elections. Isn’t this a tad more important than Lauer sipping lattes in Latvia?

The reports states, “Studies found (1) some electronic voting systems did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected; (2) it was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works so that the votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate; and (3) vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level… some of these concerns were reported to have caused local problems in federal elections -- resulting in the loss or miscount of votes -- and therefore merit attention.”

It also notes that election officials, computer security experts and citizen advocacy groups raised “significant concerns” about electronic voting security, including weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration and poor security management. It further states, “there is evidence that some of these concerns have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes. In light of the recently demonstrated voting system problems; the differing views on how widespread these problems are; and the complexity of assuring the accuracy, integrity, confidentiality, and availability of voting systems throughout their life cycles, the security and reliability concerns raised in recent reports merit the focused attention of federal, state, and local authorities responsible for election administration.”

Included on the lengthy list of actual incidents of electronic voting glitches is this: “A malfunction in a DRE system in Ohio caused the system to record approximately 3,900 votes too many for one presidential candidate in the 2004 general election.”

Remember Ohio’s role in the 2004 election?

To make this all even more surreal, Friedman noted that a joint bi-partisan press release issued by three Republican and three Democratic Congressmen -- Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) and Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Judiciary Committee Chair F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and Science Committee Chair Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) -- praised the GAO report findings.

So. The GAO report on potential electronic voting fraud is readily available. A bi-partisan Congressional committee has endorsed it. Why isn’t the mainstream media tearing into this like piranhas on a pig carcass?

Forget Matt Lauer. Where in the world is our news coverage?

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Electronic voting fraud is an American issue

Electronic voting fraud is an American issue

<>By DEBRA LoGUERCIO
©
McNaughton Newspapers 2005<>

So many topics, so little column space. And yet soooooo much email. In the media, we talk of a story having “legs,” meaning that it just keeps running. It seems the topic of electronic voting fraud is a centipede.

I’ve accumulated a mountain of studies and reports on Diebold’s electronic voting machines since I wrote the Deib-Throat columns, all pointing to the same conclusion: the software can be hacked -- undetected -- relatively easily by someone with the technology skills. I also received a “rebuttal” study done by the Caltech/Massachusetts Institute of Technology denying this conclusion, a sentiment echoed in a letter written by Diebold’s president. It’s become a case of software “he said, she said.” I’m not a software engineer. I won’t even pretend to understand the software analyses littering my desktop.

I’m also not a mathematician, so I won’t pretend to understand the detailed statistical study regarding the discrepancy between the exit polls and final tallies in the 2004 Presidential race. However, I understood this paragraph regarding that study just fine: “The findings of the analysis are telling and thought-provoking: In 40 states, the actual election results turned out to be more favourable to Mr. Bush than the exit polls. The probability of such discrepancies occurring by chance is less than one in 10 million.”

Why isn’t the national media all over this topic like stink on a monkey? Why are we hearing about Brad and Angelina rather than a story that may shatter the foundation of American democracy if it’s true? Maybe it’s just not sexy enough. Maybe it won’t move enough Viagra. Or maybe the grotesquely wealthy owners of the national media don't want this issue to come to light.

I personally emailed the Associated Press offices in New York and San Francisco about the volumes of feedback I received from readers since I first wrote about electronic voting fraud and Dieb-Throat, the Diebold whistleblower who’s surfaced at www.bradblog.com. I also called our local NBC affiliate, KCRA Channel 3. All I hear is crickets. Nobody wants to touch this with a 10-foot pole. Maybe that’s why people are frantically encouraging me to keep pushing the issue, as if they’re pinning their hopes on me. If that’s the case, we’re in big trouble. In the media world, I’m not even a small fish in a small pond. I’ll keep on splashing, but it’s hard for a guppy in a mud puddle to make waves.

However, it brings to mind a children’s story about Swimmy, a little fish that encouraged all the other little fish to swim together in the formation of one large fish. Working together, they survived the perilous waters among the sharks. That’s what all us little fish must do -- swim together. But who do we swim to? Will the federal government deal with this issue if our elected officials may have benefited from manipulating electronic votes? Fat chance the fox will cooperate after it’s already in the henhouse. It may be too late to do anything about what’s behind us. We must focus on what’s ahead -- the next election.

Yolo County’s clerk recorder, Freddie Oakley, informed me that (depending on which state) county or state officials choose our voting machines. She also says there’s a machine called a DRE that records a vote electronically, but produces a paper ballot on the spot that can be viewed through a glass in the voting booth and either approved or trashed by the voter. Those ballots are collected and can be hand-counted if necessary, just like the old-fashioned ones.

We must pressure our local officials to use these types of machines or the old-fashioned kind, not those used in the 2004 election. Beyond the local elections level, we must demand that our political parties, both Democrat AND Republican, delve into the electronic voting fraud issue -- past, present and future. We must rise above the partisanship and protect the sanctity of our votes. As Oakley told me, voting is “the liturgy of the church of Democracy.”

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is an American issue. We must love our country more than we love our political parties or America is doomed.

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No one disputes Dieb-Throat allegations

No one steps forward to dispute Deib-Throat allegations

<>By DEBRA LoGUERCIO

© McNaughton Newspapers 2005

<> When I wrote last week’s Dieb-Throat column about a whistleblower revealing security risks in Diebold touch-screen voting machines, I was deliberately setting myself up for a sucker punch. Go ahead, clean my clock. Make me see stars.

I awaited a deluge of feedback, ridiculing me for believing anything posted on a blog (www.bradblog.com), along with mountains of evidence showing that Diebold’s machines are perfectly reliable and completely tamper-free, and that our election results were never and could never be secretly altered. I desperately wanted some snarky software geek to explain this to me in one of those “Jane, you ignorant slut” diatribes.

Why beg for such abuse, particularly when it’s often offered freely without my prompting? Because I really, really, really wanted Dieb-Throat’s allegations to be untrue. Wistful dreamer that I am, I believe in the democratic process. I believe my vote counts. I believe your vote counts. We may not vote the same way, but the fact that we vote at all matters. It’s the very foundation of everything our country stands for. If our votes are meaningless, democracy is meaningless. Our country is meaningless. All you folks out there flying Old Glory on your front porches and SUV antennae, guess what -- if our votes don’t mean anything, then that flag’s nothing more than a piece of colored cloth.

So, there I sat waiting, hoping to be cold-cocked. I wasn’t. Not even a slap. Nor a pinch. Does this mean the Dieb-Throat column was met with reader apathy? Did everyone just skip ahead to the crossword puzzle? Far from it. I got mail. Tons. More mail than my homicidal lesbian bunny ever generated. And here’s the thing. These weren’t just simple “you go, girl” pats on the back. I received lengthy, detailed email from obviously well-educated people with computer software expertise, all extremely disturbed by the potential for voter fraud that existed in Diebold voting machines during the 2004 presidential election, and as far as anyone knows, still does.

Among the things forwarded to me was a 255-page PDF of a voting machine security analysis prepared by Compuware for the state of Ohio in January 2004. There’s a thorough explanation of how the studies were conducted and a blow-by-blow analysis of Diebold security risks. The analysis reveals several ways to alter votes and, in particular, issues concern over the Compuware team’s ability to guess the PIN numbers for Diebold’s voting cards (with which you can change tallies) in less than two minutes.

Their summary: “During the course of our study, Compuware has identified several significant security issues, which left unmitigated would provide an opportunity for an attacker to disrupt the election process or throw the election results into question.”

Also forwarded to me was a RABA Technologies study conducted for the state of Maryland in 2003. Their analysis of the so-called “Smart Cards” (which are used in the voting process) was even more disturbing: “Initial guesses on the team’s part provided instant access to the card’s contents. Given access to the cards’ contents, it became an easy matter to duplicate them, to change a voter card to a supervisor card (and vice versa) and to reinitialize a voter card so that it could be used to vote multiple times.” With a Diebold supervisor card, you see, you can change vote tallies.

Can it be any worse? Oh yes, my friends, it can. If votes are changed electronically, it’s completely undetectable. Can it get still worse? Infinitely. The federal government knew about this prior to the 2004 election. And did nothing.

In a Sacramento Bee article written by Yolo County Clerk/Recorder Freddie Oakley, she notes: “These machines are programmed with computer code far beyond the technical knowledge possessed by ourselves or by any voting official we know… computer code that is indeed secret, its secrecy closely guarded as the proprietary intellectual property of the machines’ manufacturers.”

She further notes Diebold president Walden O’Dell’s statement in a 2004 fund-raising letter to Ohio Republicans, “I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.”

Remember which state was the make-it-or-break-it state in the 2004 presidential election? And also used Diebold machines?

Yeah.

America -- 1776-2004. R.I.P.

###

Dieb-Throat blows whistle on electronic voting machine security risks

Dieb-Throat blows whistle on voting machine security risks

By DEBRA LoGUERCIO
McNaughton Newspapers

© 2005

<>
I have a network of reconnaissance readers out there, nosing around this website and that, who forward me all sorts of interesting tidbits. Some are merely humorous, like the one about Pat Robertson’s claim that Hurricane Katrina resulted from God’s wrath over the selection of lesbian comedienne Ellen Degeneres as this year’s Emmy Awards host.

Degeneres is a New Orleans native, ergo, the obvious connection. In a follow-up story, Robertson denied linking Degeneres to Katrina, and said his actual statement was that God blasted New Orleans because it’s the heart of jazz music and, “as every Christian knows, jazz music is sinful and lures people into eternal damnation.”

Now, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. It wouldn’t be the first time Robertson blathered some such lunacy, as evidenced by his recent call to assassinate Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and, my personal favorite, Robertson’s quote on the Equal Rights Amendment: “It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” (I loved that one so much, it’s taped to our wall at the office.)

Surely this latest gaffe would officially toss Robertson onto the wing-nut pile once and for all, but sadly, it was a clever hoax. A search of that party-pooper website www.snopes.com, where all too-good-to-be-true stories go to die, exposed the Robertson story as wry political humor, like that of the Borowitz Report and The Onion. Ah well, it was great while it lasted.

Another item that popped into my email box wasn’t funny at all, containing a link to a story about a Diebold whistleblower dubbed Dieb-Throat. Diebold, as we will recall, is the company that makes touch-screen voting machines, the very ones used in the 2004 Presidential election. Diebold was also sued by the state of California over problems with the machines, for which it settled for $2.6 million. Ouch.

Now, the story was posted on a blog (ongoing online commentaries by — harumph — non-professionals), so I was a bit skeptical. Bloggers are accountable to no one, and anyone can start a blog about anything without any credentials whatsoever. They can be pure horse manure or raw unfiltered truth. You read it, you decide. That said, I clicked on the link and read the blog anyway, along with two follow-up blogs.

In a nutshell, Dieb-Throat says a security risk in Diebold’s machines was known to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, prior to the 2004 election. US-CERT even posted the risk on their website, which is linked to this blog. The security risk allows an unauthorized person or hacker to change vote tallies by remote access using a modem. Even more chilling, it is undetectable. Government officials knew this and they looked the other way.

Dieb-Throat doesn’t assert that the 2004 election results were actually tampered with, nor does he say that they weren’t. But they could’ve been. We’ll never know. Remember when the early exit polls showed John Kerry winning handily, and later on the results didn’t match? Hmmm.

Other troubling stories can be found about Diebold’s machines failing while in use, such as one instance where the machines froze during heavy activity and votes were lost. However, aside from blogs, there’s relatively little hard news about Diebold security risks or Dieb-Throat online. More pointedly, I found nothing discrediting Dieb-Throat at all. However, I did find some interesting side-stories. Today, six days after that Sept. 15 post on www.bradblog.com, Diebold CEO Eric Evans resigned, according to a well-hidden story at www.stockhouse.com. The same day, Diebold’s stock plummeted 15.55 percent. On the other hand, lots of stocks tanked on Sept. 21. Coincidence or evidence?

What I really want to know is if Dieb-Throat’s story is true. I’d like to say I found a Snopes expose tearing it to shreds. I did not. Read the blog yourself at www.bradblog.com/archives/00001838.htm. If someone can refute the Dieb-Throat story and www.bradblog.com posts, please do. Because if they’re true, our votes and elections are meaningless. Which means the very foundation of American democracy is meaningless. Which means our country as we know it is dead.