Friday, November 18, 2005

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

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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.

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