Monday, September 19, 2005

Deibolds role in rigged voting

Background: Following the fiasco finish to the 2000 U.S. presidential elections (effectively dramatized by Michael Moore) there was major hue and cry to "fix" the election system. I guess some people took "fix" a different way than the people meant them to take it. In the 2004 election we had the rise of "voting machines" which were supposed to be easier than the punch card system. The spin put forward was the 2000 fiasco was due to confusion on the voters part, with the punch card ballots being problematic to use. Supposedly having a touch screen is easier.

While punch cards are straight out of the 1930's in terms of technological prowess, I think the use of voting machines ought to be rethought. As a computer professional I know damn well that digitally recorded information is very changable, and as a U.S. citizen I dearly want my vote to be properly recorded and counted.

Digitally recorded votes are susceptible to being untraceably changed, with the only safeguard being the security of the computers used to take votes, transfer votes, and process votes.

One of the stories that emerged in 2004 is at ... it concerns relative insecurity of the dominant voting machine, built by Diebold. For example, the Diebold CEO was also highly involved with the Bush campaign and was recorded boasting that Bush would win the 2004 election. Considering the closeness of that election, it's very "interesting" for him to have made such a boast.

One of the things did in 2004 was locate and publish a bunch of Diebold internal memos detailing known security problems with their voting machines, how they had circumvented the qualification processes which were meant to properly certify the machines for use in elections, etc.

Now we have "The Brad Blog" with this stunning exclusive story: EXCLUSIVE! * A DIEBOLD INSIDER SPEAKS! DIEB-THROAT : 'Diebold System One of Greatest Threats Democracy Has Ever Known' Identifies U.S. Homeland Security 'Cyber Alert' Prior to '04 Election Warning Votes Can be 'Modified Remotely' via 'Undocumented Backdoor' in Central Tabulator Software!

Basically what we have here is an insider anonymously contacting this Brad fellow. Apparently the insider is fairly high level, having represented Diebold to the public at times. He tells that certain problems are well known within the company, but that there is a top-down demand for silence on these problems. The people who have spoken up about it have been "isolated".

The problem cited is "remote access" to the GEMS central tabulator machines. Each one has a modem in it which, if connected to a phone line, allows remote access to the tabulator machine. Further the security on the remote access port is weak enough that the US-CERT (a cyber-security team) has rated it a "medium" risk, which is pretty damn flimsy. Hence, modifying the election on a broad scale wouldn't require cooperation from a large team, but could involve a small team who goes around accessing tabulator machines remotely and changing the election results.

It's easy to see in this the typical scared corporates trying to cover up a problem 'lest it hurt the sales figures which directly ties to the stock price. This reaction has happened over and over in various corporate-connected disasters throughout the ages. For example, take tobacco and smoking. For decades, while people were continuing to die from smoking tobacco, the people being told there wasn't any proof connecting tobacco smoking with lung cancer, but all along the tobacco companies knew there was a connection. Their denials were directly tied to preserving sales, because if they told the truth their sales probably would have plummeted. Well, considering what's happened now that we know that tobacco smoking causes lung cancer ... their sales might not have plummeted as badly as they feared.

In any case, the Brad Blog guy got to talk with a Diebold PR guy who denied everything and provided a whitewashing study that supposedly proves the Diebold machines helps with greater accuracy in the elections.

I don't care if their machines helped in a few ways ... so long as they cannot be independantly validated, so long as they're provided under veils of corporate secrecy and whitewashing, so long as there's no paper trail allowing truly independant validation of the election results, etc, then we cannot trust our elections. If we cannot trust our elections, then how can we trust that the politicians are going to be held accountable to us???

In the U.S. the politicians are theoretically supposed to serve us. Obviously in recent years this theory has been demolished. But that's part of the social contract forming the bedrock of this country. We the people need to take our country back.