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On Electronic Voting: We Were Always Right, They Were Always Wrong...

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The Corporate Media Finally Begins to Notice

On November 20, 2004, in an article about those of us concerned about what happened in the Presidential Election, the New York Times wrote that such concerns were little more than "the conspiracy theories of leftwing bloggers."

What a difference a year and a half makes.

In this morning's NY Times we find this (actually, understated) headline, "New Fears of Security Risks in Electronic Voting Systems".

The "fears," of course, aren't "new" at all. But if that's what the NYTimes needs to do to save face, we're happy to look the other direction and applaud them for finally jumping in to cover what they should have been covering for the last two years. Every damned day.

The article covers the latest -- and most stunning -- security breach yet discovered in electronic voting machines. This time, it's a "feature" that Diebold has implemented on every touch-screen voting machine in the country. A "feature" to make it easier for them (and apparently every fraudster and/or partisan and/or terrorist in the world) to change the operating software in about one minute's time with nobody noticing and with no password necessary.

And there are no simple ways to correct the problem.

Pennsylvania, who has their primary election upcoming next Tuesday, has now sent out an emergency notice, warning all elections officials to lock down and sequester all Diebold touch-screen voting machines in the state as they scramble to figure out what the hell to do about the problem and how they might "mitigate" the national security risk posed by the heretofore undisclosed "feature" built in to the systems by Diebold, Inc.

"It's the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system," Michael Shamos, the computer scientist from Carnegie Mellon University who is responsible for testing these machines for the state of Pennsylvania told the NY Times in today's story.

Shamos, by the way, has been a long time proponent of electronic voting. So he is hardly a "leftwing blogger" or "conspiracy theorist."

To be clear, the problem is not a "glitch", as it's been described in several articles now covering the issue. You'll see that word over and over in media coverage, as Diebold and elections officials try and minimize what's going on here.

This is a deliberate security vulnerability built into the system. And because there is nobody -- and I mean nobody -- at the State or Federal government level overseeing and watching out for such problems, it was finally only discovered recently by a team of computer security experts who were allowed to examine a few of these Diebold touch-screen systems in Emery County, UT.

The thanks received by Bruce Funk, the brave 23-year elected county clerk of Emery County who allowed the experts to independently examine the machines so this stunning discovery could be made? He's now being pushed out of his job by Utah state officials.

Oh, and those same state officials apparently didn't bother to tell anybody else in the country about the problems discovered after they were warned about it right away back in March of this year. So Ohio, and others, held their primary elections this year with touch-screen systems with this huge security flaw intact -- in the front door, not even the back! -- which could allow any sort of chicanery to the system software. Chicanery that might well never be discovered. Or so all the experts warn us.

The BRAD BLOG helped break this story last Friday with exclusive details about this newest stunning security breach in an article headlined "NEWLY DISCOVERED DIEBOLD THREAT DESCRIBED AS 'MAJOR NATIONAL SECURITY RISK'!".

It was just the latest (at the time) in our two year long series of articles covering security flaw after security flaw, whistleblower after whistleblower, lawsuit after lawsuit, electoral meltdown after electoral meltdown, voting machine vendor and election official lie after lie, in our continuing attempt to bang the drum to help make the American public understand exactly what the hell is going on here -- and that our Electoral Democracy is at stake and, indeed, in grave danger.

Few, including Huffington Post, most of the progressive blogosphere, the corporate mainstream media, and certainly the national Democratic Party having been paying attention.

Finally, today, we're beginning to see stories on this. From AP, NY Times, even the rightwing Wall Street Journal covered some of these issues for the first time today (a pretty slanted article, as expected -- and one comment, that "no cases have emerged proving that a hacker or an insider has or could electronically manipulate the vote" is just patently and demonstrably and flat out wrong -- but hey, at least they're finally taking notice!)

Since the media has been out to lunch for so long on this issue, and might hopefully soon play catch-up, I was asked by WaPo's Dan Froomkin to create a list of questions that media types might ask of Elections Officials as this whole disastrous process continues to meltdown. Dan is the Deputy Editor of the "Watchdog" website for Harvard University's Nieman Foundation of Journalism. I was honored and happy to oblige. The link to that just posted article, along with some of the questions that didn't make Dan's final cut can be found right here.

We invite all media folks (and other concerned citizen patriots) who give a damn about what's going on to review those questions, which include tons of background info, clearly written, to help bring you somewhat up to speed on what you've missed...while you were out.

For those -- on any side of the aisle -- who'd still like to keep their head in the sand about these problems, as we work through one disastrous primary election after another on our way towards Train Wreck 2006 (Election Day), I'll leave you with two more comments from E-Voting Security Specialists and Computer Scientists as quoted in today's Times article [emphasis added for the reality-impaired]:

"This is the barn door being wide open, while people were arguing over the lock on the front door," said Douglas W. Jones, a professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, a state where the primary is June 6.

...

Aviel Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, did the first in-depth analysis of the security flaws in the source code for Diebold touch-screen machines in 2003. After studying the latest problem, he said: "I almost had a heart attack. The implications of this are pretty astounding."

And to those who have noticed all along, and who have given a damn, thank you. Please keep making noise. We've been right on the facts all along. They've been wrong. But they still have the money and the bully-pulpit to counter those facts with their demonstrable lies. All we have is the truth. Please continue to spread it!

For the record, just in case some of you might still hope to marginalize all of this as the "conspiracy theories of leftwing bloggers," check this chain of events since last Friday:

BRAD BLOG, 5/5/06:

"NEWLY DISCOVERED DIEBOLD THREAT DESCRIBED AS 'MAJOR NATIONAL SECURITY RISK'!"

Oakland Tribune, 5/10/06:

"Voting glitch said to be 'dangerous'"

Associated Press, 5/10/06:

"3 states issue directives to relieve security flaw in e-voting"

Last line of AP's article, filed five days after mine at BRAD BLOG: "The story was reported earlier by the Oakland Tribune."

Sigh...You know us "leftie blogger conspiracy theorists"...always the bridesmaid...

Brad Friedman is the creator and editor-in-chief of BradBlog.com and speaks around the country, on radio, TV and in person, about issues concerning our quickly crumbling Electoral System in 2006.