Report: Electronic Voting Extremely Insecure

Last year, the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law set up a task force comprised of “internationally renowned government, academic, and private-sector scientists, voting machine experts and security professionals” to give a thorough once- (or twice-) over to electronic voting machines so much of the country is adopting, to see if they’re vulnerable to attack or manipulation. The report is in (PDF file – right-click and “Save As…”) and the answer is, of course they can be broken into and manipulated.

The Brennan Center delivered a press release yesterday, along with an Executive Summary (also a PDF file) on the group’s findings. There’s also a PDF available that shows who took part in the study.

The group concluded that “all three of the nation’s most commonly purchased electronic voting systems are vulnerable to software attacks that could threaten the integrity of a state or national election.” Not surprising, since the CEO of one of those companies virtually guaranteed that he would deliver Ohio’s electoral votes to George W. Bush. Guess he’d be in a position to know how to do that, eh?

Here’s a section of the press release:

The Task Force surveyed hundreds of election officials around the country; categorized over 120 security threats; and evaluated countermeasures for repelling attacks. The study examined each of the three most commonly purchased electronic voting systems: electronic machines (“DREs”) with — and without — a voter verified paper trail, and precinct-counted optical scan systems (“PCOS”). The report, The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World, is the first-ever systematic analysis of security vulnerabilities in each of these systems. The report’s findings include:

  • All of the most commonly purchased electronic voting systems have significant security and reliability vulnerabilities. All three systems are equally vulnerable to an attack involving the insertion of corrupt software or other software attack programs designed to take over a voting machine.
  • Automatic audits, done randomly and transparently, are necessary if paper records are to enhance security. The report called into question basic assumptions of many election officials by finding that the systems in 14 states using voter-verified paper records but doing so without requiring automatic audits are of “questionable security value.”
  • Wireless components on voting machines are particularly vulnerable to attack. The report finds that machines with wireless components could be attacked by “virtually any member of the public with some knowledge of software and a simple device with wireless capabilities, such as a PDA.”
  • The vast majority of states have not implemented election procedures or countermeasures to detect a software attack even though the most troubling vulnerabilities of each system can be substantially remedied.

It’s high time we all — Democrats and Republicans alike — demand of our elected officials that steps be taken to secure these machines and provide a paper trail. There’s no reason that a company like Diebold, whose ATMs can process millions of transactions every day with to-the-penny accuracy (and provide a transaction slip afterward), should be allowed to deliver voting machines that are vulnerable to hacking and manipulation to precincts all over the US. No reason at all. There is also no reason why any fair-minded Democrat or Republican would be opposed to implementing the suggestions given by the task force. It’s time we really know who we, as a society, are electing to represent us, free of even the hint of voting irregularities or corruption.

Of course, the Republicans have no motivation for putting any of these issues to the House floor, since they’re so busy discussing more important issues like flag burning, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, voting themselves pay raises while killing iwhat would’ve been the first increase in the minimum wage in almost ten years, and getting rid of the Paris Hilton tax which would affect less than one third of one percent of US familes (actually, .27%) and cost the US Treasury roughly one trillion dollars over the first ten years of the repeal.

Nice to know the Republicans have their priorities.

Limbaugh Can’t Stop Illegal Drug Use

Just after I pose a question on which aspect of our private lives the US Government will spy on next, my answer arrives, courtesy of none other than the hypocritical drug addict himself, Rush Limbaugh! Medical records! Medical records on its citizens could be the next thing the Government starts illegally snagging from insurance providers, doctor’s offices, or elsewhere!

So how did Rush give me this idea? Well, if you listen to Rush’s radio show, it certainly seems like he could care less about the rights of US citizens to have any sense of privacy. He has claimed that the government’s domestic spying program is just fine with him according to this transcript of his show by Media Matters, and this one as well.

And although I can’t be sure, my semi-educated guess would be that he doesn’t blame George W. Bush or his administration for sweeping up massive amounts of financial records on US Citizens, but rather that he blames the New York Times for reporting it. I only guess this because he has seldom failed to fall in line behind the neo-con agenda.

So quite odd it is, then, that Limbaugh uses his own privacy as a defense for getting snagged at Palm Beach International Airport on his way home from the Dominican Republic with an illegal prescription bottle of Viagra (illegal because the prescription isn’t his). Instead, it is Rush’s supposed doctor whose name appears on the bottle. Roy Black, Limbaugh’s attorney, said it was “labeled as being issued to the physician rather than Mr. Limbaugh for privacy purposes.” Hmmm… I guess Rush only cares about his own privacy. After all, he’s not a terrorist, right? So why should his privacy be invaded?

As for putting his doctor’s name on the bottle to preserve Rush’s privacy, all I can say is wow! I never knew you could do that! Next time I need some kind of potentially embarrassing medication that I’d prefer the chemist not know is for me, I can just have my doctor make the prescription out for himself and then get it filled for my use?

Um, no. As far as I know, filling a legal prescription doesn’t work like that. In fact, this latest drug snafu on the part of Limbaugh potentially threatens a deal he made with the Palm Beach County DA that he would stay clean of all drug-related offenses for the next 18 months.

According to that E! Online story, “Limbaugh, meanwhile, joked about the arrest on his radio show Tuesday. He told listeners he got the pills from the Clinton library, saying he was told they were blue M&Ms.”

Classy, Rush… Real classy…

Why is it so hard for you to steer clear of the evil drugs, Rush? And what the hell were you doing in the Dominican Republic with a bottle full of Viagra? I’ll leave the speculating to other blogs.

What Will They Spy On Next?

So they have our phone records, and now our bank accounts, according to some twenty employees of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). There has been a request by the Justice Department made to Microsoft, Google, and others, to track all internet usage to their sites for two years, and there are plans to make AT&T, Verizon and Comcast (among other ISPs) to do the same. What is there left to spy on? I’m sure they’ll find something.

So our bank records, eh? You want a history of all our transactions? What, like contributions to political parties? Stuff like that? Sure, that might not be what you’re going after exactly, but in the grand sweep, you got it, right? That and our phone records. And funny how Congress as a body knew so little about this. Sure some of them knew, but I thought Congress as a whole has to approve these sorts of things? Something about checks and balances and guards against abuse of power?

George W. Bush, of course, was terribly upset that this news about financial spying on US citizens was released. According to Bush, “what we did was fully authorized under the law. And the disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We’re at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America.”

White House Press Secretary, Tony Snow, also chimed in, noting that “nobody is going to deny First Amendment rights. But The New York Times and other news organizations ought to think long and hard about whether a public’s right to know, in some cases, might overwrite somebody’s right to live, and whether, in fact, the publications of these could place in jeopardy the safety of fellow Americans.”

Hmmm… You mean like when a sitting president gives the “all-OK” to release the name of a covert CIA operative who’s involved in the investigation into Iraq’s supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction?

The reaction to the NY Times article was, in itself, SWIFT, especially from all the GOP criminals, who were not upset at “Big Government” for once again being caught spying on its own citizens, not upset at the continual erosion of public citizens’ privacy. No, they’re all out to kill the messenger! Our own Peter King of Long Island called the NY Times’ article “absolutely disgraceful” and “treasonous.” Funny, that’s just how I usually describe Bush and his administration — “Disgraceful and Treasonous.”

But I think the real problem here is that the right-wingers are upset about the timing of the news release. You see, Bush was apparently riding on a high-30s approval rating since the killing of Zarqawi and… well, let’s let John McIntyre of explain it in today’s piece of drivel: “President Bush was already looking better after two weeks of positive news (holding CA-50, killing Zarqawi, Rove cleared, a new government in Iraq) before the New York Times irresponsibly disclosed details of a top secret program aimed at protecting the nation from future terrorist attacks.”

Awwww… Did the Times run Bush’s party? Just when he starts to gain some traction, another one of his criminal activities sees the light of day. I am so sad.

Why can’t we all let Bush, Cheney, and all the other criminals in this administration just trample our Constitutional rights in PEACE?

It’s Offical from DOD – No WMDs Found

Can Sean Hannity and Rick Santorum and all the others who continue to claim that Weapons of Mass Destruction were found in Iraq now just stop perpetuating that lie? NewsHounds has the story about how last night on Hannity and Colmes, Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) were waving around a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, claiming that the United States had found 500 chemical weapons of mass destruction and were using that news as a justification for the Iraq invasion and occupation. Apparently, FOX News is standing behind Santorum’s claim, even though these are definitely not the supposed WMD’s that Rumsfeld & Co. claimed were there (and they knew where these WMDs were, remember). Interestingly enough, the article at FOX also quotes a senior Defense Department official who said that the chemical weapons were not in useable conditions.

“This does not reflect a capacity that was built up after 1991,” the official said, adding the munitions “are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this country went to war.”

When challenged with this quote by Alan Colmes, Santorum, apparently unfazed, shot back, “I’d like to know who at the Defense Department said that,” and later repeated this question. He just doesn’t get it, does he? Fortunately for the American public, he’s not quite as slick as Hannity and Limbaugh at cherrypicking lines from news reports to use in extremely manipulative and misleading ways.

Here’s a bit more from the FOX News article:

Santorum pointed out that during Wednesday’s debate, several Senate Democrats said that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, a claim, he said, that the declassified document proves is untrue.

“This is an incredibly ??? in my mind ??? significant finding. The idea that, as my colleagues have repeatedly said in this debate on the other side of the aisle, that there are no weapons of mass destruction, is in fact false,” he said.

As a result of this new information, under the aegis of his chairmanship, Hoekstra said he is going to ask for more reporting by the various intelligence agencies about weapons of mass destruction.

That last bit kills me… “As a result of this new information, I’m going to ask for more reporting by the various intelligence agencies about weapons of mass destruction.”

Hoekstra: (knocks on door at CIA)
Potentially anonymous CIA Agent: (door creaks open) Um, yeah? Can I help you?
Hoekstra: I have a report here with recently declassified information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Posibbly anonymous CIA Agent: OK, yeah, I’ve seen that. What about it?
Hoekstra: I’d like to ask for more reporting about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
CIA Agent whose name could be leaked any day: (stares blankly)
Hoekstra: Hello?
CIA Agent whose name could, even now, be making the rounds at the White House: yeah, i’m listening… Um, what was that again?
Hoekstra: I want to know more about these weapons of mass destruction that are mentioned here.
CIA Agent whose name could be in Dick Cheney’s lips as I type this: Did you actually read the report?
Hoekstra: I skimmed it.
Irritated CIA Agent whose name could be in Dick Cheney’s lips as I type this: OK, well why don’t you go back to your… (looks around) … wherever it was you came from and read the whole thing, and really, that’s all there is to know.
Hoekstra: How come only FOX News has the courage to be reporting that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq?
Irritated CIA Agent whose name may be known by the NY Times right now: Um, because if you’ll read the report, the only WMDs that were found were the ones Rummy gave Saddam in the 80s and they were all accounted for in 1991 when they were basically destroyed?
Hoekstra: You liberal little cherrypicking–
Irritated CIA Agent whose name may be on the presses at the NY Times at this very moment: Wait a minute… why are you asking me this anyway? This is a Department of Defense report… Why don’t you go bug them??!
Hoekstra: (pause, blank stare)
Irritated CIA Agent whose is probably outed now: (waiting)
Hoekstra: OK… (walks off)

I have been waiting for a transcript from the show to be available on the Hannity and Colmes website, but it is not forthcoming. Also, Sean Hannity called in sick to his show today. NewsHounds notes that “Almost the entire hour of Hannity & Colmes last night (6/21/06) was devoted to this ‘discovery’ despite the fact that FOX News’ own Jim Angle had already reported that the Bush administration said the weapons were not in useable condition. Hmm… When are Weapons of Mass Destruction not really Weapons of Mass Destruction? Perhaps when they can’t be used to kill anyone? Santorum and Hannity were clearly lying and misleading the Hannity and Colmes audience by claiming that “WE FOUND THEM!!!”

This article at Think Progress points out the following statement from the Department of Defense:

While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible Indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter, a policy ISG attributes to Baghdad’s desire to see sanctions lifted, or rendered ineffectual, or its fear of force against it should WMD be discovered.

So here we have a supposed “news” host and two guests who are relying on some elusive document to claim that WMDs did really exist in Iraq, and they’re the ones for which we went to war, and we have a network standing behind this “document” and the people (Hannity and Santorum) reporting the news.

All this only a couple days after Dan Rather was pushed out of CBS for reporting a story using documents that were later discovered to be forgeries. Nevermind that in that case, at least the content of the doucments was actually accurate.

Rush Lies Again, Misdirects Outrage

Over at Crooks And Liars, there’s a piece that really can’t go without some comment. According to their transcript, Rush, apparently in some kind of drug-induced tirade, spouted the following:

Rush: “I got an email here. “(Uh) Rush, (uh) now that two of our own have been tortured and murdered by the terrorists in Iraq, will the Left say that they deserved it? I’m so sick of our cut-and-run liberals. Keep up your great work.” Bob C. from Roanoke, Virginia. “PS, I love the way you do the program on the Little Kim (?)” (laughs) I read…no I added that! He didn’t, he didn’t put that in there. (laughs) You know, it-it’s-I-uh…I gotta tell ya, I-I-I perused the liberal, kook blogs today, and they are happy that these two soldiers got tortured. They’re saying, “Good riddance. Hope Rumsfeld and whoever sleep well tonight.”

I’ve taken some time to go searching through a lot of liberal blogs, did some searching on Google, etc. and damned if I can’t find one site that says anything like this. I’m thinking if Rush is “funny” enough to make up the last part of that letter, what’s to stop him from making up the whole letter entirely? In fact, I think it won’t be long before we start seeing letters and phone calls from so-called “liberals” on FOX News shows and right-wing radio that say any manner of bad things just to give us all a bad name.

At the end of the day, I can’t believe that any liberal would say anything even remotely similar to “good riddance” when it comes to our troops in Iraq. Yeah, we all hate our troops so much that we want them to come home immediately. Terrible, right? How dare we have that much disdain for our troops!

What makes this all the more appalling is the fact that there is no outrage on the part of Rush over the fact that these two poor men — Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston and Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore. — were, according to this story in the Washinton Post, left alone in an “insurgent hotbed” that was known as one of the most dangerous areas of Iraq with only one armored Humvee to guard them.

Where is the outrage over this? These men were brutally tortured and beheaded, and Rush is claiming that us liberals are saying, “good riddance?” Lies. Just pure lies. Lies and hatred. Sort of also refutes Ann Coulter’s claim that you never see conservatives using someone’s tragedy to further an agenda. So much seething hatred for liberals. It’s a wonder these people can sleep at night… Oh, I forgot… Some of them need lots and lots of drugs to sleep.

Even Bill Kristol, he of the extreme neo-con persuasion, recently noted that liberals are “less mean” than conservatives. Imagine that! A neo-con finally realizing what we liberals have known all along!

Good Reason for Low Approval Ratings

If you want to know why Congress has such low approval ratings, if you want to know why people get so mad at Washington, if you want to know why I’m about to start calling my local representatives and start screaming in a few minutes, here is the reason.

Last Tuesday, the House approved a $3300 pay raise for themselves, bringing their annual salaries to $168,500. And you want to know why so many of them are out of touch with the average American? There you have it, right there. USA Today notes that this is the seventh straight cost-of-living raise for Representatives in the House and Senate. It also notes that this 2% raise also applies to the office of the Vice President and Supreme Court Justices.

So OK, bad enough at a time when so many middle-class Americans are struggling to “put food on their family.”

But then guess what happens today? The Democrats put forth a proposal that would raise the minimum wage (which has not been raised in almost TEN YEARS) from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 by January 1, 2009, and it is defeated by Senate Republicans. We’re talking about a raise from $10,572 to $15,080 — both BEFORE taxes are taken out. We’re talking $206 per week to $290 per week — pre-tax.

Can you imagine how much that extra $50-60 per week after taxes would help someone at the very bottom of the earnings scale? Might help offset the increase in gas prices, might help offset the increase in electricity because of the higher fuel costs (our energy bill has virtually doubled due to the LIPA-imposed “Fuel Increase Surcharge” at the end of each bill). Might help them pay for a doctor visit before they get REALLY sick because they don’t have health insurance?

I remember what it was like to bring home around $200 a week. I remember what it was like having to look through my jacket pockets for an extra dollar to put gasoline in the car. I know what a difference that first raise made. It meant maybe an extra $30 per week, but it was that much more breathing room.

As Ted Kennedy noted, not all people who make minimum wage are kids. They are teaching assistants, home health aides, office building maintenance workers, etc. These people who are so vital to our country and who work a full forty hours per week are living below the poverty level unless they have more than one job or have two incomes.

It is immoral to vote yourself a raise and then deny one to the people whom you represent.