From Glenn Zelniker:
Sorry for the bulk email, but I thought this urgent enough that I wanted to quickly get it into as many hands as possible. I and many others are concerned that there might be ulterior motives (imagine that!) for Alice Fisher’s appointment as the prosecutor of record in the Abramoff case. You might recall that there were some questions about Fisher and interrogation tactics at Guantamo — questions that stalled her nomination. But you might not recall that there were also questions about her connections to Tom DeLay. I’m not sure if anyone noticed that Fisher’s law firm, Latham & Watkins, defended Bill Frist’s family’s HCA in their massive fraud suit. Granted, it’s a big firm and Fisher was but one of many partners. But between the lack of prosecutorial experience and the ties to DeLay and possibly to Frist, we should be asking if Fisher is an appropriate prosecutor for this case, don’t you think?
‘Alice S. Fisher was appointed by President George W. Bush in a recess appointment August 31, 2005…’
‘Vermont Senator Patrick J. Leahy said in his May 12, 2005, statement. “I am somewhat concerned, however, that Ms. Fisher is nominated for one of the most visible prosecutorial positions in the country without ever having prosecuted a case, and she brings to the position minimal trial experience in any context,” he said.’
‘Leahy was also concerned about “reports that she has had ties to Congressman Tom DeLay’s defense team” and “also [wanted] to know what steps she [intended] to take to avoid a conflict of interest in the Department’s investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and possibly Mr. DeLay.”‘
‘Fisher, then working at the law firm of Latham & Watkins in Washington, where she was a partner, was awaiting Senate confirmation of her nomination.’
From Bo Lipari:
There will be a voting machine demonstration in Rochester tomorrow, January 5 from 12 Noon to 6PM. In addition to several DREs, word is that ES&S will be demonstrating for the first time a full face ballot compatible optical scanner and ballot marking device.
Interested citizens from Western NY should attend this demonstration if possible.
Before attending, please see our machine demonstration guidelines page here:
Read the piece “How to be Pro-Active at Voting Machine Demonstrations”:
And be prepared to ask the vendors questions about their machines. A good list can be found and printed here:
Please attend the demonstration if you can. Details for the machine demo in Monroe County are below.
Also, below you’ll find an article published today in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, by two members of our Monroe County Every Vote Counts Coalition. The article can also be found online here:
How they got caught: After lobbyist broke off engagement, ex-fiancee told FBI of his
01/03/2006 @ 7:03 amFiled by Jason Leopold
Michael Scanlon found himself at the center of one of the biggest political scandals in Washington history as a result of cheating and lying-but not the type involving the numerous clients he was paid to lobby Congress for, former coworkers and friends of his ex-fiancee say.
Scanlon was implicated in the Abramoff scandal by his former thirtysomething fiancee, Emily J. Miller, whom he met in the late 1990s while working as communications director for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), three former associates who worked with Scanlon at DeLay’s office said. Colleagues say Miller went to the FBI after Scanlon broke off their engagement and announced his intention to marry another woman.
Miller did not return a call seeking comment. Scanlon’s attorney, Stephen Braga, did not respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment. Former coworkers of Scanlon and Miller at DeLay’s office and of Miller at the State Department would speak only under condition of anonymity, saying they did not want to be called as witnesses in a trial.
That is, the Committee to “Re-elect” the Potentate.
From Lisa S.:
Here’s a start:
MARIANA ISLANDS – BUSH SUPPORTED ABRAMOFF CLIENT INTERESTS, RECEIVED DONATIONS: Abramoff was hired by the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association and the Northern Mariana Islands to “stop legislation aimed at cracking down on sweatshops and sex shops in the American territory.” In 1997, “Abramoff charged the Marianas for getting then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush to write a letter expressing support for the Pacific territory’s school choice proposal, his billing records show. Å Abramoff and his wife each gave $5,000 to Bush’s 2000 recount fund and the maximum $1,000 to his 2000 campaign. By mid-2003, Abramoff had raised at least $100,000 for Bush’s re-election campaign, becoming one of Bush’s famed ‘pioneers.’ Å Money also flowed from the Marianas to Bush’s re-election campaign: It took in at least $36,000 from island donors, much of it from members of the Tan family, whose clothing factories were a routine stop for lawmakers and their aides visiting the islands on Abramoff-organized trips.” [ABC, 4/6/05; AP, 5/7/05]
Plea Bargain Settles One of Two Fraud Cases Against Lobbyist
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 3, 2006; 1:06 PM
Former high-powered lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty today to three felony charges in a deal with federal prosecutors that helps clear the way for his testimony about members of Congress and congressional staffers in a wide-ranging political corruption investigation.
The plea bargain settles one of two fraud and corruption cases against Abramoff, involving charges stemming from his lobbying activities in Washington on behalf of Native American tribes. The other case, arising from an indictment in Miami in connection with the purchase of a fleet of casino cruise ships, is expected to be settled by another plea agreement.
The purpose of the conspiracy by Abramoff and co-defendants was “to enrich themselves by obtaining substantial funds from their clients through fraud and concealment,” according to a criminal information document outlining the charges.
“PB/OS” (paper ballots with precinct-based optical scanners) is the safest, most reliable and most cost-effective choice for a voting system in NY State. And yet, the state Board of Elections has recently taken two outrageous steps against this system:
– Allowing the vendors NOT to submit optical scanners, effectively taking away the PB/OS option, and
– Jump-starting certification testing on an incomplete DRE machine (no paper ballot)
Important Update in NYC
The Board of Election held a hearing on the certification of voting machines in NYC on December 20. Only the machines certified by the Board of Elections can be purchased for use in New York elections. At the hearing, Council Member Bill Perkins advised that the next day he would be joined by Charles Barron, Robert Jackson and Hiram Monserrate to introduce a resolution urging the New York State Board of Elections to promptly certify paper ballots with precinct based/optical scan voting systems for procurement by the local Board of Elections. The resolution also calls for the New York City Board of Elections to select a PB/OS as the next generation voting technology for the city.
Read Bill Perkins’ testimony at:http://www.wheresthepaper.org/HAVATESTIMONYSTATEBOARD.pdf
Since the 2005 session has ended, the resolution needs to be re-introduced. If this resolution passes it could effectively make PB/OS the choice for New York by capitalizing on NYC’s buying power, but the first step is to get in reintroduced. Since Bill Perkins was term-limited, Charles Barron would be the new lead sponsor for this resolution.
Democracy for NYC supports this resolution. We will keep you updated in the coming weeks on how you can help in our efforts to make PB/OS the choice for NYC.
V.P., General Counsel and Legal Director
People for the American Way
NCJW National Director
of Washington Operations
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
820 Second Avenue,
(between 43rd and 44th Streets)
Where: PFAW NY office
149 Fifth Avenue at 21st Street
When: Thursday, Jan. 5, 6 to 9 PM
and every following Thursday;
and Jan. 10th, 11th, 12th from 10 AM to 4 PM
If you have minutes to donate, please bring your cell phone.
Policy & Field Director
People for the American Way, Northeast Regional Offic
skeptical, and “middle-of-the-road,” the explanations offered by the press were weak and immaterial. It was as if they were reporting from inside a forest fire without acknowledging the fire, except to keep insisting that there was no fire. Since Kerry has conceded, they argued, and since “no smoking gun” had come to light, there was no story to report. This is an oddly passive argument. Even so, the evidence that something went extremely wrong last fall is copious, and not hard to find. Much of it was noted at the time, albeit by local papers and haphazardly. Concerning the decisive contest in Ohio, the evidence is lucidly compiled in a single congressional report, which, for the last half-year, has been available to anyone inclined to read it. It is a veritable arsenal of “smoking guns”-and yet its findings may be less extraordinary than the fact that no one in this country seems to care about them.
Ohio’s law on “loitering” near voting places. Second, media representatives conducting exit polls were to remain 100 feet away from the polls. Blackwell’s reasoning here was that, with voter turnout estimated at 73 percent, and with many new voters so blissfully ignorant as to have “never looked at a voting machine before,” his duty was clear: the public was to be protected from the “interference or intimidation” caused by “intense media scrutiny.” Both cases were at once struck down in federal court on First Amendment grounds.
In Franklin County, a worker at a Holiday Inn observed a team of 25 people who called themselves the “Texas Strike Force” using payphones to make intimidating calls to likely voters, targeting people recently in the prison system. The “Texas Strike Force” paid their way to Ohio, but their hotel accommodations were paid for by the Ohio Republican Party, whose headquarters is across the street. The hotel worker heard one caller threaten a likely voter with being reported to the FBI and returning to jail if he voted. Another hotel worker called the police, who came but did nothing.
stances of what seemed to be electoral fraud.
Ms. Eaton witnessed Mr. Barbian modify the Hocking County computer vote tabulator before the announcement of the Ohio recount. She further witnessed Barbian, upon the announcement that the Hocking County precinct was planned to be the subject of the initial Ohio test recount, make further alterations based on his knowledge of the situation. She also has firsthand knowledge that Barbian advised election officials how to manipulate voting machinery to ensure that [the] preliminary hand recount matched the machine count.
Based on the above, including actual admissions and statements by Triad employees, it strongly appears that Triad and its employees engaged in a course of behavior to provide “cheat sheets” to those counting the ballots. The cheat sheets told them how many votes they should find for each candidate, and how many over and under votes they should calculate to match the machine count. In that way, they could avoid doing a full county-wide hand recount mandated by state law. If true, this would frustrate the entire purpose of the recount law-to randomly ascertain if the vote counting apparatus is operating fairly and effectively, and if not to conduct a full hand recount.
igned by Barbara Boxer, Democratic senator from California, who, at a noon press conference on January 6, heightened the suspense by tearfully acknowledging her prior wrong: “Four years ago I didn’t intervene. I was asked by Al Gore not to do so and I didn’t do so. Frankly, looking back on it, I wish I had.”
Director of Legislative Issues and Policy
Please go the VoteTrustUSA Action Page and send an email to the EAC voicing your concern about the use of prohibited software on voting machines.
This breach of security exploits an inherently insecure feature of the Diebold optical scanners and touch screens known as interpreted code, which the Federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) of 1990 and 2002 specifically prohibit. For further details about how Diebold uses interpreted code and why it is banned from use in voting software, please click here or read John Washburn’s article later in this post.
How did the ITA overlook such an obvious violation of federal standards in the first place? And just as importantly, do the voting systems produced by DieboldÃ¢s competitors contain similarly prohibited code?
It is time to put the EAC on notice that violations of federal standards by the ITA, which is now under their jurisdiction, will not be tolerated by voters. Please send an email to the EAC and say No to prohibited software in voting machines!
What’s All the Fuss About Diebold in Florida and California?
by John Washburn, VoteTrustUSA
What in the World is Interpreted Code and WhatÃ¢s Wrong With It Anyway?
Earlier this month Leon County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, invited computer experts to demonstrate the existence of a security flaw in Diebold optical scanners described in a report published on July 4, 2005. The test was repeated in December in order to refute specific denials by Diebold. In statements to two different election officials Diebold claimed it was not possible to alter the outcome of an election in such a way that the perpetrator would not need passwords and the tampering would not be noticed during normal canvassing procedures. Sancho set up the test environment on December 13, 2005 to prove these claims false. The outside experts had no access to the optical scanner and the complete canvassing procedure was followed for 8 test ballots. The result was that while the 8 paper ballots had a vote tally of 2 Yes and 6 No, all of the official reports – from the optical scanner on through to the publication of county results – showed an outcome of 7 Yes and 1 No.
Because of this design defect, which exists on all Diebold touchscreen machines (DRE) and optical scanners, the Secretary of State of California has demanded that the Diebold software be re-examined by the Independent Testing Authority (ITA), who originally certified that the systems were in compliance with the 2002 Federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines.
This breach of security exploits an inherently insecure feature of the Diebold optical scanners and touch screens known as interpreted code. Below is a simplified diagram of a voting machine (or view in separate window). Diebold equipment has several hardware components (printer, touch screen, smart card reader, buttons, etc). These are represented by light blue boxes. There is also memory, which is represented with dark blue boxes. Some of the memory is read-only (ROM) and contains firmware. Part of the programming in ROM (firmware) is an interpreter for the Diebold-specific language AccuBasic. Also in the firmware is all the programming needed to interact with the hardware. (For simplicity, interactions with the touch screen elements of the DRE are not shown.)
At the beginning of Election Day, the voting machine (DRE or optical scanner) must print a Zero Total Report, which is signed by poll workers before the first vote is cast. The report is the official record that the Ã£electronic ballot boxÃ¤ has not been stuffed before the election. Unfortunately, the programming in the ROM does not know how to print the Zero Total Report. This is by design. The firmware of the voting machine is Ã£burnedÃ¤ into the ROM at the factory and is mass produced. If the ROM did contain the details of how to print a Zero Total Report, there would need to be at least 51 versions of firmware (one version of ROM for each state and DC).
This is where the memory card and its interpreted code come in.
Among other things, the memory card contains 3 elements: the ballot definition (names of candidates, ballot position, etc.), the vote tallies (e.g. number of votes for John Doe for Senate) and a file of compiled AccuBasic tokens. This last item is the interpreted code, which is the fundamental problem of the design.
The firmware does not know the detai
ls of how to print
the Zero Total Report. But it does know that the code to do this is on the memory card in a file with an extension of ABO. The firmware also knows the code in the ABO file is stored under the name ELECTION_ZERO_REPORT.
LetÃ¢s follow along as the Zero Total Report is printed. The poll workers push buttons on the front panel of the optical scanner or insert a supervisorÃ¢s smart card into the DRE. This tells the voting machine to print the Zero Total Report (shown on the diagram as arrow number 1). The firmware in turn yields control to the code contained under the name ELECTION_ZERO_REPORT in the ABO file of the memory card (represented in the diagram as arrow number 2)
The AccuBasic tokens are not human readable nor machine executable, but are halfway between. What exactly are these tokens? Tokens are to programs what shorthand is to written prose. The command PRINT is represented as a single token, which uses 1 byte of memory instead of the 5 bytes which the 5 letters of PRINT would occupy. So if the voting machineÃ¢s central processing unit (CPU) cannot execute a token how does the PRINT token get anything to the printer? The answer is through the interpreter.
The interpreter translates the shorthand of the token into all the messy details needed by the CPU and the printer in order to print the phrase: Ã£John Doe: 0Ã¤ on the Zero Total Report (represented in the diagram by the 3 arrows all labeled 4). There are 3 such arrows because the stream of AccuBasic tokens contained in ELECTION_ZERO_REPORT interacts with both the ballot definition and the vote tallies. Unfortunately, the interaction with the vote tallies is unrestricted and the AccuBasic tokens contained in ELECTION_ZERO_REPORT can print anything on the paper tape report to be signed by the pollworkers. Finally, the formatted names and numbers are printed for the poll workers to sign (represented in the diagram as arrow number 5).
The security test performed in Leon County demonstrated that the stream of AccuBasic tokens contained in ELECTION_ZERO_REPORT can misreport the vote tallies on the memory card. By using a $300 card reader (or any PC for the PCMCIA cards), the vote tallies can be pre-loaded so the votes in the Yes column equal +5 and the votes in the No column to equal -5. The Zero Total Report then lies by printing the memory contents are zero.
The voting process began with a database containing:
As the 8 ballots in Leon County were scanned (or entered on the touch screen), the normal operation of the machine increments the vote tallies in the 2 database entries: Yes and No. This normal operation added 6 votes to the -5 initially stored as the tally for the No column for a final result of 1 No and added 2 to the +5 initially stored as the tally for the Yes column for a final result of 7 Yes.
As the voting process continues, the database contains:
And ends finally with:
Since there were 8 ballots cast, by 8 voters, a result of 7 to 1 in favor of the proposition would not call attention to the alteration Ã¶ nothing appears amiss even though the voters actually cast ballots totaling 2 YES and 6 NO. Further, the initial alteration of the memory has been obliterated by the normal operation of the voting machinery because the database tabulates the votes incrementally rather than showing a single record for each vote. In short, the -5 starting point becomes -4 not individual records of -5 and +1. This is similar to an odometer wheel as opposed to summarizing several, separate bookkeeping entries.
The contents of the data file are then uploaded to a central tabulator (not shown). Reports from the central tabulator (e.g. the county summary or precinct details) will show a reasonable result of 7 for and 1 against, because that process prints the contents of the database, which has already been altered at the DRE or Optical Scan polling station.
It is because of these kinds of issues that interpreted code is expressly prohibited by the 1990 and 2002 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. It is simply too difficult to secure the code if it is interpreted at the time of execution. Since the code is interpreted at execution time and not before, code inspection and customary Logic and Accuracy testing would not detect manipulations such as the one above.
Even if the card, which was tested on Monday, was legitimate, the ability to swap the card out for a corrupted card by Tuesday morning means any prior testing was a wasted effort. In that instance, the code tested before Election Day is not the code which runs on Election Day. In a similar way, interpreted code makes it difficult to determine on Wednesday what code actually was executed on Tuesday; even if the altered memory card is available. A detailed examination of the stream of AccuBasic tokens would be needed and even then you could not be certain exactly what was executed previously.
Where do we go from here? First, all voting machinery using such prohibited interpreted code must be recalled. Then it must be determined if Diebold is the only vendor with this design defect. Since the NASED/EAC system of independent test authority labs failed to note this defect in the Diebold equipment, it is likely a similar defect would go “unreported” if present in machinery from other vendors. And finally, the testing and certification process that allowed this unacceptable violation of security standards to be overlooked must be dramatically improved to protect the integrity of our election process.