Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fmr. Diebold consultant admits company altered software for '02 GA election

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

It looks like the new Rolling Stone due out tomorrow will have a doozy of an article by RFK, Jr. whick will look into whether the 2006 election can be hacked. Based on a few blurbs that were "sneak previewed" by Raw Story it looks like there is an even bigger story in that article - an admission by a Diebold consultant that machine software was altered in 5,000 machines in DeKalb and Fulton counties on the day of the election.

If anyone remembers the 2002 election in Georgia, that is the one where Max Cleland's five to six point lead was erased overnight to a seven point loss, leading to a miraculous win by Saxby Chambliss, which even describes his come from behind win as "stunning and historical" in his Senate website.

And while many indicated that this was due at least in part to an infamous advertisement that compared Cleland (a war hero) to Osama Bin Laden, there was always a cloud hanging over this election as this was the first year of the Diebold machines in Georgia, and it just not passing the "smell test".

Now, I am not putting on a tin foil hat here, as we have seen over the past few weeks how easy it is for the Diebold machines to be altered and hacked, but I wanted to point something out from the upcoming article that may get lost in the hullabaloo of RFK Jr. exploring the potential for hacking the 2006 election.

What is interesting here is that the Diebold consultant, Christopher Hood has been outspoken about the good things that Diebold machines can do. He is quoted here talking about voter outreach and also is quoted talking about how many voters have only heard the criticisms of Diebold.

So when he speaks up, I think it lends some credibility, or at least more than someone who has always been a critic. Further, the Raw Story excerpt describes Hood as "an African American whose parents helped fight for voting rights in the South in the 1960s" and was "proud to be promoting Diebold's machines".

But Hood talks of what I would certainly call "funny business" going on in Georgia during August 2002 right before the primaries. Things like software patches that were not approved by the State, directions from Diebold's president to not share information with the county authorities, and early morning changes to machines on (I believe primary) election day.

The company was authorized to put together ballots, program machines and train poll workers across the state - all without any official supervision. "We ran the election," says Hood. "We had 356 people that Diebold brought into the state. Diebold opened and closed the polls and tabulated the votes. Diebold convinced (Georgia Secretary of State Cathy) Cox that it would be best if the company ran everything due to the time constraints, and in the interest of a trouble-free election, she let us do it."

So basically, there was a deal where Diebold had free reign over the entire Georgia election process for 2002. Which included training the workers, setting up the machines, counting the votes, and, well, just about everything else.

And then Diebold's president stepped in and made the story even more interesting:

Then, one muggy day in mid-August, Hood was surprised to see the president of Diebold's election unit, Bob Urosevich, arrive in Georgia from his headquarters in Texas. With the primaries looming, Urosevich was personally distributing a "patch," a little piece of software designed to correct glitches in the computer program. "We were told that it was intended to fix the clock in the system, which it didn't do," Hood says. "The curious thing is the very swift, covert way this was done."

And thanks to the agreement between Cox and Diebold, there was no need to certify the change to the software, since Diebold was pretty much running the election process - at least the administration of it.

"It was an unauthorized patch, and they were trying to keep it secret from the state," Hood told me. "We were told not to talk to county personnel about it. I received instructions directly from Urosevich. It was very unusual that a president of the company would give an order like that and be involved at that level."

What then happened on the day of the elections (and again, the blurbs lead me to think it was the primaries, but as we know from the recent video of the Princeton scientists (as well as the many other demonstrations) showing how to hack the Diebold machines without leaving a trace, the "patch" may (and I say this until there is definitive proof, but it does lead you to scratch your head and say "hmmmm") have set the stage for the general elections as well.

According to Hood, Diebold employees altered software in some 5,000 machines in DeKalb and Fulton counties - the state's largest Democratic strongholds. To avoid detection, Hood and others on his team entered warehouses early in the morning. "We went in at 7:30 a.m. and were out by 11," Hood says. "There was a universal key to unlock the machines, and it's easy to get access. The machines in the warehouses were unlocked. We had control of everything. The state gave us the keys to the castle, so to speak, and they stayed out of our way." Hood personally patched fifty-six machines and witnessed the patch being applied to more than 1,200 others.

What the patch ultimately was for and did is unknown as of now. It may be known when the Rolling Stone article is released tomorrow. We may never know.

But we do know that someone who was a "proud Diebold consultant" has suddenly come out and admitted that he, as well as others at the direction of Diebold's president were asked to alter machines in heavily Democratic areas under orders of secrecy.

And just the fact that this happened should make you outraged.

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