Friday, March 23, 2007

Joseph Cannon: The White House, vote theft, and the email trail

Joseph Cannon with another brilliant, mind-boggling scoop:

GWB43 is the name of an internet server owned by the Republican National Committee.

Oddly enough, communications revealed in the course of the Great U.S. Attorney Purge document dump reveal that key figures within the administration used such email addresses as SJennings@gwb43.com.

The White House has its own internal email system, ending in the .gov suffix, as mandated by the Presidential Records Act. As Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) notes:

CREW has learned that to fulfill its statutory obligations under the PRA, the White House email system automatically copies all messages created by staff and sends them to the White House Office of Records Management for archiving. It appears that the White House deliberately bypassed the automatic archiving function of its own email system that was designed to ensure compliance with the PRA.

So why are White House personnel using private email addresses to bypass this system?

A not-unrelated question: Did Patrick Fitzgerald know about this bypass when he subpoenaed White House emails pursuant to the Plamegate investigation? I doubt that he did. If he had, Scooter might not have been the only one brought to trial.

This story by Joseph Hughes and Melissa McEwan compiles statements by George Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Michael Chertoff and Alberto Gonzales, all of whom have claimed that they do not use email for business. Oddly, Rice made this claim at the same time let slip that she had used email to communicate with Richard Clarke.

Dubya's stated reasoning for not entering the computer age is both disconcerting and hilariously inarticulate:

"I tend not to e-mail - not only tend not to e-mail, I don't e-mail, uh, because of, uh, the different record requests that could happen to a president. I don't want to receive e-mails, 'cause, you know, there's no telling what somebody would e-mail me and it would show up as, uh, you know, part of some kind of a story that - and I wouldn't be able to say, 'Well, I didn't read the e-mail' - 'But I sent it your address; how can you say you didn't?' So, in other words, I'm very cautious about e-mailing."

All very amusing, but can we really believe that in the modern age these people do not use the most convenient messaging system available?

Or could it be that all these people recall how Ollie North was tripped up by the discovery of certain emails?

If the Bush White House used GWB43 to route around history, we must ask a question straight out of the Parsifal legends: What is GWB43 and who does it serve?

The answer takes us into the dark mysteries of the 2004 election in Ohio...

Here (with a hat tip to Jackstraw45 of DU) is the WHOIS info on GWB43:

Domain Name: GWB43.COM

Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
Republican National Committee dns@RNCHQ.ORG
310 First Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
US
999 999 9999 fax: 999 999 9999

Record expires on 16-Jan-2008.
Record created on 16-Jan-2004.
Database last updated on 21-Mar-2007 17:45:46 EDT.

Domain servers in listed order:

NS1.CHA.SMARTECHCORP.NET
A.NS.TRESPASSERS-W.NET
"Trespassers-W.net"? Odd name, that.

We learn that this same hosting service -- Smartech -- played a mysterious role in the 2004 election in Ohio. From a November 7, 2006 story by luaptifer at Daily Kos:

Ohio's election results are hosted on the same servers by the partisan companies that run websites like Georgewbush.com and many of the familiar Republican group sites. The people who consoldiate GOP operations in Chattanooga early this decade have been responsible for Ohio's election night results since 2004 and will probably continue to do so if J. Kenneth Blackwell extends his pay-for-play policies as Governor of Ohio.

More (also see here):

SOS Blackwell also neglected to inform that he outsourced Election Night hosting services to the provider of Internet operations for the Republican National Committee, SMARTech Corp. It's clear that most of the IP address space allocated to Smartechcorp, if it has a domain name, is operated by the RNC or its functionaries and allies.

SMARTECH lists the following corporate address: SMARTECH CORPORATION PO BOX 11181 Chattanooga TN US 37401 Their web page is here. They offer internet hosting, streaming media and so forth.

This firm handles everything Republican:

On August 22, 2004, SMARTech Corp (smartechcorp.net) announced that it would be "hosting" the Republican National Convention in New York City, providing "convention speeches, video-on-demand 'streams' and live shots of events through powerful Web servers, most of which are at Smartech’s headquarters in downtown Chattanooga." The announcement stated that the "company also hosts the Bush-Cheney campaign Web site, at www.georgewbush.com, and the national committee’s site, www.GOP.com."

Smartech shows up in this interesting information technology story from 2004, which outlines a still-unsolved mystery. If the reader will forgive a digression...

During election season, web surfers from outside the United States were not able to access Bush's Web site, GeorgeWBush.com, even though surfers within U.S. borders had no problem doing so. Why this oddity, and who was responsible? The site used network management technology from Akamai Technologies Inc. to restrict access. An Akamai spokesman referred all questions to the hosting company, Smartech. Yet Smartech's president said "All we do is host the site. I have no control over what's being done outside our servers."

That strange business probably has no link to the decision made by Ohio's notorious Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, to route election night results through RNC servers. I mention the matter here because the conundrum gnaws at me. I can think of no legitimate -- or illegitimate -- reason why anyone within the party would want to restrict foreigners from looking at GeorgeWBush.com.

(Incidentally, the name Akamai has turned up in these pages before: Defense pseudo-contractor Brent Wilkes named several of his fake companies Akamai. However, there is a real -- and quite legitimate -- company called Akamai, based in Mountain View, California.)

So, what does it mean that Ken Blackwell used Smartech for Ohio's election night hosting services? One might, after all, expect a Republican to give state business to a Republican-friendly company. As one observer remarked, this decision seems, at first glance, akin to an Irish drinker going to an Irish pub.

However, one does not need to exercise much imagination to see how anyone using the net for nefarious purposes would want a "friendly" hosting company handling ultra-sensitive duties. Hosting companies keep records of who does what. If you are using computers to do something you don't want the world to know about, you don't want those records available to just anyone.

As the controversy over the 2004 elections gathered steam, Karl Rove made a joke about fixing the election returns from a computer in the White House basement. This remark always struck me as the sort of "joke" that the guy in Rope might have uttered: "Yeah, sure, I strangled my friend for no good reason and hid his body in the cupboard! Now seriously, how about that drink...?"

The point is that the Diebold tabulators -- the "mother machines" as Teresa Kerry once put it -- were online. A D.U. commenter offers what I consider interesting speculation (paragraph breaks added for readability):

I might be talking out of my ass here, but from what I can remember, Blackwell had direct access to the Diebold tabulator from his office so he could "authorize" the results. That tabulator had links to the machines throughout the state.

Updating the election results was live, but I bet the tabulator server and the election results host server are different - one would be Diebold and the other SMARTECH. Running the tabulator on the same host server as the election results would have been too compromising.

But, there had to be an ftp (or something) link between the tabulator and the election results host for the updating. That would have been configured either by the tabulator company (Diebold) or the RNC. If badly configured, this could have allowed open access to the tabulator results from anyone with admin access to the RNC owned SMARTECH host. This would have given Blackwell plausible deniability. "Just let our techies configure that uplink there...).

If the SMARTECH host server was used in this way, it's illegal because political parties aren't allowed to access raw election data. Only checking the server log would tell whether the election server was used to look at raw tabulator data. Of course, if it was actually used to manipulate data, that would be election fraud. manipulation of election data could easily have been done at the tabulator level or via access to the voting machines. Both are criminal acts. Because the servers were used in an election, they would be auditable material.

It would have needed one man or woman to steal Ohio, together with fudged recounts. That much appears clear. One man or woman.
"Auditable material." Of course, an audit presumes access to the correct information.

Now, I must stress the speculative nature of all this. I have no evidence that Smartech is anything other than an honest, responsibly-run firm.

Here is a list of domains that share mailservers and nameservers with gwb43. On the mailserver list, we find domains connected to Bush, Newt Gingrich, and ohiogop.org. (Blackwell was the party chief in Ohio.) Most of the sites are either Republican or far-right Christian.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

'Tis but the tip of one very stinky iceberg....

Hoo boy!

The dirt's a-startin' to fly as the fired attorneys story gains traction.

It's turning into a rather messy, complicated game of connect-the-dots with what initially looks to be a seriously damning trail of document and email breadcrumbs leading straight to the doorstep of -- wait for it -- his dark majesty, the vice-megalomaniac-and-profiteer-in-chief.

If subsequent illuminations continue apace along the same path, the Red House is about to implode in a great stinking cloud of its own corruption.

Speaking entirely metaphorically, of course, thanks very much, Mr. Secret Service Man.

Check it out, and get ready for a celebratory Snoopy dance or two as the disclosures tumble out one by one before our eyes:

Hoo hah.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Was I a good American in the time of George Bush?

Too many of us have done too little to stop the crimes of this White House. We are waking up but what took us so long?

Rebecca Solnit
Wednesday March 14, 2007

UK Guardian

Was I a good American? How good an American was I? Did I do what I could to resist the takeover of my country and the brutalisation of my fellow human beings? How much further could I have gone? Were the crimes of the Bush administration those that demand you give up your life and everyday commitments to throw yourself into maximum resistance? If not, then what were we waiting for? The questions have troubled me regularly these last five years, because I was one of the millions of American citizens who did not shut down Guantánamo Bay and stop the other atrocities of the administration.
I wrote. I gave money, sometimes in large chunks. I went to anti-war marches. I demonstrated. I also planted a garden, cooked dinners, played with children, wandered around aimlessly, and did lots of other things you do when the world is not crashing down around you. And maybe when it is. Was it? It was for the men in our gulag. And the boys there. And the rule of law in my native land.

Before the current administration, it had always been easy to condemn the "good Germans" who did nothing while Jews, Gypsies and others were rounded up for extermination. One likes to believe that one will be different, will harbour Anne Frank in one's secret annex, smuggle people across the border, defy the authorities who do evil. Those we scornfully call good Germans merely did little while the mouth of hell opened up.

I now know the way that everyday life can be so absorbing, survival so demanding, that it seems impossible to do more on top of it or to drop the routine altogether and begin a totally different life. There is the garden to be watered, the aged parent in crisis, the deadline looming; but there are also the crimes against humanity waiting to be stopped. Ordinary obligations tug one way even when extraordinary ones tug the other way. The Bush administration is by no means the Third Reich, but it produced an extraordinary time that made extraordinary demands on US citizens, demands that some of us rose to - and too many did not.

Periodically, I would speculate on what was the most extreme and radical thing I could do to stop the illegal prison camp at Guantánamo; picture chaining myself to the gates of the Senate, becoming one of those activists who takes up residence outside the White House or takes over a TV station to get a message out. I wanted to do something so epic that it would turn the tide, stop the crime. Then I would consider that the best approaches were probably already being taken, by the heroic lawyers at the Centre for Constitutional Rights and other human rights organisations, and I would write another cheque and some more letters and feel a little futile and a little corrupt.

These days Americans seem to be waking up one at a time, groggy and embittered, from the hypnotic nightmare that was the Bush administration's one great success - spreading a miasma of fear and patriotic submissiveness that made it possible to mount an illegal and immoral war, piss on the bill of rights, burn the constitution and violate international charters on human rights and prisoners of war with widespread torture. None of the sleepers seems to remember that they were part of the legions who obeyed the orders to fear and hate - but we welcome the latecomers into our ranks anyway.

What took them so long? How could people believe that a fairly defanged country, one we had been bombing since the first Gulf war, was an apocalyptic menace in a world where most nations were well-equipped for mass civilian murder? A year ago, the turning point was marked by the comedian Stephen Colbert's volley of (accurate) insults delivered to Bush's face, in the guise of giving the keynote address at the Washington press corps' annual dinner. He was just aggressively ignored by the mainstream media. Perhaps Katrina turned the tide: the indifference, incompetence, and obliviousness of the federal government was so gross that its pedestal melted.

And there were others who were in resistance all along. I remember with admiration the Japanese-Americans who came out in the months after 9/11 to testify that they had been incarcerated en masse during the second world war, not for what they did but for who they were, and they were not going to remain silent as the same treatment was meted out to Arabs and Muslims. I remember the way that 20,000 of us in San Francisco came out to shut down the business district the day the war broke out, and the huge marches before and after. I remember the few congresspeople - mostly African-American - who dared to stand in opposition early on. I went to Camp Casey outside Bush's vacation home in Texas and spent a day with Cindy Sheehan, who gave her life over to stopping the war after it took her soldier son. Others did as she did. Some of them are my friends.

There is resistance. But if it were enough, the crimes would have stopped, the war would have ended. When it does and they do, some will have been heroes. Some will have been honourable but moderate, in times that did not call for moderation. And some will have consented, through inaction, to crimes against humanity.

Rebecca Solnit is the author of Hope in the Dark: The Untold History of People Power, and Wanderlust: A history of walking