Company Spokesman/Dead-Ender David Bear Running Out of Spin!
[UPDATE: Newsweek's Steven Levy Responds to This Article]
By Brad Friedman on 5/21/2006, 1:09am PT  


"If Diebold had set out to build a system as insecure as they possibly could, this would be it," says Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer-science professor and elections-security expert.

Things aren't looking good for our friends at Diebold. Even NEWSWEEK is finally paying attention as Steven Levy files a report for this week's issue on the story we broke two weeks ago.

(Just pointing that out, so you generous BRAD BLOG donors realize you're getting your money's worth by getting the scoops long before the rest of the world even wakes up :-) And by way of torturously cryptic value-added teaser: Much more to come from other major MSM sources in the near future. Much.)

But back to NEWSWEEK...Levy's piece begins this way...

May 29, 2006 issue - Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the voting booth, here comes more disturbing news about the trustworthiness of electronic touchscreen ballot machines. Earlier this month a report by Finnish security expert Harri Hursti analyzed Diebold voting machines for an organization called Black Box Voting. Hursti found unheralded vulnerabilities in the machines that are currently entrusted to faithfully record the votes of millions of Americans.

How bad are the problems? Experts are calling them the most serious voting-machine flaws ever documented. Basically the trouble stems from the ease with which the machine's software can be altered. It requires only a few minutes of pre-election access to a Diebold machine to open the machine and insert a PC card that, if it contained malicious code, could reprogram the machine to give control to the violator. The machine could go dead on Election Day or throw votes to the wrong candidate. Worse, it's even possible for such ballot-tampering software to trick authorized technicians into thinking that everything is working fine, an illusion you couldn't pull off with pre-electronic systems.

With that said, we recommend you read Levy's piece --- it's not long --- for a few more thoughts and details. But we'll nitpick one or two of them here. Most notably taking the opportunity to highlight Diebold's desperato spokesman, David Bear's latest gasp...

Echoing his similarly nice-try spin in the New York Times' coverage of the same Diebold mess, Bear tells NEWSWEEK:

"[Our critics are] throwing out a 'what if' that's premised on a basis of an evil, nefarious person breaking the law," says Bear.

In the Times piece, he put it this way:

"For there to be a problem here, you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software," [Diebold spokesman, David Bear] said. "I don't believe these evil elections people exist."

Also, David Bear tells NEWSWEEK, the earth is most definitely flat! And Santa Claus is real, dammit!

Goodness knows, we'd never have any "evil, nefarious person breaking the law" or even any "evil elections people" who would do so. There's only millions and billions of dollars at stake based on who wins these elections! So why would anyone ever want to do anything untoward? Can't we all just get along? Maybe just a show of hands would be better. Or we could just ask Bear for his opinion on all the election contests and go home early.

Perhaps Bear might want to ask folks like Katherine Harris, J. Kenneth Blackwell, Matt Damschroeder, Thomas Noe and his wife Bernadette of the Lucas County BoE, those three Elections Officials in Cuyahoga, that guy from the Triad voting machine company, James Tobin, the RNC or even the White House if they know anybody who might fit such an evil nefarious description.

Our one quibble with NEWSWEEK'spiece --- (other then they're a week or two late jumping in on this one, so didn't cover the still more stunning revelation that we did earlier this week --- well, that's what next week's for, we guess) --- Levy sets his sights on the need for mandatory "paper receipts" for electronic voting machines to ensure security.

Paper "Receipts" or "Trails" are not the same as Paper BALLOTS, which can be counted...unlike "Receipts" or "Trails" that can't and aren't and won't be. But one victory at a time, we guess.

Levy finishes off with a worthy question (even if he should know that NEWSWEEK'S own delinquency in covering these issues is partly the answer to it):

Six years after the 2000 electoral debacle, how can this be?

Just look in the mirror, Steve.

UPDATE: Steven Levy responded to this article in comments below. Since we took a shot or two at him (though, mostly aimed at NEWSWEEK in general, for whom he became a surrogate whipping boy in our piece above), it seems only fair to elevate his response to this article to make sure you are able to read it. Here's his response:

Appreciate your linking to my column. Can I have a nitpick of my own? For the record I have been writing about voting technology in Newsweek for several years (you can Google this!). Last week I wrote a column about the NSA datamining, but when I saw the results of that Diebold study I felt it appropriate to devote my column this week to the voting situation once more. As for the receipts versus ballots issue you bring up, in my limited space this week I simply considered the broader issue of auditability. Best, Steven

We'll respond only by mentioning that understand and appreciate Levy's general sentiment, re: limited column space to cover the auditability issue in general. Though the idea that the toilet-paper roll --- so-called "voter-verified paper trail", which are now being installed reluctantly by vendors on touch-screen systems in response to complaints of a lack of paper record --- can actually be counted or audited at all is the question. Since it cannot be audited in any reasonable way, and isn't actually counted at all by any state or county that we know of, we feel the false of sense of security it offers does more harm than good. Supporting the half-hearted attempts by vendors and elections officials to disingenously appease voters, even in limited space, is what we question.

Beyond that, of course readers may Google Steven's and NEWSWEEK'S coverage of the issue to determine for themselves if they feel it has been adequate. We greatly appreciate his responding to our piece.

UPDATE 5/24/06: Levy interviewed by The Young Turks about his article...