Comments That We Are 'Deluded,' 'Paranoid,' 'Looney Idealogues,' and that Voting Machines Are Not the 'Cause of Our Problems, It's the People'
Challenges Us to a Debate...We Accept...
By Brad Friedman on 8/10/2007, 11:34am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from the Ozark Mountains in Missouri...

In a late comment posted just this morning, in reply to the article and photos about my recent visit to Diebold in Texas, a person claiming to be an employee of one of Diebold's New England distributors believes I am "totally full of shit"...

COMMENT #29 [Permalink]
... Ken Hajjar said on 8/10/2007 @ 7:30 am PT...

Dear Brad, you are totally full of shit. I used to think that all of the looney idealogues were on the right. There are just as many on the left and you are one of them. You have no idea how elections are conducted and how many safeguards are in place, including human oversight. But, facts don't matter to ideologues, so I'm probably wasting my time. To think that many of your paranoid fellow travellers would actually think that the hand counting of paper ballots is nirvana just shows how deluded you and they are. I work for LHS Associates in New England. We are distributors for Diebold and while I have many reasons to criticize things that the company has done over the past few years, the thought that there is a company wide culture of fraud and deception is ludicrous. But, as I said, facts don't matter to you. Stop blaming the vendors and look to the incompetence and cowardice of the Democratic party for its failures. Couple that with the criminal activities of the GOP relative to vote suppression and you've got your answers. It's not the machines that are the cause of our problems, it's the people. I challenged Bev Harris and Harri Hursti a couple of years ago and they backed off. I issue the same challenge to you. Pick a forum and I'd be happy to discuss how we run elections in New England and how difficult, if not impossible it is to game the system. Bring it on.

I don't know Mr. Hajjar, nor his company, LHS Associates, and don't have much time again today, as I'm still on the road, to look into them, but I'll presume both are legitimate entities and he is the one who posted the above comment. Hajjar, according to LHS's website, appears to be their "Director of Sales and Marketing," so it's little wonder he's a bit deluded about the products his company represents and upon which his livelihood depends. It makes sense that he might be a tad paranoid about what may come in the wake of recent devastating findings out of California concerning Diebold and their shitty, hackable voting systems, as far as his continuing ability to make a living off them courtesy of the tax-payer teat.

Nonetheless, I am happy to reply to a point or two of his silly, ill-conceived screed, along with gladly accepting his invitation to debate these particular issues publicly...

"[T]he thought that there is a company wide culture of fraud and deception is ludicrous," wrote Hajjar in his comment, presumably in reply to something we've reported at some point. I don't believe I made any such assertion in the article on which he left his comment, although a reliable Diebold insider we dubbed "DIEB-THROAT" when first reporting that source's information back in 2005, had told The BRAD BLOG that "Diebold's upper management was aware of" problems with security issues on their voting systems "before the 2004 election - but did nothing to correct it."

DIEB-THROAT's comment was in reply to the Cyber Alert Warning about Diebold's tabulator as issued by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The warning, issued in August of 2004, said, "A vulnerability exists due to an undocumented backdoor account, which could a [sic] local or remote authenticated malicious user modify votes." Yet Diebold spokesperson David Bear told The BRAD BLOG at the time, "I don't know anything about it," and he confirmed that no changes had been made to the GEMS tabulator software since the CERT warning.

DIEB-THROAT further told us that he had "seen these systems connected to phone lines dozens of times with users gaining remote access...eliminat[ing] any need for a conspiracy of hundreds to alter the outcome of an election," and that "Remote access using this backdoor means that one malicious person can change the outcome of any Diebold election."

Of course, CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen's independent vulnerability testing of Diebold's voting systems [PDF], carried out by some of the world's top computer scientists at the University of California and released just about a week ago, found precisely what our source had discussed two years ago.

Without access to the system's source code, the team "uncovered evidence that Diebold technicians created a remotely-accessible Windows account that, by default configuration (according to the Diebold documentation), can be accessed without the need to supply a password." They remarked that "Devices, as delivered to customers, should only have accounts that are well-documented and remote access that is necessary for the needs of the particular county. Undocumented remotely-accessible logins are contrary to generally-accepted security practices."

Exploiting these long-standing security gulfs, the UC team of scientists reported, could allow a malicious user to "modify GEMS databases, altering vote totals," and causing other related mischief.

"They don't have security solutions. They don't want them," DIEB-THROAT explained to us back in 2005. "They've known about this for some time. They don't really care," the source said, comparing the security flaws to "leaving the front door at Fort Knox open." It's just "blatant sloppiness and they don't care."

Are we all "deluded," "paranoid," "looney idealogues" then? Or could it be Hajjar has been guzzling the Diebold company Kool-Aid? DIEB-THROAT also touched on this phenomenon by pointing out, as we reported at the time, that company employees --- including himself --- "had been 'brainwashed' by the pervasive 'company line' at Diebold that all of the talk about security concerns and the possibility that someone could hack the vote was the talk of 'conspiracy theorists.'"

Though the source said there is a "culture of fear" at the company, we've never reported or even implied that "there is a company wide culture of fraud and deception." We do, however, stand firmly by our years of reporting --- including the article on which Hajjar commented --- and by the dozens of studies which confirm that the greatest threat to election security comes from Election Insiders, including employees at voting machine companies who have virtually unlimited access to the devices.

Even the final report from the fatally compromised Baker/Carter National Commission on Election Reform found that "Software can be modified maliciously before being installed into individual voting machines. There is no reason to trust insiders in the election industry any more than in other industries."

Is James A. Baker III one of those "deluded," "paranoid," "looney idealogues," Mr. Hajjar?

You suggest I should "look to the incompetence and cowardice of the Democratic party for its failures," and in response, I'd suggest that you look to The BRAD BLOG for volumes of reporting on exactly that. Perhaps our page of detailed special coverage of Democratic Rep. Rush Holt's proposed election reform bill will offer you a clue, since you seem to be tragically without one in that regard.

"It's not the machines that are the cause of our problems, it's the people," you write. And of course, I agree. That was the point of the article you commented on, but apparently failed to grasp. You, by the way, are one of those people who are at the root cause of our problems.

Or perhaps you're just a deluded, paranoid loon when it comes to reading detailed, independently verifiable reports on the corrupt, unAmerican, democracy-hating liars with whom you've decided to cast your lot.

Either way, I'd be delighted to take up your offer to debate all of these issues. If someone reading this would like to create a forum for such a debate somewhere between here (Missouri) and California over the next few weeks as I travel, I'd be happy to show up and debate all of these matters publicly. Otherwise, I'll be back in Los Angeles by September, and would happily meet you there for same.

"Bring it on," indeed.