Tuesday, August 26, 2003

I recently mentioned the fact that SAIC had been engaged by the State of Maryland to do an independent audit of the Diebold voting machines. It now turns out that one of the authors of a Johns Hopkins University study (see it here, Diebold's comments, and a rebuttal to Diebold's comments) which was highly critical of the security of the Diebold voting terminals, Avi Rubin, actually had an interest in a potential voting machine competitor of Diebold, VoteHere. He has apologized backwards and forwards for what he claims was a technical oversight, and has terminated his connection with the competitor, but his conflict, however inadvertent, was i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-y stupid. It will damage this computer scientist's credibility on any subject for the rest of his life, and is already being used to criticize the study in order to support the continued use of the questionable machines in Georgia. Rubin has allowed Diebold to characterize the criticism of their system as motivated by a financial conflict of interest in a competitor, and has handed them a golden weapon in the propaganda war. But SAIC appears to have its own serious conflict of interest problems. The Chairman of the Board for VoteHere is Admiral Bill Owens (or here), a former President, Chief Operating Officer, and Vice Chairman of SAIC. Another former SAIC board member, ex-CIA director Robert Gates, is also on the board of VoteHere. It appears you can't throw a dead cat around the world of voting machines without hitting a conflict of interest. You have to wonder why Diebold made such a fuss about Rubin's connections to VoteHere, but doesn't seem to care about the potential conflicts between its competitor VoteHere, and the company that is going to audit its voting machines, SAIC. If we delve deeper, we can see the outlines of the game that SAIC and Diebold are playing here. It turns out that there is a lobbying group called the Enterprise Solutions Division of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). This group is currently proposing that it be hired to spin the PR to advocate the adoption of these questionable voting machines. On the board of directors of the Enterprise Solutions Division of ITAA is Ronald J. Knecht, a Senior Vice President of SAIC, and SAIC is listed as a 'member' of the Division! So the company providing an independent audit of the security of Diebold's voting machines is connected to a lobby group that wants to be hired to convince the public and politicians that electronic voting is the greatest thing since sliced bread. There may also be mysterious connections to a nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization called "The Election Center" (on the main page, click on the link 'About Election Center'), whose members are government employees whose profession is to serve in voter registration and elections administration, and which, amongst other things, selects the certifiers of voting machines (all this excellent sleuthing is by Bev Harris of the most important website in the United States, Black Box Voting; in particular, read the comment on the first page of the site called 'Secret Meetings of the Black Box Yakuza'). Obviously, the main impediment to the rosy view of electronic voting is the Johns Hopkins report and the perception that there are security flaws in the Diebold system, and thus problems in any such voting system. How can SAIC be trusted to audit Diebold's system when SAIC is tied to a group which intends to lobby for just this kind of system to be used in the voting of the future? Diebold's selective concern about conflict of interest betrays the fact that SAIC and Diebold are on exactly the same side of this issue. This isn't just a technical issue: the use of these systems is how Bush intends to get reelected so he can continue to destroy the United States and much of the rest of the world. If these crooked machines are used, he will be reelected, along with a Republican Congress. There is only one way to stop this: paper ballots, counted by hand.