Documents reveal how Ohio routed 2004 voting data through company that hosted external Bush Administration email accounts
Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane
Published: Friday October 31, 2008


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Newly obtained computer schematics provide further detail of how electronic voting data was routed during the 2004 election from Ohio’s Secretary of State’s office through a partisan Tennessee web hosting company.

A network security expert with high-level US government clearances, who is also a former McCain delegate, says the documents – server schematics which trace the architecture created for Ohio’s then-Republican Secretary of State and state election chief Kenneth Blackwell – raise troubling questions about the security of electronic voting and the integrity of the 2004 presidential election results.

The flow chart shows how voting information was transferred from Ohio to SmarTech Inc., a Chattanooga Tennessee IT company known for its close association with the Republican Party, before the 2004 election results were displayed online.

Information technology expert Stephen Spoonamore believes this architecture could have made possible a KingPin or "Man in the Middle" (MIM) attack -- a well-defined criminal methodology in which a computer is inserted into the network of a bank or credit card processor to intercept and modify transactions before they reach a central computer.

In an affidavit filed in September, Spoonamore asserted that "any time all information is directed to a single computer for consolidation, it is possible… that single computer will exploit the information for some purpose. ... In the case of Ohio 2004, the only purpose I can conceive for sending all county vote tabulations to a GOP managed Man-in-the-Middle site in Chattanooga before sending the results onward to the Sec. of State, would be to hack the vote at the MIM."

Not everyone agrees. RAW STORY also sent the schematics to computer science professor David L. Dill, a longtime critic of electronic voting machines. In an email message, Dill said he’s skeptical that an attack of the sort described by Spoonamore could have been carried out undetected.

"It seems that the major concern is whether routing election results through a third-party server would allow that third party to change the reported election results,” Dill wrote. “These diagrams haven't answered my basic question about that idea. The individual counties know the counts that they transmitted to the state. If those results were altered by the state or a middleman, I would think that many people in many counties would know the actual numbers and would raise an alarm."

Spoonamore has now filed a fresh affidavit (pdf), in regard to a case involving alleged Ohio vote tampering, which asserts that the schematics support a "Man in the Middle" attack having been implemented in Ohio in 2004. Ohio provided the crucial Electoral College votes to secure President George W. Bush's reelection.

"The computer system at SmartTech had the correct placement, connectivity, and computer experts necessary to change the election in any manner desired by the controllers of the SmartTech computers," Spoonamore wrote in the affadavit.

"Overall, my analysis of the two Architectures provided is the following,” he added. "They are very simple systems. They are designed for ease of use during the one of two times a year they are needed for an election. They are not designed with any security or monitoring systems for negative actions including MIM or KingPin attacks. These systems as designed would not be sufficient for any banking function, credit card function, or even or many corporate email systems needing a high degree of confidence. They are systems which will work easily, but are based on a belief all users and the system itself will be trusted not to be hacked."

He continued, "There are obviously many parties willing, with motivation, and able to hack an election for a desired outcome."

Inconclusive Evidence?

Dill told Raw Story the schematics are inconclusive and that he continues to have questions after reading Spoonamore's latest affadavit, although he cautioned that he himself is not an expert in Spoonamore's specialty of network security.

"Basically, the whole thing seems highly speculative," Dill said. "It's important to distinguish 'possible' from 'probable' here. I don't even know if this is possible. More details about how the tabulators worked in those particular counties, who was managing them, how the results were uploaded, whether they were all the same kind, etc. would help establish that."

"As to 'probable' -- I don't think that's been established at all, unless one starts with the presumption that the election was stolen and works backwards from there," he added. "I don't think Spoonamore has made the case that SmartTech and Triad '.. reversed the outcome of the 2004 Ohio Presidential Race.' I don't know that it DIDN'T happen, but, at this point, I think we need to demand better evidence."

"Neither I nor Spoonamore have any special knowledge on exit polls or Ohio voting patterns in judicial races," Dill continued. "I'd urge you to take a close look at what skeptical political scientists have written. It's been a long time, but I was left with the impression that proof was lacking."

RAW STORY has posted the schematics here for 2004 and here for 2006.

The Connally Anomaly

Spoonamore notes that on election night in 2004, he observed what he calls the "Connally anomaly," in which eight Ohio counties that had been reporting a consistent ratio of Kerry votes to Bush votes suddenly changed at about 11 pm and began reporting results much more favorable to Bush. Election tallies in these counties, plus a few others, also showed the unlikely result of tens of thousands of voters choosing an extremely liberal judicial candidate but not voting for Kerry.

Spoonamore immediately suspected that a Man in the Middle attack had occurred but had no idea how it could have been carried out. It was not until November 2006 that the alternative media group ePluribus Media discovered that the real-time election results streamed by the office of Ohio's Secretary of State at election.sos.state.oh.us had been hosted on SmarTech's servers in Tennessee.

"Since early this decade, top Internet 'gurus' in Ohio have been coordinating web services with their GOP counterparts in Chattanooga, wiring up a major hub that in 2004, first served as a conduit for Ohio's live election night results," researchers at ePluribus Media wrote.

By then, SmarTech had become embroiled in the White House email scandal, during which it was discovered that accounts at rnc.com, gwb43.com, and other Republican Party domains which were hosted by SmarTech had been used by White House staff,, instead of their official government email accounts, to avoid leaving a public record of their communications. When subpoenaed by Congress, the White House said the emails had been accidentally deleted.

Remaining Questions

Dill further noted after examining the schematics, "The 11/02/04 diagram has several computer icons in the upper left for EN Results entry of various types. I don't know how this works, but given that counties are using different software to prepare their totals, I suspect the data is entered by hand into web forms or that spreadsheets are uploaded. Such an entry method would not easily lend itself to corrupting the original data. ... Even if data can be changed at the county servers, many pollworkers and possibly others know the results that were reported from their precincts, and someone would probably notice if the numbers reported by the county or state differed from those."

Dill said it would be helpful to have more information regarding the computers used and how they were connected.

"It would be a great idea to get some more definitive information about how the computers were connected and run in those counties," he wrote. "Messing with disks might help cover up evidence after the fact. But the first thing that had to happen was that county-level results had to be changed in such a way that no one could compare the precinct results with the announced totals."

Spoonamore said tampering could have been accomplished without broad knowledge.

Some have said "that local County Elections officials had been instructed to fax final results to confirm them, but this action would not have mattered if the local elections boards computers were already under the control of the KingPin," he wrote. He said the ultimate results faxed to the Secretary of State from Ohio counties could have been inserted by SmarTech, providing "a smokescreen" that would "mask the already hacked results and provide an illusion the tabulators were not reporting results over the Internet."




Larisa Alexandrovna is managing editor of investigative news for Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security stories. Contact: larisa@rawstory.com.

Muriel Kane is director of research for Raw Story.



 
 


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