Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Israeli "spy" scandal: Don't miss the basic point

The current Israeli "spy" scandal involving Pentagon Iran expert Larry Franklin has an interesting parallel to the Susan Lindauer case.

Remember Susan? She was the starry-eyed do-gooder who hoped to stave off war by doing her naive best to get the Iraqis to agree to UN inspections. Because she contacted representatives of that government on her own initiative -- and then went on to contact White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card (of all people!) -- she was charged with acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign power. (The neanderthal press morphed this charge into one of "spying," although she was never accused of that.)

Now let's flash-forward to THIS scenario:

Larry Franklin, the Pentagon's top Iran guy, arranges to meet representatives of AIPAC in a coffe shop. (AIPAC is the pro-Israel lobbying group.) According to most published accounts, he hands over classified documents. Other reports have it that he simply relayed secret information orally. Opinion varies as to just what it was he "passed over" to his dinner companions, but everyone agrees it was classified material.

His AIPAC contacts promptly relay all that they have learned to the Israeli government.

How do we know that this is what happened? Because the FBI was keeping tabs, covertly, on these AIPAC folks. Wiretaps, eavesdropping, that sort of thing.

Here's the most important point: AIPAC is not...not...NOT a registered agent of the Israeli government.

If anyone on Uncle Sam's payroll gives -- or attempts to give -- classified data to any AIPAC representative, that representative is supposed to contact the FBI, or some other appropriate U.S. authority. AIPAC may NOT legally pass said information along to anyone in Israel. Doing so is against the law.

In what universe is it permitted for Susan Lindauer to be charged with violating the "registered agent" provisions of U.S. code, while AIPAC officials can do the same thing without any problems?

And I won't even go into Laura Rozen's most startling allegation -- that Franklin passed along the documents not so much to help Israel but because he wanted to change U.S. policy toward Iran. In other words, he felt the Israelis would have more "pull" with Bush than would the Pentagon's top Iran expert! (Rozen makes her very interesting argument at www.warandpiece.com.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

"REVOTE OR REVOLT!": Digital treason and the case for rebellion

By now, we know the problem. Alas, we have yet to face the implications, or the necessity for historic action.

The problem: Touch-screen voting without a paper trail. There are already 50,000 such machines scheduled for use in the next election. The clearest danger signal comes from the recent elections in Venezuela, conducted on machines which supply paper receipts. Opponents of the victorious Hugo Chavez insisted upon a recount, which was made possible only by the presence of old-fashioned ink-on-wood-pulp.

No such trail – and therefore, no recount – will be feasible in the United States of America in 2004. Roughly one-third of the voters will cast their ballots on electronic machines incapable of independent audit. The engineers of the new election infrastructure ask us to trust their computers.

We must never allow ourselves so foolhardy a trust.

Other writers, not least among them Bev Harris, have detailed at length how an unscrupulous operator could manipulate the e-vote. The three major firms which manufacture and administer these devices – Diebold, Sequoia, Election Systems and Software (ESS&S) – are, to a large extent, run or funded by individuals committed to the Republican party.

Example: Funding for ES&S has come from such figures as Carolyn Hunt, of Texas’ ultra-right Hunt family, and Howard Ahmanson, a tireless promoter of far-right and evangelical causes. Ahmanson also supports the Chalcedon Institute, a bastion of the Christian Reconstruction movement, which advocates the replacement of secular democracy with theocracy. The leading figure in Diebold – perhaps the best-known of the three firms – has announced his intention to deliver the vote for George Bush.

These firms have never explained why modern voting technology allows for a paper trail in Venezuela but not in the United States of America. Diebold’s ATM machines offer receipts – yet if you demand similar receipts from their election equipment, the company will act as though the task represents a scientific challenge more daunting than the invention of anti-gravity. Common sense tells us that voting methodology requires transparency and government-mandated specifications – perhaps even government-built machines. But Diebold and ES&S – citing “trade secrets” – refuse to make their software code available for independent inspection.

The late Ethan Gibbs developed a much more trustworthy machine called the “True Vote” validation system, which provides two paper receipts – one of which is kept by the voter, while the other falls into a lockbox. Why aren’t we using these devices in the upcoming election? Because Republican-dominated election boards refuse to consider a verifiable system, and have offered specious reasons for their choice.

This refusal demonstrates intention to commit fraud. We need no further proof. If you were a Beverly Hills shopkeeper, how would you respond if you saw Winona Ryder obstructing the security cameras? Would you require further evidence of bad intention?

The record gives us good reason to snub the e-vote. For example, in one Texas county, three Republican candidates received precisely the same number of votes – 18,101 – on touch-screen machines. In 2000, a Global Election Systems/Diebold employee sent out a company memo asking “for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16,022 [votes] when it was uploaded.” We’ve already seen a number of contests in which Republicans – always Republicans – scored an “upset” victory against the pollsters’ predictions.

Many Americans already know of these issues, but can grasp neither the implications nor their duties. What happens if – when? – a close 2004 presidential election is decided by an onionskin-thin margin in states using unreliable Diebold machines?

If we accept an outcome we cannot verify, then we have jettisoned democracy. Perhaps forever.

But what does it mean to say: “I do not accept this result?” Do we simply mouth the words – bellow with indignation, write letters to the editor, perhaps march in a demonstration – and then go on with our lives?

Jeffrson, Franklin, Madison and Paine would have viewed such cowardice with contempt.

No: If the election turns on a handful of touch-screen votes, then we must act with courage. We must demand a new election, using “old style” ballots, within the affected state or states.

We must take up the cry: “Revote or Revolt!”

Words alone won’t carry the day. We must bring about a revote by any means necessary. We must make clear that we consider a “touch screen” winner illegitimate. We must cry “Traitor!” at anyone who supports such a tainted result.

Fairness dictates that we heed the same demand for a revote no matter which party gets the computer-tallied nod. The issue at stake concerns process, not outcome. If Bush or Kerry wins a “clean” (i.e., verifiable) vote, so be it. We must support either man as we would any other president. But any candidate who wins in a fraudulent election should be considered a dictator, a usurper, until the voters can speak without electronic distortion.

For the purposes of our present argument, let us presume that a rigged vote keeps Kerry from the presidency. How do we rebel? Do we take up arms?

Better, perhaps, to lay them down. Or rather, to ask Democratic soldiers and policemen to do so. Although the majority of our military personnel and law enforcement officers may be Republican, one party does not control every individual who wields a state-issued weapon.

If every Democrat in military uniform – in Iraq and elsewhere – refused to leave barracks until Bush agreed to a revote, the current administration would not be able to project its foreign policy. Similarly, if every Democratic cop refused to enforce the laws of an illegitimate government, cities would slide toward chaos. Policemen have been known to participate in work slowdowns during wage disputes; the demand for electoral fairness provides far better motive for such tactics.

To quell growing domestic unrest, the usurpation government would rely on the National Guard, or at least those guardsmen still loyal to the usurper. These guardsmen would return home from overseas duty to quell a potential American rebellion. Those forces remaining in Iraq would not suffice to quell a raging Iraqi rebellion.

An excellent non-violent strategy would take the form of a pledge by Democracts not to pay taxes until a de-computerized revote delivers a legitimate result. The government cannot operate without money.

Since big-money Republican interests never say “ouch” unless you hit them in the wallet, a nationwide Democratic work stoppage will accelerate the effects of the tax pledge. So too would hard-hitting campaigns – boycotts, picketing, employee sabotage, arson – against Bush-supporting companies such as Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Microsoft. (All protest activities against these firms should cease the moment their CEOs publicly ask for a revote.)

The day-to-day operations of government depend on workers hired in the District of Columbia, many of whom are African-American. Will they stand idle as an electronic lynching robs their brothers and sisters in other states of their right to vote? A work stoppage in DC will bring government to a halt.

Violence against persons will probably prove counterproductive. Offenses against property are a decision each individual must make for himself. Ten years ago, the Rodney King verdict sparked massive urban unrest. If multitudes felt rage then, how much more rage should arise if traitors steal the White House via computerized fraud?

One all-important factor looms over all these strategies: Due to Bush’s massive deficit spending, America now depends on foreign investment to fund our debt. The moment America shows signs of instability, these investors will signal their willingness to park their money elsewhere.

The threat of economic ragnarok will soften the die-hardiest of Republicans. Even the worst of our plutocrats cannot want America to become Argentina. The other guy will blink.

Many readers will ask: What about demonstrations? On previous occasions, mass public gatherings have served little purpose; the largest demonstrations in history could not halt the Iraq war. A rigged vote, however, should spark demonstrations dwarfing the largest in history – and although we cannot expect Fox News to cover the event properly, the Fox audience is not the target audience. Europe and Asia are the targets.

Remember: The goal is to create talk of a “divest in America” movement overseas. Even the whisper of such a movement should be enough to force a revote.

Consider history. If America had been so deeply in debt to foreign interests in 1967-1970, the anti-war and racial equality movements would have wielded much more power, because visible signs of instability would have made this country appear a poor financial risk. We were lenders then; we are beggars today.

If digital fraud gives Bush another four years, prepare to have the opposition’s formidable propaganda machinery whip their pious dupes into a frenzy. If fraud sires rebellion, the propagandists will claim that Democrats want only to put their man into office, not to put the election process aright. No matter how many times Democrats say that they will accept a Bush presidency if a non-electronic vote finds for him, the media manipulators will sneeringly misrepresent the facts – indeed, they may misrepresent this very essay. Their sheep will accept their deceit. The traitors will call us traitors.

The slogan must therefore always be “Revote or Revolt!” At all times, we must emphasize that the problem will go away, and the country will return to normal, the moment each side agrees on a new, fair vote using old-fashioned ballots and international observers.

We have a fight ahead. Will you shirk it?

Will you listen to blandishments and rationalizations? Will you listen to liars as they try to convince you to accept the “minor” flaws of electronic voting? Will you nod dreamily as techno-consters offer convoluted, incomprehensible reasons as to why we should trust their machines? When they tell you “maybe next time” the election results will be verifiable, will you accept their comforting illusions?

You buy the lie at the price of your soul. The shades of our founders scream for us to do our duty in the face of digital treason.