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[infowar.de] Pentagon lifts block on voter site
International Herald Tribune
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Pentagon lifts block on voter site
Jennifer Joan Lee/IHT
PARIS The U.S. Defense Department changed its explanation Wednesday for
problems faced by certain overseas Americans attempting to access the
government Web site for voters abroad, saying that an Internet security
block imposed several years ago had been left in place inadvertently.
The block, which had prevented some U.S. citizens abroad from accessing
www.fvap.gov, the site of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, as the
Nov. 2 election nears, has now been lifted, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Tim Madden, spokesman for the Defense Department task force that
oversees the Pentagon's computer networks, declined to specify the
reason for the block.
Earlier, a Pentagon official indicated that the block had been imposed
to thwart hackers, but Madden would not comment on this.
He insisted, however, that the Pentagon had not been not blocking the
Federal Voting Assistance Program's site.
Earlier Wednesday, three members of Congress wrote to Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld warning that the block could result in "the potential
disenfranchisement of millions of overseas Americans" and urging him to
restore access to the site.
News that access to the voting assistance site was restricted, first
reported in the International Herald Tribune on Monday, infuriated both
Democrats and Republicans.
Both parties want to see a maximum number of voters abroad register in
time to vote in November.
"We've sent a man to the moon, so we should also be able to safeguard
our voter assistance Web sites without disenfranchising patriotic,
tax-paying, law-abiding Americans," said Representative Carolyn Maloney,
Democrat of New York, one of the three who wrote to Rumsfeld.
The chairman of Republicans Abroad Europe, Robert Pingeon, said he did
not believe the block had been politically motivated.
"But I certainly think they could have done a better job explaining the
situation," he said. "The blocks may have a legitimate reason, but they
also complicate the lives of people trying to register to vote."
According to overseas voter advocates, the block prevented users of
major Internet service providers in many countries, including Australia,
Britain Canada, China, Czech Republic, France India and Japan, from
Some users of Wanadoo.fr, a French provider that had been blocked, said
Wednesday that they were now able to access the site.
Madden, the spokesman for the Pentagon's Joint Task Force-Global Network
Operations, said that the block had been left in place "inadvertently."
"That block should not have continued past a certain date," he said.
"For technical reasons, that block was not lifted when it was directed
to be lifted." He declined to elaborate.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program, which was set up to help American
servicemen and civilians overseas take part in elections, is under the
aegis of the Defense Department.
Madden said the Pentagon computer task force employed a strategy known
as "defense in depth" - "layering network defenses so that they
complement, support and validate each other.
Blocks, firewalls and antivirus software are only some of those
He said that "one device within the Department of Defense" had
maintained the block that prevented certain Internet service providers
>from accessing the voting assistance site.
The department's Global Information Grid involves 13,000 different
networks and 3.5 million individual computers, he said.
Madden declined to say when the block was originally imposed. But
Maloney, the Democratic congresswoman, indicated that it may have been
in place when the last presidential election took place, in 2000.
"It's my understanding that this was a problem four years ago, they knew
it was a problem, and they still haven't managed to fix it so that
Americans overseas can access the Web site," she said, before the
Pentagon indicated that the block had been lifted.
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