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Time to true the vote

By Daniel M. Ryan
web posted June 12, 2017

James Comey, in his testimony last Thursday, presented himself as a beleaguered public servant of integrity forced to make choices he deeply regrets. He also said, quite explicitly, that he mistrusted Donald Trump from their first meeting: so much so, that he began making private notes on their conversations and arranged for a dead-man drop to leak the notes to the press. After he first said that he did so in response to Trump’s fear-the-tapes Tweet - this was quickly debunked - the story switched to the claim that he arranged the leak so as to force the appointment of a special prosecutor. With this and other inconsistencies that suggested Comey’s beleaguered-public-servant air was an act, it wasn’t long before the Internet was flooded with pieces that showed him in a different light.

In the questioning of him, Sen. John McCain was good enough to point to a double standard – but he did not point to the most eyebrow-raising one. Comey was apparently so rattled by President Trump that he immediately started penning CYA memos. But, he was not rattled by Loretta Lynch “directing�? him to square off the FBI’s official language with the Hillary Clinton campaign, by calling the Email classified-info investigation a “matter.�? Even though this “direction�? meant openly partisianizing the FBI, he was not rattled enough to jot down a single memo. He was not upset enough to refuse to comply; as he himself admitted, he did comply. True: he expressed deep regret after the fact. But in the moment, he went along with an alarming partisanization without being “stunned�? enough to write even a single CYA memo. The double standard - his favourable treatment of Lynch versus his resistance to President Trump - is glaring enough to make one wonder if he had the FBI square off with the Hillary campaign on another important matter.

It’s worthwhile looking at this from President Trump’s perspective. Since it’s consistent with his habit, it’s a safe bet that President Trump turned on the charm when he first met with Comey. Imagine you were doing that, only to see that he’s reacting like he had seen evidence left by one of our furry friends in his backyard. You afterwards express a hope that he’ll stop going after an ex-member of your team, on the grounds that the poor fellow lost his job and he’s suffered enough. You do so with the knowledge that the man in front of you performed the same favour to your opponent under much cloudier circumstances. The guy replies in a manner out of character for him: he responds like a stereotypical bureaucrat.

As time goes on, you see your Administration ridden by leaks – including leaks of information that the law says should not be leaked. The man you’re having the conversations with, despite being described as a public servant with integrity, shows zero interest in tracking down those leakers – even though he shows a definite interest in investigating your former team member. He does not explain this discrepancy by saying that he has profound regrets about signing off on the “Hillary defence,�? and that his tenacity about investigating Gen. Flynn is a way of closing the barn door after an important horse escaped. No: instead you get a picture of a man that’s operating on a visible double standard. This double standard includes obvious reluctance to announce that you are not under investigation, even though he’s told you so to your face more than once. This reluctance makes for a sharp contrast from the way he very publicly announced that the investigation of your electoral opponent was dropped like the proverbial hot potato.

In consequence, you begin to really wonder about him and where his loyalties lie.

When you look at these meetings from President Trump’s perspective, Comey’s fate is monumentally unsurprising. Even if we’re charitable towards him and assume that he signed off on decline-to-indict because he feared that the FBI would be acting like Praetorian Guards otherwise, he did put his stamp on the now-extant Hillary Defence. We can only guess how many others will use “extremely careless�? as a defence against a charge of mishandling classified information. We can only guess how many defence lawyers will rely on Comey’s “understanding�? of the relevant statutes instead of the plain wording of them. Former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, in his original column on the Hillary Defence, noted out loud that the explanation proffered was “another instance of the Justice Department [then headed up by Lynch] adopting Clinton campaign cant.�? That “campaign cant,�? Comey complied with....without so much as a single CYA memo to buttress his later-stated regret.

It remains to be seen if the Hillary Defence will be as influential as the Twinkie Defence: whether ‘diminished intent’ will become the new “diminished capacity.�? There may be an understanding that the Hillary Defence will only work for someone like Hillary. It certainly has not worked, at least at the per-indictment stage, for a pretty, young and cute fellow woman with the improbable name of Liberty Winner. Despite her last name, she’s now cooling her heels in jail after having lost bail.

Liberty Does Whistleblowing

Her own fate, at least so far, does suggest that Hillary’s woman card only works one way. Miss Winner is a pitiable figure from a certain angle, in that she seemed to think that the new laxity granted to the likes of Hillary would help her out too. Needless to say, it hasn’t. Through being swiftly caught due to her own kind of carelessness, and then being swiftly indicted and denied bail, she’s found out the hard way about the real rules of mishandling: Hillary up, Liberty down.

There’s a definite irony in her sure-to-be-sorry fate. Until she sent that classified NSA dossier which claimed that “Russian intelligence�? was attempting to hack the systems of electoral districts, the only evidence buttressing the mountain of Putin-did-it rhetoric was the Crowdstrike molehill - a hill built by moles that proved to be somewhat blind later on. James Clapper, John Brennan and James Comey should be sending her flowers with thank-you cards. She put in the public record the only other publicly-available document, even if it was written by NSA analysts who might have been squaring off with the Narrative, that indicates Russian interference in the last U.S. election.

She deserves to be the alt-right’s poster foil-girl, as she fits perfectly the alt-right’s characterization of leftie Trump-hating ‘rebels’ as being “ foot soldiers for the globalist establishment.�? She certainly did the “globalist establishment�? a favour by giving them more than the Crowdstrike claims to point to.

Despite her motives, she did the public a service too. We can now see that malicious hacking threatens the integrity of the vote. That is a huge deal, a real threat that goes beyond who mighta dunnit. The report points to vote fraud taken to a new high-tech level. Since vote fraud period is a very serious crime, her leaking reminds us that it’s high time to True the Vote.

The Canadian Option

As someone who did duty as a poll clerk in Canada’s last federal election, I can say flatly that the Canadian system is both tamper-resistant and impossible to hack. After authenticating the voter’s right to vote – yes, with photo ID – the voter got a paper ballot which he or she marked with a pen behind a privacy screen. Neither me nor the Deputy Return Officer (DRO) were allowed to be in the voter’s presence when (s)he made the choice. The votes went into a sealed ballot box. Throughout the voting day, each political party was entitled to send an observer to make sure that no funny stuff took place; there was at least one of those observers in the room for the entire day.

When the day ended, I and the DRO opened the ballot box and I carefully counted the results by hand. I was watched not only by the DRO but also by two representatives from Canada’s two biggest parties. When my work was done and my count checked, the DRO got on the telephone and phoned the results in. At no stage in the process was a computer even involved, let alone a computer that was vulnerable to being compromised by malware. The whole process was as secure as a hand-written sealed letter delivered by a human courier. To provide added assurance, the DRO was obliged to return the ballot box and the votes for archiving. If anyone thinks I pulled something funny, or even sloppy, (s)he can order the box up and audit my work.

Granted, this system is low-tech. But it’s a low-tech system that has strong controls against low-tech vote fraud and is absolutely proof against high-tech shenanigans. Not coincidentally, Canada has not had a vote-tampering scandal in my lifetime. It’s a low-tech system, but it’s tried and true. As noted above, checking photo ID is part of the procedure; this part is not controversial in Canada.

Moving to this kind of system may seem like an embarrassing step backwards, but its tamper resistance speaks for itself. When combined with a clean-up of the voter registries, very much including removing ineligibles from the rolls, adopting this system will not only strengthen the integrity of American elections but also will make the electoral system absolutely invulnerable to malicious hacking.

Surely, hardening the motor of democracy is more than worth some tech-heads eating a little crow? ESR

Daniel M. Ryan, as Nxtblg, is shepherding the independently-run Open Audi Initiative Prediction Market Shadowing Project. He has stubbornly assumed all the responsibility and blame for the workings and outcome of the project.




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