Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The secret White House comunication system

GWB43 is the name of an internet server owned by the Republican National Committee.

The White House has its own internal email system, ending in the .gov suffix, as mandated by the Presidential Records Act. The law requires that public business be conducted on a public server.

Yet documents made public in the course of the U.S. Attorney Purge scandal reveal that key Administration figures used such email addresses ending with ""

As Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) notes:
CREW has learned that to fulfill its statutory obligations under the PRA, the White House email system automatically copies all messages created by staff and sends them to the White House Office of Records Management for archiving. It appears that the White House deliberately bypassed the automatic archiving function of its own email system that was designed to ensure compliance with the PRA.
Karl Rove, we learn, does about 95% of his White House emailing from the RNC-controlled account, even though 100% of his salary is paid for by taxpayers. It is against the law for him to do partisan political work while in the White House. (During the Clinton years, allegations that Al Gore made phone calls to donors from the premises enraged Republican pundits.)

This writer makes the excellent point that the official White House communications channels are "hardened" against interception by foreign intelligence services. Can the same be said about the private RNC servers?

Did prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald know about this bypass when he subpoenaed White House emails pursuant to the Plamegate investigation? If he had, "Scooter" Libby might not have been the only one brought to trial.

We recently learned that Susan Ralston, the former assistant to Karl Rove, used three private e-mail accounts connected to the Republican party to provide "inside White House" information to Abramoff. Would Rove have been implicated in the Abramoff scandal if investigators knew about these "hidden" communications?

After one Abramoff/Ralston communication, a follow-up email to Jack Abramoff clearly states that people in the White House use private servers to conduct business of dubious legality:
Your email to Susan was forwarded to Ruben Barrales and on to Jen Farley, who read it to me last night. I don't know what to think about this, but she said is better not to put this stuff in writing in their email system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc. Who knows?
This story by Joseph Hughes and Melissa McEwan compiles statements by George Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Michael Chertoff and Alberto Gonzales, all of whom have claimed that they do not use email for business. Oddly, Rice made this claim at the same time let slip that she had used email to communicate with Richard Clarke.

Dubya's stated reasoning for not entering the computer age is both disconcerting and inarticulate:
"I tend not to e-mail - not only tend not to e-mail, I don't e-mail, uh, because of, uh, the different record requests that could happen to a president. I don't want to receive e-mails, 'cause, you know, there's no telling what somebody would e-mail me and it would show up as, uh, you know, part of some kind of a story that - and I wouldn't be able to say, 'Well, I didn't read the e-mail' - 'But I sent it your address; how can you say you didn't?' So, in other words, I'm very cautious about e-mailing."
All very amusing, but can we really believe that in the modern age these people do not use the most convenient messaging system available?

Or could it be that all these people recall how Ollie North was tripped up by the discovery of certain emails?

If the Bush White House used GWB43 to route around history, we must ask a question straight out of the Parsifal legends: What is GWB43 and who does it serve?

The answer, surprisingly enough, takes us into the dark mysteries of the 2004 election in Ohio.

A list of domains that share mailservers and nameservers with gwb43 reveals numerous sites connected to either powerful Republicans or to the Religious Right. On the mailserver list, we find domains connected to Bush, Newt Gingrich, and

Here is the WHOIS info on GWB43:
Domain Name: GWB43.COM

Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:

Republican National Committee dns@RNCHQ.ORG

310 First Street SE

Washington, DC 20003


999 999 9999 fax: 999 999 9999

Record expires on 16-Jan-2008.

Record created on 16-Jan-2004.

Database last updated on 21-Mar-2007 17:45:46 EDT.

Domain servers in listed order:


""? This odd name derives, it seems, from a passage in A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories, in which the characters try to decipher a truncated sign which once read "Trespassers will be prosecuted." The server, in this case, belongs to a web design firm called Coptix, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

(Incidentally, it is against the law to provide a false telephone number in registration information.)

SMARTECHCORP refers to a hosting service named Smartech, also located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Their web page is here. They offer internet hosting, streaming media and so forth.

In 2000, Smartech merged with a company called NextLec, a telecommunications firm owned by the remarkable Mercer Reynolds, President Bush's close friend and controversial campaign fundraiser. Reynolds, who raised a record amount during the 2004 campaign, has been accused of selling access to the President.

The name Smartech appeared in stories arising out of the disputed 2004 election in Ohio. From a November 7, 2006 article by luaptifer at Daily Kos:
Ohio's election results are hosted on the same servers by the partisan companies that run websites like and many of the familiar Republican group sites.
More (also see here):
SOS Blackwell also neglected to inform that he outsourced Election Night hosting services to the provider of Internet operations for the Republican National Committee, SMARTech Corp. It's clear that most of the IP address space allocated to Smartechcorp, if it has a domain name, is operated by the RNC or its functionaries and allies.
The firm handles everything Republican:

On August 22, 2004, SMARTech Corp ( announced that it would be "hosting" the Republican National Convention in New York City, providing "convention speeches, video-on-demand 'streams' and live shots of events through powerful Web servers, most of which are at Smartech’s headquarters in downtown Chattanooga." The announcement stated that the "company also hosts the Bush-Cheney campaign Web site, at, and the national committee’s site,"

Smartech shows up in this interesting information technology story from 2004, which outlines a still-unsolved mystery.

During election season, web surfers from outside the United States were not able to access Bush's Web site,, even though surfers within U.S. borders had no problem doing so. Why this oddity, and who was responsible? The site used network management technology from Akamai Technologies Inc. to restrict access. An Akamai spokesman referred all questions to the hosting company, Smartech. Yet Smartech's president said "All we do is host the site. I have no control over what's being done outside our servers."

Why would anyone within the party would want to restrict foreigners from looking at

One possible answer: The intention was to restrict foreign intelligence services or CIA personnel (who cannot operate domestically) from learning about sensitive White House communications using the GWB43 server.

So, what does it mean that Ken Blackwell used Smartech for Ohio's election night hosting services?

One does not need to exercise much imagination to see how anyone using the net for nefarious purposes would want a "friendly" hosting company handling ultra-sensitive duties. Hosting companies keep records of who does what. If you are using computers to do something you don't want the world to know about, you don't want those records available to just anyone.

As the controversy over the 2004 elections gathered steam, Karl Rove made a joke about fixing the election returns from a computer in the White House basement. This remark struck some observers as the sort of jest that the villain in Rope might have uttered: "Yeah, sure, I strangled my friend for no good reason and hid his body in the cupboard! Now seriously, how about that drink...?"

The vote tabulators -- the "mother machines" as Teresa Kerry once put it -- had an online connection. Anyone using the internet to interfere with the data stream coming from or going to those computers would be fearful of an electronic "trail" tracking his actions.

Similarly, anyone in the White House using an RNC server to avoid incriminating emails entering the historical record would fear that the records would be subject to a subpoena served upon the hosting company.

That's why someone engaged in such activity would -- hypothetically -- want to use a company owned by the President's good friend. A private company can scrub such records whenever it wishes to do so, or it can neglect to keep them in the first place.

Now, I must stress that I have no evidence that Smartech is anything other than an honest, responsibly-run firm.

Michael Collins, a writer and "clean elections" activist, does not accuse Smartech or any other firm of wrongdoing, but he does offer this hypothetical tableau:

You're in the parallel universe in a country almost exactly like ours and you want to steal an election. How do you do it: You look at: what states are really valuable-now and in the past; your resources in those places of value; your logistical plans - can you execute in those states.

Then you take your goals and apply available technology. It's all about machines, which you can have switch votes, and networked tabulators, centralized tabulators. You get the "servicing" personnel to make sure that the pre-programmed vote switching software driven machines are put in place. Then you use a safe haven ISP as an operations base that will allow your mischief to take place without a lot of record keeping that can't be cleansed.

This is the core - the machines do their thing. You've got a safe haven ISP network provider, and you have the traditional techniques: over registering in favorable voting areas, voter suppression, voter disenfranchisement, and all around psy ops to keep the oppositions vote away.

Voila, you win the election. Who knows if this hypothetical applies? But it's fascinating isn't it?

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