The Russian election hack may be a “red herring” so to speak. Visions of a new Cold War and appeals to Mother Russia aside (see this issue’s cover), the real problem is private, partisan, for-profit vendors secretly programming the computer hardware and software used in our elections.
Why is this so difficult to see? In Ohio, the Right-to-Life movement has long been active in voter registration databases, ePolling books, central tabulator and computer voting machine maintenance through companies like Triad and GovTech.
When dozens of computer security experts like Alex Halderman, professor at the University of Michigan, tell us that our elections are easily hackable, why don’t we believe them?
So Russians aside, let’s look at the history of computer voting in the U.S.
To understand the history of voting machines, we need to go back to the beginning of the Cold War. In 1950, the Bureau of Social Science Research (BSSR) appeared at American University. In 1953, it became a non-profit entity heavily involved with the CIA.
BSSR is most well-known for its propaganda role in overthrowing the democratic government of Mossadegh in Iran. So the same CIA now telling us that the Russians are hacking our elections has itself been responsible for rigging elections for over 60 years worldwide and continues to do so.
There’s a comprehensive of the major CIA electoral coups in the book I co-authored with Harvey Wasserman called “The Strip and Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows and Electronic Election Theft.”
When the Agency appeared before Senator Frank Church’s investigatory committee in the 1970s, they admitted to over 5000 “benign operations,” a code word for election rigging. Benign is a term indicating there was no bloody, vicious coup like when the U.S. overthrew the government of Salvador Allende in Chile and ended the second longest standing democracy in the western hemisphere.
The media frenzy surrounding the dubious “Russian hack” of our elections distracts from the real issue that we’ve handed the power to rig elections to domestic computer programmers working for private voting machine companies. Our cover girl who is holding a sickle and a Coke personifies the new right-wing nationalism prevalent in both our undemocratic nations. As Orwell, among others, warned during the Cold War, we have become the authoritarians we feared so much.