Yup. We're heading back to the critical battleground state of Georgia again on today's BradCast, as their ridiculous Sec. of State gets ridiculouser in his indefensible defenses of his ridiculously vulnerable, brand-new touchscreen voting systems which he is still refusing to upgrade, despite warnings from the federal government and increasing urging from voting system and cybersecurity experts. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
BUT FIRST, a few more quick words on yesterday's landmark U.S. Supreme Court opinion [PDF] in Moore v. Harper, in which Chief Justice John Roberts and two Trump-appointed Justices joined with the Court's three liberals to put the kibosh, hopefully once and for all, on the bonkers, so-called Independent State Legislature theory pushed by far-rightwingers. Had SCOTUS given a majority blessing to the fringe Constitutional theory giving complete, unreviewable say over all federal election laws to State Legislatures, it would have wreaked indescribable havoc on some 250 years of election laws across all 50 states. It would also have given authority to those State Legislatures to overturn Presidential elections by selecting slates of electors not chosen by state voters!
As one of the nation's most conservative and respected former federal judges, Michael Luttig, tweeted today: "It would be impossible to overstate the [enormousness] of yesterday's seminal decision in Moore v. Harper. Not only is it now the single most important constitutional case for American Democracy since the Nation's Founding almost 250 years ago. ... It is also now one of the most important constitutional cases for representative government in America. ... Today, it takes its deserved place in the pantheon of great Supreme Court cases that give meaning to the Constitution's genius of a separation of powers --- among the national Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary, and also between the national government and the governments of the respective 50 states of the United States."
But there were three Justices who voted in the minority in that case. As it turns out, all three of them were recently highlighted by investigate journalists for their, shall we say, dubious ethics practices. Clarence Thomas (see here, here, here and here), Neil Gorsuch (see here), and Sam Alito (see here).
In addition to Alito's undisclosed, luxury fishing trip to Alaska on the private jet (and dime) of GOP megadonor and vulture capitalist billionaire Paul Singer, as revealed by ProPublica last week, this week The Intercept offers a new story shedding some fresh light on Alito's years of climate change-denialism and his Court decisions on behalf of the oil and gas industry.
NEXT UP, it's back to Georgia, where Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger is reportedly giving testimony in Atlanta today to prosecutors working on Special Counsel Jack Smith's probe of the January 6, 2021 insurrection and the other myriad ways in which Team Trump attempted to steal the 2020 Presidential Election. (One of those ways included Donald Trump's now-infamous phone call to Raffensperger, attempting to strongarm him to "find" the 11,780 votes he would have needed to flip the state's results from the winner, Joe Biden.)
But where Raffy has been seen as a hero by some for refusing to roll over to Trump after the 2020 election, we have explained for years that he is anything but. Now, he's under fire for the massive vulnerabilities discovered by cybersecurity and voting system experts in his new, $150 million Dominion touchscreen voting systems, and for his refusal, as first reported by The BRAD BLOG in mid-May, to install Dominion's security patches to them before the 2024 Presidential election. That, despite urgent warnings from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and many longtime election experts and computer scientists.
Now, Raffensperger's office is going on the offensive, attacking those experts as "paranoiacs and conspiracists", attempting to conflate them with the rightwing, Sidney Powell-organized MAGA loons who tried to steal the election in 2020 and breached the state's voting systems in Coffee County, GA on January 7th, 2021, the day after the Trump-insighted insurrection in D.C.
"The paranoiacs and conspiracists of the world have their beliefs reinforced when they read reports of theoretical 'vulnerabilities' that fail to mention the real-world security measures already in place," sniped Mike Hassinger, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office, to Politico last week. "If the PhDs don’t like being put in the same category as the Pillow salesman, tough noogies," he actually said. "They should stop saying similar things."
We're joined today by one of those paranoiac conspiracist PhD's on today's program. Our guest is DR. PHILIP STARK, Professor at University of California, Berkeley; inventor of the post-election Risk-Limiting Audit protocol; Advisory Board member at the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) and advisor to plaintiffs in the long-running Curling v. Raffensperger lawsuit in Georgia seeking to replace the state's new vulnerable and unverifiable touchscreen voting systems with verifiable hand-marked paper ballots. (The same plaintiffs in the same federal lawsuit were able to win an order from the judge in 2019 that banned the state's previous touchscreen systems made by Diebold after they were found to be so vulnerable and unverifiable as to be unconstitutional.)
Stark has a few choice words of his own in response to both the obnoxious and un-scientific remarks from the Sec. of State's office as well as Dominion, both of whom have been blasting the damning Halderman Report, as created on behalf of plaintiffs in Curling and finding at least nine alarming vulnerabilities confirmed by CISA in the Dominion systems. Both the State and private voting system vendor claim that the Univ. of MI's Dr. Alex Halderman failed to take into account, in his report, the physical protections of the state's 70,000 vote system devices. They believe that will adequately protect next year's Presidential election in the battleground state. In doing so, they seem to be pretending that the Coffee County breach by Team Trump in 2021 didn't already run roughshod over the state's voting systems, including by copying and distributing its sensitive, proprietary software over the Internet.
"If [Raffensperger's] spokesperson can't tell the difference between what we're saying and what the [MAGA] group is saying, then they are not competent to do their job," charges Stark.
"There is a world of difference between 'This system is Swiss cheese from a perspective of security, it's really vulnerable and you need to harden it,' and 'The election was rigged and the wrong person was announced to have won.' That's just not the same claim at all. Secondly, the idea that we should stop pointing out vulnerabilities and trying to improve the trustworthiness of voting systems because someone might twist our words --- the argument seems to be 'You should lie to people in order to increase their trust in you' --- that seems to be perverse. What we want is justified public trust in the outcome of elections."
He summarizes some of the most noteworthy concerns from the Halderman Report --- detailing the ease by which malware can be implanted into the system by a single voter via any one of the state's 35,000 touchscreen voting machines or by one person at the County level who can infect every machine in the jurisdiction --- before explaining how inadequate and naive the Secretary's responses have been.
Both Raff's office and Dominion cite a competing study to Halderman's commissioned by Dominion from a group named MITRE. Their unsigned report was created without access to the Dominion machines, unlike Halderman's report, and offers the misleading claim that physical security of the voting systems is likely adequate to prevent exploitation of the vulnerabilities meticulously documented by Halderman. Stark is among nearly 30 election experts now calling on MITRE to retract their report on that basis and others.
"First of all, they're just wrong," Stark charges, wondering what their instructions may have been from Dominion. "I conjecture that they were told to assume that those [physical] protections were in place. I doubt that they did any independent research to determine whether in fact there were effective protections in place."
"I liken this to saying it's completely fine to drive a car on bald tires, as long as you have a policy of only driving straight on dry pavement and never turning sharply, or applying the brakes. Except that's not how it actually works in practice. And here, it's very, very clear that the assumption that there is rigorous physical security around these devices is just not true."
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)