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“Critical Security Failures” ID’d in Ohio Electronic Voting Systems in 2007: FRINFORMSUM 12/8/2016

December 8, 2016


Untrustworthy Elections

A 2007 Ohio Secretary of State review to assess the security of electronic voting systems used in the state discovered that “all of the studied systems possess critical security failures that render their technical controls insufficient to guarantee a trustworthy election.” The 300-plus page review was one of the dozen new documents that was posted in the National Security Archive’s Cyber Vault on Wednesday, December 7. The review highlights four areas of primary concern: a uniform failure to “adequately address important threats against election data and processes;” improper use of implementation of security technology; lack of trustworthy auditing capabilities; and “deeply flawed” software maintenance practices.  The rest of this week’s updates can be read here.

Tom Blanton Testifies Before House on Overclassification

National Security Archive director Tom Blanton testified this week on the “arbitrary and capricious classification system” before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The entire written testimony is a must-read, and the video of Blanton’s testimony – along with expert testimony from the Federation of American Scientists’ Steve Aftergood, Project on Government Oversight’s Scott Amey, and former ISOO Director William Leonard – can be found here. The main takeaway? The problem is “an arbitrary and capricious classification system that lacks internal and external credibility and contains too many secrets. This system shields government misconduct, obstructs Congressional and public oversight, retards scientific progress, and cedes enormous power to its enforcers, the securocrats.  It’s time to write a law that reduces government secrecy.”


Blanton also recently visited with PBS’s The Open Mind to discuss the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act, declassifying the presidency, and more. Go here to watch the entire 30-minute interview.

Three Steps to Improve Classification and Declassification System

National Security Archive FOIA Project Director Nate Jones presented three tangible steps that could be taken to fix the classification and declassification system today before the Public Interest Declassification Board. Jones, echoing some of Tom Blanton’s House testimony, urged the Board to: further improve the efficiency of the National Declassification Center and expand its authority; fully realize the Moynihan Commission’s finding that “the cost of protection, vulnerability, threat, risk, value of the information, and public benefit from release” must be considered when deciding whether or not to classify or declassify any document; and “get into the declassification business.”

Jones was joined by Steve Aftergood, the Brennan Center’s Liza Goitein, and Patrice McDetmott of All of their White Papers can be found on the PIDB’s blog, Transforming Classification.

The National Declassification Center’s Sheryl Shenberger also presented, commenting that the NDC should, among other things, be given more declassification authority, particularly of historical records. Her comments do not appear on PIDB’s blog – but it would be useful if they were added alongside Jones’s and others.

Internet Archive Publishes NSL

The Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library of 279 billion (and counting) webpages, including “irreplaceable webpages that have been erased elsewhere,” recently announced its plan to set up a mirror repository in Canada, citing concerns of increased government surveillance under a Trump administration.

The announcement comes on the heels of an “unqualified success” for the Internet Archive. IA fought back against a gag order contained in one of the FBI’s infamous National Security Letters (a 2013 District Court ruling found the everlasting gag orders unconstitutional) directly in a letter to the FBI that challenged the letter’s legal and constitutional validity. The FBI backed down, and the Internet Archive posted the letter.

Food Stamp Benefit Info

U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier recently ruled against the Department of Agriculture and its invocation of FOIA exemption 4 (trade secrets) to hide information on “the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.” A South Dakoka newspaper went to court in 2011 after it was denied the records, and, 5 years later, the court sided with the paper. Judge Schreier ruled, “This information includes a store’s location, layout, pricing, product selection, and customer traffic. … while SNAP information may provide some insight into a store’s overall financial health, the data is a small piece in a much larger picture—disclosure would have a nominal effect on competition in the grocery industry.”

House Bill Requires Declassification Review of Intel Reports on transferred Guantanamo Detainees

The House recently passed a bipartisan intelligence policy bill that calls for an interagency panel on “Russian attempts to “exert covert influence over peoples and governments.” The bill “also updates whistleblowing procedures in the intelligence community. And it requires a declassification review of intelligence reports on detainees transferred out of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay by both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.”

Soviet Response “Unparalleled in Scale”

A National Security Archive posting this week, reinforcing a new book by Nate Jones, reveals that NATO war game Able Archer 83 simulated nuclear launch procedures so realistically that it triggered a Warsaw Pact response “unparalleled in scale” and risked actual nuclear war. This high-level review “strongly suggest[ed]” to its authors, the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, “that Soviet Military leaders may have been seriously concerned that the U.S. would use Able Archer 83 as a cover for launching a real attack” and that “some Soviet forces were preparing to pre-empt or counterattack a NATO strike launched under cover of Able Archer.” Now available to purchase, Able Archer 83, tells the story of this dangerous nuclear exercise, the generals who ran it, and the American and Soviet leaders it affected, through a selection of declassified documents pried from U.S. and British agencies and archives, as well as formerly secret Soviet Politburo, KGB, and other Eastern Bloc files.

FOIA @ 250

250 years ago, two centuries before the United States enacted the FOIA, the Swedish Parliament passed the Ordinance on Freedom of Writing and of the Press, the world’s first law requiring “publicity for official documents.” The Finnish-Swedish enlightenment thinker and politician Anders Chydenius was the champion of this 18th century open records law. “Historians cannot trace a direct line from Sweden’s 1766 law to the U.S. law of 1966, but the Swedish and Finnish idea of publicity for official documents percolated through the 19th century movement in the U.S. that changed common law notions – that requesters had to demonstrate a need to know before they could get government records – into the right to know, now recognized as a fundamental human right,” said Archive director Tom Blanton. The National Security Archive’s commemorative posting can be found here.

John Negroponte speaks at his swearing in ceremony as new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq on June 23, 2004. (Source: U.S. State Department)

John Negroponte speaks at his swearing in ceremony as new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq on June 23, 2004. (Source: U.S. State Department)

TBT pick – The Negroponte File

This week’s #TBT pick is the Negroponte File. Originally posted in 2005, it contains “392 cables and memos [that] record Negroponte’s daily, and even hourly, activities as the powerful Ambassador to Honduras during the contra war in the early 1980s. They include dozens of cables in which the Ambassador sought to undermine regional peace efforts such as the Contadora initiative that ultimately won Costa Rican president Oscar Arias a Nobel Prize, as well as multiple reports of meetings and conversations with Honduran military officers who were instrumental in providing logistical support and infrastructure for CIA covert operations in support of the contras against Nicaragua –‘our special project’ as Negroponte refers to the contra war in the cable traffic.”

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Happy FOIA-ing!


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