Tales from the Trail

URL mischief crops up on the campaign front

It’s early in the 2012 presidential election campaign, but dirty tricks are alive and well, at least on the Internet.

In the days after President Barack Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden, someone bought a new Internet URL, “GutsyCall.com,” and set it to redirect to Obama’s BarackObama.com campaign re-election website. The reference was to reports that John Brennan, a White House counterterrorism adviser, had characterized Obama’s order to send troops after bin Laden as “one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.”

The connection was seized upon by conservative-leaning media, which portrayed it as an attempt by campaign officials to politicize bin Laden’s death despite their assertions that they did not intend to do so. The problem with that assertion? The campaign and the Democratic National Committee insisted they had nothing to do with the URL and knew nothing about it.

Aides at the DNC were angry that writers ran stories on the link without looking into who was behind it. One worker in new media at the party headquarters struck back with some URL redirection of his own. He bought another URL — www.weeklyNOstandards.com — that redirected readers to the homepage of The Weekly Standard, which had written about the URL. The point of buying the URL was to show how easy it is for anyone to buy one and redirect it to another site, and to keep the story from spreading, the DNC said.

The Weekly Standard in turn said it spent yet another $8.93 to buy a new URL — www.DNCcrybabies.com – which on Friday afternoon at least was still redirecting readers to democrats.org, the DNC’s homepage.

from Summit Notebook:

So how plugged in is the SEC chair? (technologically speaking)

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro says her agency has its work cut out to compete with the massive amounts of money that private firms, policed by the SEC, pour into the latest technology.

"Can we keep up with Wall Street? I think we have a fighting chance. We'll never have, under any circumstances, the kind of budgets that would allow us to spend a billion dollars a year on technology as some firms do, I mean that's just not going to happen, and I totally understand that," she said at the Reuters Future Face of Finance Summit. FINANCE-SUMMIT/SCHAPIRO

"If we can build a forensics lab for our enforcement people to be able to download data off of iPhones and iPads and other instruments, then we will be a lot better able to pursue insider trading potentially and other securities law violations," she said.

Bill Clinton big fan of most things tech

Former President Bill Clinton, who jokes that a cell phone weighed five pounds when he took office in 1993, told a VeriSign event to mark the 25th anniversary of dot com that he’s a big fan of the Web, cell phones and email, but hasn’t yet sprung for an electronic reader.

CLINTONClinton marveled at how the Web has revolutionized fundraising for his foundation, which tackles a range of global issues from health problems facing the poor to climate change.

“An enormous amount of what we do is either made possible or leveraged because of the Internet,” he said. “I don’t know what I would do without it.”

A little stealthy debate help from friends? It could happen

debate.jpgBIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Is it possible that a candidate could get a little help from friends during a presidential or vice presidential debate?
 
The idea that a contender could get advice or facts from staff through an earpiece while at the podium might strain the bounds of moral possibility, but technologically it could happen.  The CIA created an earpiece known as the SRR-100 in the 1970s to enable its officers in Moscow to monitor KGB frequencies and see if they were under surveillance, according to a recent book by Robert Wallace, the agency’s former director of Technical Services.
 
The CIA’s problem was disguising the earpiece but using 19th century technology known as an induction loop it became possible and today variations of the gadget are available for less than $100.
 
“The technology exists for someone using a two-way radio to give instructions to someone on stage via an easily concealable earpiece over nearly four thousand channels,” said director of sales at customearpiece.com Steve Perodi.
 
“The earpiece is especially easy to conceal if the wearer has a lot of hair,” Perodi said.
 
But it wouldn’t be easy.
 
The Commission on Presidential Debates employs a frequency coordinator armed with a spectrum analyzer capable of detecting any radio use during the debate. ”It’s improbable but not impossible. My job is to find them, which isn’t hard with a spectrum analyzer,” said veteran frequency coordinator Steve Mendelsohn.
 
“But as we used to say in the Navy: ‘We can see every submarine in the world. The question is, can we prosecute them?’ Who’s going to go up to a presidential candidate and pat them down?,” he said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young