“Unisys in Homeland Hell”

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Mexican vote-by-voters are mad as hell and say they have seen this movie before.

Congressional probe suggests security contractor’s ‘incompetent’ activity allowed hacking (Raw Story): The Homeland Security state is an crony-capitalist enterprise-integration boondoggle! Another case in purported point.

Unisys received a contract to secure unclassified computer systems for TSA and DHS headquarters. But, the Post reports, the company failed to properly install equipment, leaving the government open to three months of cyber attacks.

Ouch.

Unisys “incompetence” also determined the outcome of the 1988 Mexican elections, you may recall:

On July 6, 1988, when the polls closed and the government started tallying the count at its central computing office in Mexico City, the country eagerly awaited the results. There was much disappointment when Manual Bartlett, the PRI’s interior minister in charge of administering the vote, announced the next morning that the Federal Election Commission’s computer system, supplied by UNISYS, had crashed and that the results would be delayed.

This time around, Mexico’s IFE decided to hire someone better qualified: A firm owned by the brother-in-law of one of the candidates. The one who eventually won, actually.

When they finally emerged a week later, Salinas was declared the victor by a wide margin. Officially, the PRI received fifty-two percent of the vote, compared with the PRD’s thirty-one percent, and the business party PAN’s seventeen percent. Opposition leaders have claimed that the computer crash was contrived to buy time for rigging the vote once it became clear that Cardenas was winning. Despite widespread rumors, these claims were not easily confirmed. Many of those on the inside were too scared to talk, and, as noted above, Salinas’s foreign supporters, including leading newspapers like The Wall Street Journal (whose parent company, Dow Jones, added Salinas to its corporate board, and The New York Times did not investigate too deeply. Evidently a compliant, Harvard-educated, technically-competent neoliberal was expected to serve the mutual interests of Mexico and its trading partners better than Cardenas.

The case is reminiscent of the crashed quick count in the Ecuadoran elections this year as well. See

Computing magazine broke the Mexico story in 1994.

In June 1994, before Mexico’s August 1994 Presidential election, Computing, a UK magazine that focuses on technology, became interested in the computer failure aspect of the 1988 elections. It tracked down several data entry operators who had worked on the election and obtained the following eyewitness account of what had actually happened:

Statement from the operators:

We arrived at work on the morning of July 6, election day, at the central computer and statistic official.When we got there we discovered that the rooms were empty and our computers weren’t there. We were ordered into a minibus and taken to the Government House (in Mexico City), to a room with blacked-out windows. Our computers had been set up there, complete with the voter database.We started to enter the data. As the supervisors saw that Salinas was losing, they ordered us to leave aside votes for the PRI and only enter opposition votes. Then, at about 3 A.M. on July 7, the supervisor called a halt, and with tears in his eyes, he told us: ”If you care for your families, your jobs, and your lives, enter all votes from now on in favor of the PRI. I went back to work and did as I was told. I wanted to cry, but I had to do it. They kept us there until five or six in the evening the following day. When I’d finished my work, I called up the voting record for my uncle, and to my astonishment the computer record showed that he, an opposition supporter, had voted for Salinas.That was when I realized why we had been told only to enter opposition votes in the beginning. While we were away from the computers, they had reversed all the data from the first session of data capture so all those votes showed up as Salinas votes.

“The consternation of the Salinas government”:

To the consternation of the Salinas government, these details were confirmed in July 1994 by a former director of Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute. But when Computing tried to verify them with UNISYS, the U.S.multinational that had supplied the computers used in the election, it responded that the 1988 “fault reports” for its Mexico subsidiary had been destroyed and that Unisys had “not been involved in the electoral process.”

Rewarding loyalty despite — and possibly even because of — failure: The legacy of the man whom in the early days political marketers were hailing as the (legacy admission) “MBA president.”

Yeesh.

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