Monday, October 23, 2006

Board of Elections database vulnerability

The Board of Elections will not be thanking me for forcing them to correct their error, nor will they be apologizing to Chicagoans for this oversight. In fact, Langdon Neal, chairman of the Board of Election Commissioners, instead has publicly accused me of breaking the law. He did this at the Board of Election meeting Tuesday, knowing I wasn't in the room to defend myself. He did add that they wouldn't be pressing charges, thank goodness. Let no good deed go unpunished, and be sure to cover your behind with a well-paid publicist and a part-time appointed commissioner who happens to be a high-powered zoning lawyer.

The worst part about this is that the Tribune whitewashed the event to bail out the Board of Elections. Metro editor Hanke Gratteau burned with jealousy at seeing the Sun-Times was getting an exclusive story. I asked her writer to be patient and instead Gratteau decided she would punish us, coming out with a grossly imbalanced story that made the Board of Elections look practically heroic. Even in the next day's followup story her anger was clear. What had been a national scandal the day before, she managed to reduce to a footnote at the bottom of a local story. Ahh, the power of the press.

Her story quoted Tom Leach: "We don't have any evidence that there was any [identity] theft." Our side was not invited to rebut that. In fact, to this day Leach has no idea whether there was any theft of identities. He can't know, because their logs couldn't possibly go back more than a few weeks, while the hole has been in existence for at least six years. But the Tribune's Hanke Gratteau decided that the statement was important enough, authoritative enough, and conclusive enough, to run as a pullquote.

The story told readers that Leach said, "On Friday, [Peter] finally called and we asked him to come in" (emphasis mine). I told the Tribune that I demonstrated the problem in August to Al Chase, that I sat down at his desk and showed it to him, and that Rachel Goodstein was in the room and saw me do it. But the Tribune refused to publish that, instead claiming that I "declined to further discuss the matter." They were so jealous of the Sun-Times that they decided lying was a good service for their readers.

I come from three generations of professional journalists. Many of my writer friends find today's crop of career editors at the large dailies an embarrassment to the profession. Though they proudly wear the mantle of journalistic integrity, it is made out of tissue. They are craven and jealous and I can say that for this story Hanke Gratteau did not follow the code of ethics prescribed by the Society of Professional Journalists. They will probably find another excuse to endorse someone else for alderman, but be sure Hanke Gratteau's jealous rivalry with the Sun-Times may be a strong contributor. She simply doesn't like me and never has.

Read my statement on the Board of Elections database vulnerability.
Read the Sun-Times story.
Read the Tribune story.
Go to Illinois Ballot Integrity Project Web site.


Blogger Samuel Stott said...

Good job Peter. Facts are facts.

1:05 AM  
Anonymous peter krause said...

If we ever needed evidence that Chicago was a first-rate city with a second-rate political infrastructure, this whole incident confirms our worst nightmares. In New York, a hacker who exposed that big a security flaw would get a ticker tape parade, and invitations to a dozen swanky parties! In Chicago, we get a whitewash and the grudging promise that they won't try to throw him in jail. All Chicago is in Zelchenko's debt: a less scrupulous individual would have traded those SSN and Address pairs for a 10M USD check from the Russian mob, but Zelchenko's deep commitment to public service made that choice unimaginable.

Huzzah! Huzzah! And Hurray for Zelchenko!

11:01 AM  
Blogger Carter O'Brien said...

damn straight. gosh, wouldn't it be nice to have an alderman who was this sharp?

3:22 PM  

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