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gwb43.com for dummies

[UPDATE Now this story makes the LA Times.]

Why are we all so obsessed with the [the doctored image of a] Coptix brochure Rove carried at Porkers? (Love the name!) Let's dolly back and look at the big picture, because the technical details are obscuring the real story. Because, as always, it would be irreponsible not to speculate.

The bottom line: Rove is trying to out-Nixon Nixon. Nixon didn't destroy the tapes. But already, Rove may have destroyed his email (or at least put it beyond the reach of any discovery process*). Put yourself in Karl's shoes:

You're Karl Rove. You want to put all your email beyond the rule of law.

[Specifically, you want to put your email beyond the reach of the Presidential Records Act, which "ensures that a complete historical record will be transmitted to the national Archives and preserved after a President’s term in office has ended.]

So what do you do? You decide to privatize your email.

[Isn't this behavior rather remarkable?]

You take several steps.

1. First, you don't use a public, government domain for your email. You use a private domain owned by the Republican National Committee (RNC): gwb43.com, for over 90% of your mail (citing National Journal).

[Isn't this behavior rather remarkable? When I was in my corporate cube, I certainly didn't consider telling all my contacts, inside the corporation or out, "Oh, I use my Yahoo account for all my business, not the corporate account." Ignoring the fact that the IT department would be very unhappy about the security breach, anyone might think that I wanted to prevent all my mail from ever appearing in the corporate archives! And corporations tend to be unhappy about that, because anyone who does that can't be held accountable for what they do in the corporation's name. Until the indictments arrive, of course.]

2. Second, you make sure that mailserver that sends, recieves, and archives your mail is not under public control, but under private control. This you accomplish by using servers under the control of your party at the Republican National Committee.

[Isn't this behavior rather remarkable? As I understand it, governments generally take great care to make sure that high level communications are secure** -- and the White House is at the highest level, and Rove is a high official, involved in every aspect of government policy, both foreign and domestic. If the RNC servers are "hardened" against intrusions from foreign intelligence agencies, that's a security breach in itself; that knowledge should surely be highly classified, and not in the hands of the system administrators of a campaign organization. And if the RNC servers are not hardened, then Rove's behavior is a massive security breach.]

Privatizing your email archives has a number of advantages, too. First, if you are subpoenaed for any White House records (as in that pesky Fitzgerald investigation) you can say, truthfully, that there are no such records in the White House--because, of course, they are on the RNC servers. Second, the archives can be wiped--one would assume--with a single, untraceable phone call.

3. Third, you find a private company (Coptix) that you've done campaign work with to administer the nameservers that will route your mail to gwb43.com from whoever sent it. (All email works that way.) This namesever, too, then, is under control of somebody beholden to you, for all the reasons that the mailserver is.

[Isn't this behavior rather remarkable? After all, the goverment does have nameservers--nameservers that are secure, too, and won't let pesky bloggers use whois to trace.]

Note that all the facts outlined in steps 1, 2, and 3 -- the private gwb43.com domain, the private RNC servers, and the private nameservers -- all already matters of public record, and not just in the blogosphere, either.

Note also that the photograph that we have of Rove with the brochure of gwb43.com's nameserver company (step #3, supra) strongly suggests Rove's personal involvement in privatizing his email.

However, remarkable though the facts in this case surely are, nobody--at least in the press--is trying to connect them and hazard even a guess as to what they might me. Granted that since the story is Rovian, it's insanely obfuscated from a technical and a business standpoint. But shouldn't somebody at least be trying?

So let me try to connect--only connect--once more once:

My narrative goes this way:

Rove wanted to put all White House electronic communication beyond the rule of law. So he privatized it (steps 1, 2, and 3, supra). End of story. And if we can get our hands on it, the whole secret history of the administration will be ours.

We in the blogosphere have been after the details of how the privatization was done: the vendors and the technical detail. Because God is in the details. We're doing today's equivalent of analyzing the magnetic patterns on the reels from Nixon's taping system).

But this is not a technical story, any more than Watergate was a story about tape decks. It's a story of how a Presidency is systematically putting itself beyond the rule of law.

NOTES

* I find it hard to believe that Rove would wipe everything. The data is simply too good to let go; think of the blackmail potential alone. What he might do is transfer the live archives onto a DVD, then wipe the live archives. Rove would have to believe that nobody else is thinking the same way, though. For this and other reasons, data is a lot harder to destroy than one would think. But that wouldn't prevent Rove from trying.

** It would be the irony of ironies if the NSA's massive warrantless email surveillance program picked up Rove's traffic at gwb43.com. Or maybe that traffic was put on a stop-list so NSA didn't read it? Somebody should find out about that.

NOTE Hat tip to Xan for the headline.

UPDATE What Congress needs to do is subpoena all the mail at gwb43.com. Violations of the Presidential Records Act would be a good reason.

What the press needs to do is find the Alexander Butterfield, because there is one. Data doesn't move from point A to point B my magic; people set up the systems to do it. A system administrator who's knowledgeable in these private transactions would be ideal. And now you know the vendors to start with.

UPDATE On rereading this, I'm not completely clear where the RNC servers are physically located. Would a traceroute help? Readers?

UPDATE In terms of the indictments, commenter Blueskize reminds us of an important point that I should have included:

The big question here is whether official WH correspondence sent via unofficial email addresses are bieng archived as required by law. J. Scott Jennings was clearly acting in an official capacity when he corresponded via gwb43.com with Kyle Sampson at DOJ.

[UPDATE Welcome, Wonkette readers. Note that what follows is all a matter of public record. It is in no way dependent on the doctored photo and disinformation planted by Coptix in a classic Rovian ploy. In fact, the ploy may have been designed to distract attention from this information. Xan explains:

This is a prime example of a Rovian-red-cape-waving operation, exactly the same in purpose and almost identical in style to the way they managed to chop off the investigation into Bush's desertion from the Texas Air National Guard.

The objective is to get everybody distracted with what looks like the "smoking gun" piece of evidence, and then prove that that evidence is fake. The fact that they made the fake themselves is supposed to get lost in the suffle as the whole underlying story is discredited.

The guys who planted this disinformation keep changing their stories. It's an April Fool's joke that ran from March 30 to April 4. It's a practical joke. They're mad because the RNC got revealed as their client for gwb43com.s nameserving. It's a viral marketing ploy. With Republicans, changing stories mean just one thing: They're lying.
]

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intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

It's all in Chattanooga. In a confluence of good fortune, a local chemical entrepreneur bought up the rights to a ton of fiber optic lines (lot's of trains tracks and dark cable in that part of TN). Eventually this fat bandwidth lines needed something to go on them, and since they were ahead of their time (and YouTube didn't exist yet)... NextLEC (soon to be ST3) was looking at streaming video applications, etc.

The first foray into this was Woodstock live video streaming, eventually the GOP came a knocking cause it was all the rage in 2000. They wanted to stream the convention live, and a venture capitalist from Mercer Reynolds or maybe Reynolds, DeWitt & Co eventually took over.

The rest is massive VRWC-sized IT server nirvana. (By the way, I think Corker gave them some sweetheart deals to re-setup shop downtown)

Here's a list of the 1,000+ domains that sharing the SMARTech nameserver (most are on similar IP blocks). And the important stat here is check out the category for 29 domains sharing mailservers. The same mailserver means the MX record sends your little Rovewellian love to the same mail server... in the same little Bank basement. As far as other physically located servers, this list will give you a sample of what webservers are sitting in the same Chatta colo.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I hate to be a wet blanket on all the Rove-bashing hysteria, but does anyone have a SHRED of proof - an iota - a scintilla, even - that Rove is trying to hide any emails from anyone? Anything? Bueller? Bueller?

AC

Submitted by lambert on

Would a traceroute say? Chattanooga or DC or some third location? Wherever they are, they're likely to be hardened. And if they aren't... That would be another problem, eh?

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Hi, you say:

If the RNC servers are “hardened” against intrusions from foreign intelligence agencies, that’s a security breach in itself; that knowledge should surely be highly classified, and not in the hands of the system administrators of a campaign organization. And if the RNC servers are not hardened, then Rove’s behavior is a massive security breach.

It appears that the RNC was/is operating more than just a server. They were/are operating a wireless communications network (using Blackberries) within the White House.

The domain they were/are using for this: rnc-bes.rnchq.org

'BES' stands for 'BlackBerry Enterprise Server'.

Susan Ralston told two Abramoff lobbyists: “I now have an RNC blackberry which you can use to e-mail me at any time. No security issues like my WH email.”

b

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

What about the copies of the Rove's blackberry e-mail on the RIM servers?

Is it a coincidence that there was an extended outage at RIM?

This guy doesn't think so

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Anyone know if Shumer's reading this blog? Someone with subpoena power?

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

This ought to ease your mind.

White House spokesman David Almacy said the outside e-mail accounts were set up to allow legitimate political activities to be conducted by appropriate staff members without using White House accounts, which would be illegal under the Hatch Act. "It was specifically set up that way so that people weren't using their official accounts for political activities," he said. Only certain White House staff members have such outside accounts, including those who regularly communicate with outside political groups, he said.

Now, who is Almacy, you might ask. Would it surprise you to know he worked at GovTech Solutions from 2000 until joining the WH in 2002? See. It's all good. Who is GovTech? Well go read the damn thing. The short answer is "the guys who built the web servers and mail servers".

trifecta's picture
Submitted by trifecta on

The grown ups are in charge.

Dear lord, let's all email Waxman and have him put the entire executive branch in police crime scene tape.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

in its entirety. It's from PC World datelined March 30, last Friday.

Gotta say, this writer who is a business/tech geek seems to have a WHOLE lot better handle on this subject than most of our "knowledgable connected Washington insider" press corps. However, his orientation (I mean business/tech journalism, not that other kind, you pig!) keeps him from understanding what he just heard, which is the Dog That Didn't Bark In The Night of this whole story:

But for several years, some high-ranking Bush staff members have also apparently been using outside e-mail accounts for nongovernmental, political communications. Those accounts, through the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, allowed the officials to keep up with both their official and political responsibilities while not violating the Hatch Act.

Now here's the real kicker:

That law forbids many government officials from engaging in political activities from their workplaces.

Emphasis added, obviously.

Can I say, um, no? No it does not "allow them to keep up with both official and political responsibilities", not if they're doing their "political responsibilities" on company, taxpayer-funded time. Just using yer fucking Hotmail, or in this case gwb43.com or RNCHQ.com email does not change the fact that you're playing politics when you're being paid to govern the country. THAT is what the Hatch Act is all about, as that "kicker" line points out. It's not just the mail. It's the work.

Remember all the shit they gave Al Gore for making fundraising phone calls before the 2000 election from his White House office? That was nothing compared to this case.

Oh, and there's one other cute little line that went over Mr. BizTech writer's head:

The creation and use of the outside e-mail accounts has been reviewed by White House lawyers, he [Almacy] said.

Snicker, snort, guffaw. And the daily henhouse census count has been reviewed by the staff of Fox Security Services too.

I mean, how hard is this to understand? If your boss walks past your cubicle at BorgCorpInc and sees on your screen the stats from your bowling league's tournament of last weekend, what is he likely to think about this? If he commences to suggest that this is not the work he is paying you to do and you attempt to disarm him by pointing out that this is all being done on your workerbee@gmail.com account and not the BorgCorpInc secure email lines, do you expect him to melt and say, oh, well, sure then, in that case it's all good?

If so please send me the address of your particular BorgCorpInc as I would like to work there.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

I saw that quote mashed in somewhere else recently. The point also, in addition to what you said; Almacy worked for the GOP groups and the company which setup the private RNC email servers before coming to the WH.

Bush concluded by admitting that his avoidance of email correspondence was because "everything is investigated in Washington". [The Register]

Submitted by lambert on

1. Bush uses no email

2. Rove privatized his

The Republicans may not know how to run government worth shit -- except for looting it -- but they sure know how to create plausible deniability!

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Located in a business downtown. I believe their NOC is in a old bank bldg basement.
64.203.96.xxx
64.203.97.xxx
64.203.98.xxx

You'll notice in the last set of IP addresses,

64.203.97.98(US) mail1.smartechcorp.net
64.203.97.101(US) mailscan1.smartechcorp.net
64.203.97.102(US) mx1.smartechcorp.net
64.203.98.31(US) mailer1.gop.com / (georgewbush.com)
64.203.98.32(US) mailer2.gop.com /(georgewbush.com)
64.203.98.33(US) mailer3.gop.com /(georgewbush.com)
64.203.98.34(US) mailer4.gop.com /(ctgop.org)
64.203.98.36(US) bounces1.gop.com
64.203.98.37(US) bounces2.gop.com
64.203.98.38(US) bounces3.gop.com
64.203.98.227(US) wirelessmail.rnc.org
64.203.98.242(US) mail2.smartechcorp.net
64.203.98.245(US) mailscan2.smartechcorp.net
64.203.98.246(US) mx2.smartechcorp.net

The majority of clients use either mx1.smartechcorp.net OR mailscan1.smartechcorp.net (note: mx2/mailscan2 are a redundant server probably physically located in different NOC) (gwb43.com and all like email servers use mailscan1/2)
I believe the four gop mailers and three bounce servers are used for massive bulk emailing efforts.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

They're also using some IPs beginning '65'. Try this:

http://www.robtex.com/ip/65.114.142.14.html

For the Airnet address tracking back to the RNC, try:

http://samspade.org/whois/65.114.142.14.

which brings up the lines:

OrgName: AIRNET GROUP INC
OrgID: AIRNE-62
Address: 310 1ST ST SE
City: WASHINGTON

And click here for a nice diagram featuring mail3.rnchq.org, a couple of '65' IPs, and how they connect to the '64's and '209's' already talked about.

b

You guys seem to be on top of this, so can someone please explain why there are SLEESTAKS apparently photoshopped into the Rove/Coptix picture? I just posted this on Wonkette in hopes somebody will explain what is otherwise starting to be a massive real-world David Lynch movie where we are the Confused Suckers.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I begin to think that the Rove With The Coptix Folder pic should be regarded for what it is: an interesting image which draws attention to the FACT that (1) gbw43.com and RNCHQ.com and related addresses have been used, against numerous regulations and very possibly in violation of several laws including the Hatch Act, by White House and Justice Department personnel and (2) those addresses are hosted on servers located, corporately and physically, in Chattanooga Tennessee.

The image itself is just an image. The facts, the illegal off-.gov email usage, are what's important. The evidence to prove the case is already under orders to be preserved by

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform ...Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said his group wants to know what's been done to preserve the contents of the outside e-mail accounts used by government officials for possible review and to assure that "no e-mails involving official White House business have been destroyed or altered.

There may be too many tracks of the Heffalump already scattered around for it to be useful any further. We will keep on doin' what we're doin', and respectfully request that those interested keep Rep. Waxman's office appraised of their continuing interest in the subject.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Did anyone ever email Cross and his Cryptic Copts Christ Crew? I hear they got some problems over there.

Do we have problems! These green rubber flak jackets are gettin' HOT!

Speaking of mercy, I'll put in a little plug to check out http://copticchurch.net/ . The Coptic Orthodox Church is indeed fascinating. They preserve a unique language (Coptic), which combines Greek with Egyptian hieroglyphics; they are Christian Arabs, which sounds like an oxymoron to most ears; and they were supposedly framed: they were excommunicated due to a heresy; however, they claim that they never actually held to that heresy; rather, they were kicked out over a political power struggle with the heresy as the official reason. Kind of like attorneys being fired, or perhaps kind of like Coptix being guilty by supposed association with Roveco...

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

lambert,

I'd recommend update your post. As I have said, I believe Coptix is primarily used as a redundant backup nameserver (domainnames require two). So Coptix has a Rackspace server offsite which provides a secondary nameserver. Now, there is some cross-over because Smartech hosts most of Coptix websites on their servers.

209.61.172.168(US) a.ns.trespassers-w.net
209.61.172.169(US) a.mx.trespassers-w.net
209.61.172.171(US) pigletmail.mx.coptix.com

The above is a Rackspace server which I believe is located in Texas. I will mention, however, that Coptix owns frist-08.com, and we know that Rove won't be welcome in McCain's campaign. Despite his recent efforts to rewrite history about his whisper campaign.

Maybe Rove has a secret plan to get onboard another presidential campaign and needs to work with some new IT folks, but I wouldn't put it past McCain to be such a loser as to take Rove into his fold. (Note: Connell, Donatelli, and Smartech are all on board the McCain campaign)

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Note that registering domains, owning domains, managing domains and hosting DNS, email, and websites are all completely separable. Many providers offer all of these in one package, but you can also split every single one out to a separate provider if there's a need to.

Submitted by lambert on

That's why one can, for example, have GoDaddy handle nameservers, host elsewhere, use another account for email, and so forth.

Your point?

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Truthfully this whole fake photo stinks. The coptix guys are either REALLY bored and noticed their name being attached to the gwb43.com stories or this was brilliant.

For this to be April Fool's joke, it usually would be done on April 1st. I stand by my statement, that how bizarrely ironic that a bunch of wacky web developers plant evidence to discredit the very fact that Smartech and Coptix ARE the backbone for private Rovian email servers.

Bravo, how very Dan-Ratherish of you to put fake evidence of something that is real to discredit to truth.

"The Federalist is a Town Hall Citizen Organization"... yeah you guys are innocent-not-involved-DNS-server.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Jeff, you need to get out more.

they are Christian Arabs, which sounds like an oxymoron to most ears;

There are more Christian Arabs than Jews of all races. There are even Arab Jews. I don't get your assertion that to be Arab means you are un-Christian. Most Egyptians I know are Christian and a few Iraqis who are now stranded in this country.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Maybe I should have said "an oxymoron to uneducated ears" or "an oxymoron to many American ears", given the current widespread predisposition to stereotyping.

Submitted by lambert on

Sure, it's going to remind the really foily of Bush's "some say" tactic, but the word's part of the English language, and everybody gets to use it.

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

he's saying he isn't a provider to the RNC. (You'll note that most of us have been saying since day ONE, that you're only a nameserver to Rove's private off-site email server... IT WAS YOUR PHOTO that got people talking)

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Chattanooga is Corker country!
*Call Me!*

Did Coptix help set up a way to underwrite the Harold Ford smear campaign, by channeling business in Corker's neck of the woods?

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

and for some reason, the administration hasn't been forthcoming. read the Gavel daily, peeps:

Mike Duncan
Chairman
Republican National Committee
310 First Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003

Dear Mr. Duncan:

I am writing to request e-mail communications stored on Republican National Committee servers that relate to the use of federal agencies and federal resources for partisan political purposes.

Last week, the Committee held a hearing into allegations of misconduct at the General Services Administration. One of the issues examined at the hearing involved a partisan political presentation that White House Deputy Director of Political Affairs, J. Scott Jennings, made to the GSA Administrator, Lurita A. Doan, and approximately 40 GSA appointees in the GSA headquarters building on January 26, 2007. At this event, Mr. Jennings presented a 28-page PowerPoint briefing that reviewed the 2006 election results and identified the Republican party’s top electoral targets in upcoming federal and state elections. Following the presentation, Ms. Doan asked her staff to consider how GSA resources could be used to help “our candidates” in the next election.

Serious questions were raised at the hearing about the legality and propriety of Mr. Jennings’s presentation and the discussion that followed it. In addition, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service issued a report finding that the presentation itself and Ms. Doan’s comments could be violations of the federal Hatch Act.[1] According to a White House spokesperson, however: “This is regular communication from the White House to political appointees throughout the administration.”[2]

In communicating with GSA about the presentation, Mr. Jennings and his assistant used “gwb43.com” e-mail accounts maintained by the RNC rather than their official White House e-mail accounts. In their e-mails, they described the presentation as a “close hold” and said that “we’re not supposed to be emailing it around.”[3]

To assist the Committee in its investigation of these issues, I request that you provide any electronic messages sent or received by Karl Rove, J. Scott Jennings, or any other White House officials using accounts maintained by the RNC that relate to (1) the January 26, 2007, PowerPoint presentation at GSA, (2) the presentation of any similar political briefings at other federal agencies or to other federal employees, or (3) the use of federal agencies or resources to help Republican candidates.

The Committee requests that you produce these documents on or before April 18, 2007.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee in the House of Representatives and has broad oversight jurisdiction as set forth in House Rule X. An attachment to this letter provides additional information about how to respond to the Committee’s request.

If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact David Rapallo or Anna Laitin with the Committee staff at (202) 225-5420.

Sincerely,

Henry A. Waxman
Chairman

that good enough for you?

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

While this will probably turn out to be true.. I haven't seen any evidence beyond b's word on this. It's an internal IP address on the Smartech intranet, so it's hard to prove unless someone else can corroborate with an email header.

I'm just saying that it possible 'dar be sleestaks' (I hate you TN bastards making me doubt this info... )

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

google comments seems to have forgotten my password so I can't leave this over there. So you get it here:

Mark, forgive me but you are not exactly the first to have had this idea. Some of us have been working on the email/blackberry message mess for some time now, and when the news of the BB "outage" hit the other night this was the first thought through a great many minds.

That said, your scenario presents some problems, one in execution and the other in investigation. These center around the circumstance that the company which operates the Blackberry system, RIM, is based in Great Britain. The servers themselves, the North American ones anyway, are said to be in Canada.

Now given the closeness of the Blair and Bush regimes we can all imagine scenarios in which the British authorities would cooperate with this hypothetical wipe, or wipe-and-replace, operation. Such things are hard to execute with perfect secrecy though and there is always the danger that somebody inside RIM will spill the beans.

However should that not occur and an aboveboard legal investigation be undertaken, problems just expand: (1) it would be done by Abu Al Gonzales' Department of Justice, which evidence suggests is incapable of unraveling a piece of string unless the case involves hoked-up investigations of "vote fraud" like excessive registration of Democrats. And (2) even if it was undertaken, a US warrant can only be executed in a foreign country with the permission of that country's government, which is difficult to obtain at the best of times (which this is not.)

I don't mean to be discouraging. The more voices in this discussion, the more eyeballs looking over the evidence, the more expertise we can bring to bear, the better. Keep digging, and when you find something drop a line over at either ePluribusMedia.com or here and we'll add it to the list.

Best regards....