Unlike many colleagues in his field, Michael I. Shamos, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has worked on election issues for about 20 years, has not generally been seen as a friend of the activists.
In 2004, they assailed Maryland's decision to buy Diebold touch-screen machines and asked a court to stop the state from using them. Shamos testified that with a few additional steps, the machines could be used without problem, and the court agreed.
Now, Shamos wonders. He is confident in his testimony and believes most security holes can be plugged. But he wonders whether Diebold cares enough about security and the sanctity of elections.
"There's a broader philosophical question that's been worrying me more and more lately," Shamos said. "What are these companies really doing? They don't seem to have embraced the seriousness with which people in this country take their elections. It's been kind of an adversarial thing where companies want to make profits, and they just haven't spent enough time and energy designing secure systems."
Bear says that is not true, and he repeats a frequent refrain about why the security concerns are overblown: "It's based on the premise that you have some nefarious or evil election official that's willing to commit a felony and break the law."
To which Shamos responds: "You don't want the success or failure of an election to be based on the individual."
They are talking about the security problems with Diebold machines. Shamos has a point. In addition to the obscure techincal details about things such as executable code on memory cards, there are serious questions about the companies that make these machines. It seems that they are willfully disregarding the concerns about security. They don't seem to care about the fact that a lot of well-informed people are unhappy with their products.