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U.S. Eases Controls on Overseas Voting Website

September 24, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has expanded access to a website that assists soldiers and other Americans living overseas in voting, after receiving complaints that its security measures were preventing legitimate voters from using it.

The site,, had been closed to users of certain Internet service providers, because some hackers were using those providers to launch attacks on U.S. government sites, military officials said. But that had the effect of restricting legitimate traffic from those providers as well.

Overseas voter advocates and some Democratic members of Congress complained that the security interfered with the voting rights of Americans overseas.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the changes would open the website, run by the Foreign Voting Assistance Program, to most, but not all, users. The site assists U.S. citizens overseas in casting absentee ballots.

"It is always a challenge to balance access with the required security on Department of Defense systems," said Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness.

Some U.S. government agencies have previously blocked access to their websites from Internet providers, and even entire countries, when hacking attempts have been detected.

Brett Rierson, a Democrat in Hong Kong who wrote to the Pentagon about the problem, said he tracked complaints from users of at least 27 providers in 25 countries who had been denied access.

Service providers known to have been blocked include Yahoo Broadband in Japan, Wanadoo in France, Telefonica in Spain and China Telecom.

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