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Vets for Freedom: Website

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

This article is part of the SourceWatch coverage of Vets for Freedom (VFF) and
Vets for Freedom Action Fund (VFF-AF).
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Vets for Freedom is "the sort of web site that, like its Pentagon counterparts, cribs the same camouflage colors and PR hues of soldiers posing with Arab children, though among the 40,000-some Iraqis killed [thus] far, compliments of Operation Iraqi Freedom, it’s a mathematical certainty that more Iraqi children have had the pleasure of dying from American ordnance than have had the honor of posing with GIs to garland the fabrications of Stateside web sites. Knowing of course how the Pentagon’s contractors of deceit, like the Rendon Group, operate, it’s perfectly likely that even those pictures of smiling Iraqi children (which have odd similarities with those rightfully lambasted images of pre-invasion, kite-flying children in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11) are as staged, posed, touched up, and faked as every other report of American success that steals its way out of Iraq," Pierre Tristam wrote in response to Owen West's Memorial Day New York Times' Op-Ed "The Troops Have Moved On" published Sunday, May 29, 2006.


Website Creation

According to a WHOIS search, the Vets for Freedom.org and Veterans for Freedom.org websites were created December 20, 2005, by Registrant Nicolle Boren (See Nicollyne.com) and Registrant Organization WildWires, LLC of Harrisonburg, Virginia (See WildWiresOnline.com).

Web Hosting

The web hosting company for the Vets for Freedom website is SMARTECHCORP.NET, which is the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based SMARTech Corporation [1]. (Hat tip to PRWatch blog contributor jaming.)

Stacy Cowley of IDG News Service reported October 10, 2004, that net surfers "outside the U.S." who were interested in President George W. Bush's re-election strategy weren't "able to learn about it from his campaign Web site. Visitors from a number of international locations reported hitting 'access denied' errors as they tried to reach the site ... Surfers in the U.S. reported no problems."

Cowley reported that the "U.K. analysis firm Netcraft Ltd. said the Bush site appear[ed] to be using network management technology from Akamai Technologies Inc. to restrict access. Netcraft monitors Web site response times from several locations, four in the U.S. and three outside."

Netcraft said that on October 21, 2004, GeorgeWBush.com "began using Akamai to manage site traffic" and an "Akamai spokeswoman declined to comment on the operations of GeorgeWBush.com and referred questions to the site's hosting company, Chattanooga, Tennessee-based SmarTech Corp."

On August 22, 2004, SMARTech Corp (smartechcorp.net) announced that it would be "hosting" the Republican National Convention in New York City, providing "convention speeches, video-on-demand 'streams' and live shots of events through powerful Web servers, most of which are at Smartech’s headquarters in downtown Chattanooga." The announcement stated that the "company also hosts the Bush-Cheney campaign Web site, at www.georgewbush.com, and the national committee’s site, www.GOP.com."

The official domain name/web site for Bush-Cheney '04 Inc. is GeorgeWBush.com. The domain, registered May 5, 1997, through Network Solutions, LLC, is due to expire May 6, 2008, if not renewed. The domain servers listed for GeorgeWBush.com/GOP.com—and VETSFORFREEDOM.ORG—are SMARTECHCORP.NET and TRESPASSERS-W.NET. [2]

Note that GeorgeWBush.com now redirects to GOP.com. As of April 12, 2006, according to current Network Solutions registration information, the web site title is "GOP.com | Republican National Committee :: Home".

As jaming commented, "To me this just further proves www.vetsforfreedom.org is a prop for the Republican Party."

Website Mirror

Previously, the Vets for Freedom website was mirrored at the Campaign Solutions website at http://web.campaignsolutions.com/vets/, thus adding yet another connection to the company. However, when checked August 14, 2006, the link to the mirror page connects to an error page.

Privacy Policy

While the organization claims to be nonpartisan, the privacy notice on its website suggested otherwise, reading (on May 30, 2006): "Use of information: If you choose to provide any personal information, such as your mailing address or phone number, we may use that information to contact you. We may from time to time share the information our visitors provide with other Republican candidates and other like-minded organizations. " (Emphasis added.)

On the morning of June 7, 2006, John Stauber of the Center for Media and Democracy used part of this article in a blog posting titled: "Is Vets For Freedom A Republican Front Group?" Less than one hour after that article appeared on the internet, the Vets for Freedom organization changed its privacy policy and removed the reference to sharing information with "other Republican candidates." The speed with which this change was made indicates that the organization Vets for Freedom is very attentive to any online criticism or scrutiny. [3]

The partisan reference in the privacy policy appears to be a mistake made out of habit. An exact copy, or nearly exact, of the same privacy policy is used on the web sites for: Bill Weld for NY Governor, U.S. Rep. Tom David of Texas, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, Luther Strange for Lt. Governor, the Virginia Republican Party, Greg Parke for Senate, Senator Jim Talent of Missouri, the Stop Hillary PAC, KT McFarland for U.S. Senate, Lynn Swann for Governor, Chris Wakim, Mike Brubaker for PA State Senate, Governor George Pataki, Steve Blunt for CA Insurance Commissioner, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, Pro-Patacki Freedom PAC, Senator Conrad Burns of Montana, Virginia Governor Bob Ehrlich, and right-leaning PAC Citizens United, all of these are are Republicans. Oddly, the same privacy statement appears, though without the Republican line, on the website of Democrat Jim Moran. Note as well that almost all of these campaigns are listed on the Campaign Solutions client list.

"Purple Finger For Freedom"

An unattributed photograph on the Vets for Freedom home page shows an Iraqi woman holding up her purple finger after voting in Iraq's January 30, 2005, elections. The photograph, appearing cropped on the VFF web page, was not properly credited to Associated Press photographer Andrew Parsons.

On another Donatelli Group client's website—the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary's fairjudiciary.com—the photograph was cropped to highlight only the inked purple finger. The photograph, obviously a common icon for the Group, was not properly credited.

Login Page

The existence of a login page to the VeriSign Inc. PAC, hidden on the VFF's website might appear to suggest a connection with VeriSign Inc.'s political action committee. However a plausible alternative explanation for the page is that VFF's developer also was involved in developing the VeriSign PAC site and copied the entire site across.[4][5]

Located in the same respective place at another web site which appears to have been created by Campaign Solutions, there is a similar login, such as this one at Jim Talent's web site. This, combined with similarity of the privacy statement (see above), suggests that a programmer for Campaign Solutions copied over much of the code from other client web sites.

Resources and articles

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External articles

Notes