Lance Goodall 13 Aug 2016
IN THE wake of the Census catastrophe on Tuesday night IBM has become the focus of the government’s ire — and certainly not for the first time.
Queenslanders will remember the bitter taste left by IBM after a billion dollar bungle at the beginning of the decade but now all Australians have a reason to gripe.
The tech giant known as Big Blue was hired by the ABS to provide a bulk of the technology behind the 2016 online Census after it won the nearly $10 million contract at the end of 2014.
Once the hashtag #CensusFail began trending on Twitter when Australians were unable to log on and complete the Census form, it was clear IBM’s report card was a resounding F.
Some have even called for the company to hand back part of the money it was paid for the job.
Malcolm Turnbull went on 2GB radio Thursday morning seemingly to lay the blame squarely at IBM’s feet and said the “completely predictable” attacks weren’t repelled because there was “clearly very big issues for IBM — the provider of the systems — and the ABS itself”.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton reiterated the sentiment hours later on the same station saying “the contractors, IBM, will have questions to answer about why the appropriate measures weren’t put in place”.
ABS officials initially said a “malicious” external DoS attack was responsible but the government later walked back the strong language calling it an attempt to “frustrate” the data collection.
SO WHOSE FAULT WAS IT?
According to Patrick Gray, an experienced journalist and host of popular Podcast Risky Business, the ABS and IBM were offered denial of service (DoS) protection services from upstream provider NextGen Networks but said they didn’t need it.
Instead they planned to ask NextGen to geoblock all traffic outside of Australia in the event of an attack.
On Tuesday morning they did just that but when another attack, albeit a relatively small one, later came from inside Australia IBM’s monitoring equipment sent out alerts which were mistakenly interpreted as data being at risk, Gray said in a timeline of events posted to Twitter. That coupled with the failure of a vital router led to the ABS pulling down the site.
So in a nutshell, along with some miscalculations, it’s quite clear that the ABS and IBM majorly skimped on costs and planning.
IBM went to ground in the fallout from the failed Census as the blame game ensued.
The company did not respond to requests by news.com.au for an interview but issued a statement Thursday night saying “we genuinely regret the inconvenience that has occurred”.
IBM thanked the ABS and the Defence Department’s Signals Directorate for their support and stressed that no data was compromised.
“IBM’s priority over the last two days was to work with the ABS to restore the Census site. We are committed to our role in the delivery of this project,” the company said.
“Our cybersecurity experts are partnering with national intelligence agencies to ensure the ongoing integrity of the site.”
Along with IBM, a Melbourne-based firm Revolution IT was hired to perform load-testing on the website to ensure it could handle the weight of traffic.
A spokesman for Revolution IT told news.com.au that the issue was a “security problem that was not a part of the load testing process Revolution IT was paid to do”.
The spokesman said Revolution IT was not in the room on Tuesday night but the testing the company had carried out with the data supplied by the ABS went well and showed the operation “was on track” and the Census site was “ready”.
Meanwhile staff at the ABS were reportedly offered counselling this week and warned to expect backlash.
FOOL ME ONCE, SHAME ON YOU
Funnily enough, this is not exactly uncharted waters for an Australian government — something which former Queensland premier Campbell Newman was quick to point out on Twitter.
The Queensland State Government previously had such a calamitous issue with IBM that in 2013 it prohibited government agencies from signing contracts with the US tech giant.
The black-listing stemmed from an inquiry into a $1.25 billion payroll failure in which IBM rolled out a flawed system for Queensland Health in 2010, resulting in thousands of pay errors.
What was supposed to be a $6.9 million project cost the taxpayer 173 times that amount.
A commission inquiry in the fiasco found that IBM employees had acted unethically in order to obtain the contract including soliciting leaked information on competitor bids to boost its chances of winning.
As a result, the Queensland government’s ban on IBM contracts remains in place.
But this not the half of it.
Why do we even want to try and get back on line. Why?
IBM and the Holocaust is the stunning story of IBM’s strategic alliance with Nazi Germany — beginning in 1933 in the first weeks that Hitler came to power and continuing well into World War II.
As the Third Reich embarked upon its plan of conquest and genocide, IBM and its subsidiaries helped create enabling technologies, step-by-step, from the identification and cataloging programs of the 1930s to the selections of the 1940s.
Only after Jews were identified — a massive and complex task that Hitler wanted done immediately — could they be targeted for efficient asset confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, enslaved labor, and, ultimately, annihilation. It was a cross-tabulation and organizational challenge so monumental, it called for a computer. Of course, in the 1930s no computer existed.
But IBM’s Hollerith punch card technology did exist. Aided by the company’s custom-designed and constantly updated Hollerith systems, Hitler was able to automate his persecution of the Jews. Historians have always been amazed at the speed and accuracy with which the Nazis were able to identify and locate European Jewry. Until now, the pieces of this puzzle have never been fully assembled. The fact is, IBM technology was used to organize nearly everything in Germany and then Nazi Europe, from the identification of the Jews in censuses, registrations, and ancestral tracing programs to the running of railroads and organizing of concentration camp slave labor.
IBM and its German subsidiary custom-designed complex solutions, one by one, anticipating the Reich’s needs. They did not merely sell the machines and walk away. Instead, IBM leased these machines for high fees and became the sole source of the billions of punch cards Hitler needed.
IBM and the Holocaust takes you through the carefully crafted corporate collusion with the Third Reich, as well as the structured deniability of oral agreements, undated letters, and the Geneva intermediaries — all undertaken as the newspapers blazed with accounts of persecution and destruction.
Just as compelling is the human drama of one of our century’s greatest minds, IBM founder Thomas Watson, who cooperated with the Nazis for the sake of profit.
Only with IBM’s technologic assistance was Hitler able to achieve the staggering numbers of the Holocaust. Edwin Black has now uncovered one of the last great mysteries of Germany’s war against the Jews — how did Hitler get the names?
When Hitler came to power in 1933, he sought to complete a national census of the German people.
In the pre-computer age such an undertaking seemed nearly an impossible task to accomplish with pencil and paper.
But IBM’s punch card meant it was possible to automate the process of categorizing punch cards across multiple categories. It turned individual pieces of paper into statistical data.
Retired IBM internal auditor Michael Zamczyk was born in a ghetto of Krakow, Poland during the war years and endured the occupation by the Nazis with his family, many of whom were eventually killed in the nearby Auschwitz concentration camp – including his father.
Now living in Palm Springs, Calif. after working for IBM’s San Jose office for 35 years, Zamczyk still seeks a public apology from his former employee for supplying the punch card tabulating technology that Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich used to implement their Final Solution. Further, he’d like to see IBM be indicted as an accessory to mass murder – though he doesn’t think that’s really going to happen.
Reflecting on the genocide, Zamczyk had always wondered how the Germans managed to do it so efficiently. When Edwin Black’s investigative work was published in his 2001 book IBM and the Holocaust, he found the answer. The book laid out the case that New York-based IBM Corp. had leased the Nazis the equipment and services needed to identify the Jews, remove them from society, move them into ghettos, and finally exterminate them.
He found a database of the 1938 census of the Jews in Krakow that included his name, where he lives, and his relationship to others in his family.
Incensed by the book, Zamczyk organized a return trip to Krakow hoping to dig up the punch cards that might have been used to help ghettoize his own family.
“I felt that IBM owned an apology not only to me, but for what the company did during the war,” he says. Zamczyk also wanted an internal audit of all the archives that IBM had to further document what happened during the war. “I wanted the truth,” he tells ITBusiness.ca in a phone interview.
It was a public admission he would never get. Zamczyk was eventually frustrated with his efforts to hold his employer accountable, and retired in 2003.
IBM’s support of the Nazis in the extermination of Jews from the occupied territories of Europe during the rule of Germany’s Nazi regime is the darkest chapter in the firm’s 100-year history.
Through its German subsidiary of Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen GmbH (Dehomag) and other subsidiaries in Nazi-occupied territory such as Poland’s Watson Business Machines, IBM Corp. is linked to the worst human rights atrocity in modern history.
While it is an undisputed fact that the Nazis used IBM equipment to pursue their evil plans, IBM’s level of collusion with the Third Reich is disputed. Big Blue has maintained on the public record for a decade that it wasn’t aware of Hitler’s plans for its technology, and that it lost control of Dehomag when Hitler seized it in 1940. But Black argues otherwise in his 2001 book and in public lectures on the topic to this day, presenting tens of thousands of primary documents to support his case – perhaps the strongest evidence being the direct involvement of IBM’s founding CEO, Thomas J. Watson Sr.
Incidental provider or Nazi collaborator?
Black doesn’t mince words when he describes IBM’s relationship with the Nazis. A relationship he characterizes as not being motivated by IBM’s ideological bent, but only by the corporation’s goal to make money.
“IBM was the solutions company and their mandate was to bring in any solution the customer wanted, including the final solution,” he says. “IBM continues to cling to the hope that the world will forget that it co-planned and co-organized all six stages of the holocaust.”
While chatting over Skype with ITBusiness.ca from Sydney, Australia, the former New York Times best-selling author is sending primary documents that support his argument that IBM cooperated with the Nazis.
“You have a picture there of Adolf Hitler and Watson there having tea,” he points out.
One file shows a typical prisoner card from one of the Nazi’s concentration camps. Though it is completed by hand with a pencil, it is coded with numbers so that a punch card operator can later categorize the information with thousands of other entries like it. By comparing the numbers to another document with a legend, Black shows just what sort of information was being recorded.
The prisoner, classified as a misfit or “asocial,” according to the Germans, was located at the Dachau concentration camp. The decoding key shows the prisoner could have also been classified as a homosexual, Jew, or Gypsy. There were also other options describing the “method of departure.”
“An IBM engineer had to create a system that would specifically differentiate between Jews who had been shot to death, dropped dead from being worked to death, or were gassed to death in a gas chamber,” Black says. “They had to create the machines, train the personnel, and train specific, customized punch cards.”
When Hitler came to power in 1933, he sought to complete a national census of the German people. In the pre-computer age such an undertaking seemed nearly an impossible task to accomplish with pencil and paper.
With IBM’s punch card it meant it was possible to automate the process of categorizing punch cards across multiple categories. It turned individual pieces of paper into statistical data.
The Hollerith machines that did this were first invented by Hermann Hollerith, who began the roots of modern-day IBM with his Tabulating Machine Company (renamed to International Business Machines in 1924).
Hollerith first created his machines for the 1890 U.S. census, leasing them out for $750,000.
He followed that business model in renting the machines out to Austria, Canada, France and Russia. IBM continued that model decades later, leasing their machines to the Germans and providing on-site service, according to Black. Dehomag created the custom punch cards and processed them for the Nazis.
“IBM invented the racial census, they executed it, and they brought in their own machines,” he says.
The one page file Zamcyzk found detailing his family’s information was set up to be processed by a Hollerith machine, the holocaust survivor says, which he had confirmed by his IBM colleagues. “This was all done from the 1938 census,” Zamcyzk says.
To support his assertion that IBM’s New York headquarters was well informed about the operations in German-occupied territory, Black points to a contract with the Third Reich dated July 1942 with “INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION NEW YORK” written in large type on the first page.
“There are hundreds of pages of internal correspondence between the Nazi operations and Watson personally from 1933 to 1945,” Black says.
Also, Black shows a letter addressed to Watson from Dehomag, dated Sept. 9, 1939, that requests the use of American machines in the German office. Then a memo showing that approval had been granted over the phone.
Watson’s interaction with the Nazi regime was most widely publicized when Hitler bestowed him with the Order of the German Eagle medal, given to those considered sympathetic to Nazism. Watson would later return the medal in 1940, before America entered the war.
IBM’s consistent stance
Since Black’s book hit the shelves in 2001, IBM has claimed that the book is little more than a rehashing of the facts – documenting that Germany used IBM machines, but not proving culpability of the corporation in the genocide. IBM did not meet an interview request from ITBusiness.ca, but did provide a written statement.
“As with other foreign owned companies that did business in Germany at that time, IBM’s German operations came under the control of Nazi authorities prior to and during World War II. IBM and its employees around the world find the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime abhorrent and condemn any actions which aided their unspeakable acts,” writes Carrie Bendzsa, manager of external communications at IBM Canada.
This echoes similar statements issued by IBM in earlier press releases. In a press release issued by IBM on Feb. 14, 2001, it claims to not have much information about this period. Records that IBM did have from the war have been transferred to New York University and Hohenheim University in Stuttgart, Germany.
In the Canadian-made documentary The Corporation in 2004, IBM gave a rare on-camera interview about its Nazi affiliation. Irving Wladawski-Berger, vice-president of IBM Technology and Strategy Group said that IBM didn’t know how the Nazis were using the machines.
“I really do believe that particular accusation has been fairly discredited as a serious accusation,” he says in the film. “They used equipment, that is a fact. But how much cooperation they got… that is the part that is discredited.”
IBM now has an executive dedicated to corporate citizenship and is recognized by many as one the world’s most ethical and progressive companies. Its Corporate Service Corps program puts exceptional employees into developing countries to work on local projects to improve water quality and disaster preparedness. IBM has been ranked first by Business Ethics magazine on its annual top 100 Best Corporate Citizens list, and in 2011Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s list ranked it as the third best corporate citizen.
IBM isn’t the only critical voice of Black’s work. Author and New York Times book reviewer Richard Bernstein questioned whether the case had been sufficiently made as to whether IBM formed a “strategic alliance” with the Nazis, as Black’s sub-title suggests.
“Is Mr. Black really correct in his assumption that without IBM’s technology, which consisted mainly of punch cards and the machines to tabulate them, the Germans wouldn’t have figured out a way to do what they did anyway?” he wrote. “Would the country that devised the Messerschmitt and the V-2 missile have been unable to devise the necessary means to slaughter millions of victims without I.B.M. at its disposal?”
Though Watson’s choices are clearly wrong now, that is from the benefit of hindsight, Bernstein said. It may have been better if IBM hadn’t sold their machines to Hitler, but the book doesn’t demonstrate that IBM bears some sort of unique responsibility as a colluder.
On the other side, Black’s book did win praise in the press as well, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors awarded it as winner of the Best Non-Fction Book of 2002.
Legal salvos launched over Nazi ties
IBM did offer a private apology from its CEO at the time, Samuel Palmisano, directly to Zamczyk, the retired internal auditor says. He was told the company wouldn’t say anything on the public record for fear of being sued.
“He (Palmisano) was going to apologize for what Watson did and what IBM did during the war,” Zamczyk says. “He was prepared to apologize for the fact that Hollerith machines were used to round-up Jews in Poland.”
But Zamcyzk wasn’t happy, wanting a public statement issued, and turned down the offer.
IBM did face two lawsuits over its Nazi-era ties. One launched in February 2001, at the same time as IBM and the Holocaust hit the shelves, involved five holocaust survivors filing a claim against IBM in U.S. Federal Court for allegedly providing the punched card technology that facilitated the Holocaust, then covering up Dehomag’s activities. The suit was dropped later in the year because lawyers feared it would slow down payments from a special German Holocaust fund created to compensate forced labourers and others who suffered from Nazi persecution. IBM’s German division had paid $3 million into this fund, making clear it was not admitting liability.
Another lawsuit was launched by the Gypsy International Recognition and Compensation Action in 2003 against IBM in Geneva, Switzerland. That group was seeking $12 billion in collective damages, but the case was dismissed in 2006, with the Federal Tribunal saying too much time had elapsed.
Zamcyzk has previously contacted the lawyers involved in these cases about suing IBM. But he was told that was no longer an option. “I was quickly told they couldn’t do anything because of this agreement signed in Federal Court,” he says. IBM had agreed to compensate the forced labourers under the condition it could not be sued individually, Zamcyzk was told.
A sense of justice
IBM isn’t the only American corporation accused of profiting from assisting the Nazi regime. Notably, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. have been the target of lawsuits, investigative journalists, and government scrutiny for their dealings with the Third Reich. The difference with IBM, according to Black, is that it so adamantly refuses to admit its mistakes.
Big Blue should open up its archives on the period and address the issue openly, Black says.
“Until that moment occurs, modern day IBM and the people in the country who are covering it up will be guilty of what no other Nazi collaborationist is guilty of,” he says. “They will be guilty of handcuffing themselves to their own genocidal past.”
For Zamcyzk, with limited avenues to his own sense of justice – after a lawsuit appears impossible, and criminal charges unlikely – the only path forward looks to be an IBM apology on the public record. “IBM knew better than anyone else did what was going on in Europe,” he says.
Until then, the retiree will live out his days in Palm Springs, Calif. with his own knowledge that a benign punch card sealed his father’s fate – death at Auschwitz.
So Australia, do you still want to fill in your census?