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Bush campaign website blocks overseas visits

Donations site still accessible to all

Net surfers outside the USA interested in President George Bush's re-election strategy aren't currently able to learn about it from his campaign website.

Visitors from a number of international locations reported hitting "access denied" errors as they tried to reach the site today. They were treated to the message, "You are not authorised to enter this site."

Web surfers in London, Paris, Oslo, Linz and Taipei encountered a "403 Forbidden" access-denied error page when they tried to contact Bush's website, GeorgeWBush.com. Surfers in the USA reported no problems.

GeorgeWBush.com is the official Web site of Bush-Cheney '04 Inc, Bush's re-election organisation. The site features campaign material such as advertisements along with Bush's position statements and policy plans.

The site also includes a link to an outside site processing campaign donations; surfers both outside and inside the USA said they were able to reach the donation website.

A Bush-Cheney campaign spokeswoman referred questions to Michael Turk, the organisation's Internet campaign director. Turk did not return several calls seeking comment.

UK analysis firm Netcraft said the Bush site appears to be using network management technology from Akamai Technologies to restrict access. Netcraft monitors website response times from several locations, four in the USA and three outside.

Since Monday morning, requests to GeorgeWBush.com have failed from Netcraft's London, Amsterdam and Sydney stations, the company said.

GeorgeWBush.com began using Akamai to manage site traffic on 21 October, following a six-hour site outage early last week, according to Netcraft.

An Akamai spokeswoman declined to comment on the operations of GeorgeWBush.com and referred questions to the site's hosting company, SmarTech.

SmarTech President Jeff Averbeck said he was unaware of the international blocking, and that it was not originating from SmarTech. "All we do is host the site. I have no control over what's being done outside our servers," he said.

Web performance monitoring firm Keynote Systems also confirmed access restrictions on the website. Senior internet analyst Roopak Patel attempted to reach GeorgeWBush.com using several of Keynote Systems' computers around the world. He found that the website is available from the USA and Canada, but not from many other locations, including Oslo, Brussels, London, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Tokyo, Taipei, Sydney, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro.

Patel said the 403 message is a fairly specific error description. "It is more definitive than the 404 type of error where you can't tell what is going on at the server side," he said.

"The server understands the request, but refuses to fulfill it. It is deliberately acknowledging the fact that it is refusing the connection."

A source familiar with the Bush website's infrastructure said Akamai's EdgeScape geotargeting service could be used to selectively lock out traffic. EdgeScape uses a database of IP (Internet Protocol) address information to identify the physical location of servers and PCs.

Keynote also noticed on Tuesday a drop in the performance of the Bush campaign website when accessing it from the USA. Around noon eastern time the site's availability dropped to from its usual 100 percent level to 92 percent, meaning eight in 100 connections was unsuccessful, Patel said.

International Web surfers said they had no problems accessing JohnKerry.com, the official campaign Web site of Bush's challenger.

The U.S. presidential election will be held 2 November.

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