Bush campaign Web site blocks overseas visits

Net surfers outside the U.S. interested in U.S. President George Bush’s re-election strategy aren’t currently able to learn about it from his campaign Web site. Visitors from a number of international locations — Canada excluded — reported hitting “access denied” errors as they tried to reach the site on Tuesday.

Web surfers in London; Paris; Oslo; Linz, Austria; and Taipei encountered a “403 Forbidden” access-denied error page when they tried to contact Bush’s Web site, GeorgeWBush.com. Surfers in the U.S. reported no problems.

GeorgeWBush.com is the official Web site of Bush-Cheney ’04 Inc., Bush’s Arlington, Va.-based re-election organization. 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 U.S. said they were able to reach the donation Web site.

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

U.K. analysis firm Netcraft Ltd. said the Bush site appears 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. 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 Oct. 21, following a six-hour site outage early last week, according to Netcraft. An Akamai spokeswoman declined to comment on the operations of GeorgeWBush.com.

Web performance monitoring firm Keynote Systems Inc. also confirmed access restrictions on the Web site. Senior Internet analyst Roopak Patel attempted to reach GeorgeWBush.com using several of Keynote Systems’ computers around the world. He found that the Web site is available from the U.S. and Canada, but not from many other locations, including Oslo, Brussels, London, Amsterdam and Lisbon in Europe; Tokyo, Taipei, and Sydney in the Asia-Pacific region; and 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.”

Keynote, based in San Mateo, Calif., also noticed on Tuesday a drop in the performance of the Bush campaign Web site when accessing it from the U.S. Around noon eastern time the site’s availability dropped to from its usual 100 percent level to 92 per cent, meaning eight in 100 connections was unsuccessful, Patel said. Performance had not improved by the end of the workday on the U.S. east coast.

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 Nov. 2.

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