Bush campaign site blocks traffic from abroad

Five days before the election, the official Bush-Cheney re-election site shuts out visitors from outside the United States.

The folks in charge of the U.S. president's re-election campaign seem to have forgotten that the first two letters of WWW stand for "world wide."

Just days before the presidential election, the Bush campaign's official Web site, GeorgeWBush.com, is turning away Web traffic from abroad. The virtual blockade began Monday, according to Internet traffic analysis company Netcraft.

The site appears to be rejecting visitors from most points outside the United States, while allowing access from most U.S. locations and Canada, according to Netcraft, which is based in Bath, England. The company monitors Web site response times from numerous locations around the globe, including New York; London; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Sydney, Australia.

An attempt by a CNET News.com reader in the Netherlands to access the site brought up an "Error 403 Forbidden" page with the message: "Access Denied: You don't have permission to access 'http://www.georgewbush.com/' on this server."

Representatives at the Bush campaign office did not immediately return calls for comment.

Netcraft suspects the traffic shutout may be an intentional move on the part of the Bush team to ensure the heavily visited site is available to U.S. voters in the final days of the campaign. The company said it saw no indication that the situation was the result of an attack by hackers.

The campaign recently began using Web traffic management tools from Akamai after an outage last week knocked the Bush-Cheney and Republican National Committee sites offline for several hours, Netcraft said. The Akamai service, called EdgeScape, allows the owner of a Web site to exclude visitors from certain geographies, Akamai spokesman Jeff Young said. However, Young would not comment on anything related to GeorgeWBush.com.

"We are not at liberty to discuss certain customers and what we do for them," Young said.

There will likely be no love lost with many in Europe over the traffic situation. Polls there indicate resounding support among Europeans for presidential rival John Kerry. But it doesn't help the Bush campaign when it comes to swaying the millions of Americans who may cast votes from abroad. According to a Pentagon representative, 3.7 million American civilians live overseas, and 500,000 troops are now based in other countries. Their votes could be crucial in what is shaping up to be a very tight race.

Most military personnel access the Internet through the .mil domain, which may allow them to visit the Bush site, Netcraft noted. And for civilians determined to access the site from abroad, a number of U.S.-based Internet proxy services, such as Proxify.com, may help them connect.

Still, the move is unlikely to improve Bush's reputation when it comes to being Web savvy. During a televised debate earlier this month the president mistakenly referred to the Net in the plural, as "the Internets." That blunder came just days after Vice President Dick Cheney fouled up during his own debate. Cheney meant to direct viewers to Factcheck.org, a Web site that supported his arguments, but he accidentally directed them to FactCheck.com, a site linked to Bush critic George Soros.

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