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UK paper's anti-Bush ploy gets hacked, sacked

The Guardian's anti-Bush letter-writing campaign to America shuts down after hackers pillage its Web page.

The Guardian, a London-based newspaper, ended a letter-writing campaign aimed at defeating U.S. President George W. Bush after a Web site hosting the promotion was attacked by hackers.

Ian Katz, an editor at the British newspaper who thought up "Operation Clark County," said in a letter posted to the company's Web site on Thursday that despite garnering an overwhelming response from the public, the project was being scrapped. The campaign asked for non-American volunteers to pen letters to undecided voters in Clark County, Ohio--which the Guardian had identified as a crucial region in a battleground election state--urging them to vote against Bush in next month's presidential election.

According to Katz' letter, more than 4,000 people visited the Guardian's Web site to be matched with Clark County voters during the first 24 hours after the campaign was launched on Oct. 13. By the next day, the total had risen to 7,000, and by last Sunday some 14,000 individuals had volunteered to write to the U.S. voters.

However, Katz said the Guardian's Web site came under attack on Sunday, by "presumably politically inspired" hackers. The editor said he and 53 members of the newspaper's staff were also buried under an onslaught of more than 700 spam e-mails each, many of which promoted conservative political causes.

Katz wrote in his letter that the effort was launched as something of a joke, but took on a more serious tenor as angry letters began flooding into the Guardian from Americans incensed by the plan. Despite taking the turn for the worse, the editor said his project still had its intended effect, provoking discussion of the election.

"We set out to get people talking and thinking about the impact of the U.S. election on citizens of other countries, and that is what we have done," Katz wrote. "For the Guardian to have experienced such a backlash to an editorial project is extraordinary, but the numbers of complaints are thoroughly outdone by the number of people who engaged positively with the project."