Saturday, January 26, 2008

If Truong Values the USCF Members' Interests Above His Own, He Should Resign

Just 2 months after Paul Truong was elected to the US Chess Federation Board, a USCF system administrator, Brian Mottershead, released a report that stated that Truong had posted a variety of ugly, inflammatory USENET comments while posing as Sam Sloan or other figures in US chess. Mottershead documents that over a period of several months, the IP address of the inflammatory USENET posts was identical to the IP address of the computer from which Truong was simultaneously logged in to the USCF forums. In the wake of this report, Sam Sloan filed a civil suit against the USCF, Truong, and other individuals associated with the USCF, essentially charging them with a vast conspiracy to thwart his 2007 re-election campaign for the USCF Board.

Mottershead's report rests on a sound technical basis, according to two leading authorities in Internet security who have examined it closely. Supporters of Truong have advanced some rebuttals that have yet to persuade me:

1. Argument: The IP address of the USENET posts could have been spoofed.

True, it is not hard to spoof an IP address. However, how would the culprit have known what IP address to spoof?

2. Argument: A hacker could have taken control of Truong's PC, observed his behavior, and posted to the USENET from Truong's PC at the appropriate moments over a period of several months.

This supposed behavior is completely uncharacteristic of hackers, who generally use compromised computers to host bots (automated programs) that generate spam or participate in "Denial of Service" attacks. In addition, a compromised PC does not explain the USENET posts/logins to from a mobile device in Mexico, at just the time that Truong was traveling in Mexico for the world championship.

3. Argument: Mottershead violated his Non-Disclosure Agreement with the USCF when he released his report.

The fact that someone else may have misbehaved is completely irrelevant to the issue of whether Truong misbehaved.

I do think that Mottershead should have given the USCF ethics committee time to perform their work before going outside the normal channels as a whistle-blower. Again, this does not have any bearing on the veracity of Mottershead's report.

This controversy in and of itself does not justify a request for Truong's resignation, though. However unlikely it may seem at the moment, it is possible that Truong will be able to persuade us of an excellent alibi, as he claims he will do, and I am willing to wait for that time to make my final judgment. Rather, the reason Truong should resign is that his interests and the USCF's interests have suddenly diverged in a sharp manner. Here's why: It is in the USCF's best interests to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and this means releasing all facts pertaining to the issue as expeditiously as possible. There is no other way for the USCF to get past this issue. At the same time, Truong has declined, on the advice of his attorney, to release any information to the public about his connections to the internet during the period in question.

It is Paul's right to conduct his defense as he and his legal team see fit, and I do not question that right. However, it is the right of the USCF to have Board members who will uncompromisingly attend to the interests of the organization first and foremost. Since Truong feels he cannot release any exculpatory data, he is not able to put the interests of the USCF ahead of his own. Thus his one and only honorable course is to resign immediately as a member of the USCF board. In my view, this action would not be an admission of guilt; rather, it would enhance his credibility as someone who cares about the promotion and good governance of chess in our country.

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