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Virtual march jams Capitol phone system

By
P. MITCHELL PROTHERO

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- A coordinated effort by anti-war protesters to jam the phones and e-mail systems of Congress left Capitol offices overwhelmed Wednesday. A coalition opposing a possible war with Iraq used a high-tech virtual protest to flood offices with phone calls, faxes and e-mails with some interruption in phone services, Senate offices reported.

The group -- called Win Without War -- hailed the effort as a victory as it claimed more than 1 million phone calls jammed the highest offices of government. Several Senate offices reported extremely high call volumes and in many cases calls to main Senate office numbers were met with busy signals or recorded messages saying phone lines were jammed.

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One staffer reported at least 400 phone calls by noon. "That's well above our typical volume," she said.

"The outpouring of support for tough inspections to disarm Saddam Hussein, and against an invasion and occupation of Iraq got through loud and clear today," said former Congressman Tom Andrews, national director of Win Without War. "Americans want us to work with our allies through the United Nations to contain the threat from Iraq."

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Andrews said that even protesters could not get through to protest, in some cases.

"Well over one million phone calls were made in just eight hours by people from every state in the country. Every Senator's office and the White House switchboard received at least two and often more calls per minute. Many callers had to settle for busy signals," he added.

Overall phone services remained basically normal, reported other offices -- the jams were mostly limited to main phone lines, leaving individual extensions, the press galleries and other Capitol functions mostly unimpeded.

The effect on e-mail services was harder to judge initially. Staff reported an influx of e-mail received by the main in-boxes, but individual users reported few problems.

"It looks like our networks have been holding up pretty well," said one Senate staffer. "But I don't have to answer the phone."

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