Dorothy Denning

Robert Cain rcain at
Tue Mar 1 20:09:35 PST 1994

bill.stewart at +1-510-484-6204 sez:
> I objected to Anthony Ortenzi's article on Dorothy Denning.
> Much of the attacks seemed appropriate for a politician like Clinton (:-)),
> but aren't appropriate for an academic who's doing politics about
> technical areas, where there so much more *useful* ways to flame
> her ideas, rather than her character.

I could not agree more.  I would rather see her ideas discussed though
than flamed.

> > Number 1, if someone is an encryption expert [...], why would they endorse
> > anyone but the recipient being able to decode the message?
> You're confusing technical tactics with political/social goals.
> She's an expert in what you can do with encryption, she just has different
> values about who should be able to benefit from it and how.

I spoke with her at some length today and later with a man she
recommended I also speak with that is an Assistant to the Director at
the NSA.  It *is* a question of who should be able to benefit from it
but not because they are conerned about any of us here.  More later.

> as you say, it would be nice if she'd
> just come out and say the government should spy on all of us to keep us
> from doing Bad Things; it's an argument people can relate to and discuss
> (though it'll get a lot of negative reaction, which is not her objective.)

She won't come out and say that because that is not at all what she
believes.  She is not even looking at us much or giving much thought
to the Bad Things we might do.  Her scope is much larger than "us."

> > C) Was she dropped on her head a lot as a baby?
> Probably got scared by a Commie Terrorist Drug Dealer, and comforted
> by some friendly federal police officer... or else was educated in
> government-run schools. :-)

I wish I could get across to you all how this C) kind of attack affects
even people of her stature and public standing.  This is a very poor
charactature of her as I found her in discussion or have found her
writings.  She is calm, reasonable, not in the least a hard liner and I
haven't seen a trace of the personality traits you give a basis for.
Yes, she is very frustrated, even depressed sounding, because she
cannot seem to find a way to convey the reality of her concern without
it being distorted or pulled into a ridiculous context and yes she is
frustrated because she clearly sees the problems facing Clipper.

What has not been discussed here very much and what I felt going into
the conversations with these people is that they *can't* tell us what
they are afraid of.  It is not a matter of won't.  The conversations
bore this out.   We have been concentrating on in our discussion here
on how much they fear the loss of a power they have gotten used to and
abused to where we find it offensive.  That is not nearly so much
what they fear.  It is the *unknown*.  It is pretty hard to make public
statements like that.

The real issue is that this is an *enabling* technology that allows any
group of people distributed over the world to meet spontaneously in
secret to plan anything.  I don't think we can even conceive, nor have
they yet, the ways the real Bad Guys (I hope we can agree that some
do exist) might find to use this new ability.  A very clear danger is
sensed in Washington with little real benefit to the civilized and
civil majority.

In fact, the reason I began to have the qualms about this that I have
been expressing lately (besides being in a position to open this
Pandora's Box myself now) is that the reason I started looking at
crypto a couple of years ago was that I was in an extremely agitated,
nearly revolutionary state during the period slightly before the LA
riots and for a while thereafter and I came to the conclusion that this
system needed to be brought down, simple.  I felt that this could be
pulled off, in fact, if a method of secure voice communication could be
established that would *enable* country wide planning and
synchronization.  Think about it.  Well, my politics have changed
considerably for several reasons but I well remember my initial motive
for studying crypto and looking for a solution to the man in the middle
that didn't require any passwords or prior agreement.  I have not,
however, lost the belief that dedicated revolutionaries could use it to
create havoc not just here but world wide and that could just be the tip
of the iceberg.

I don't know what the solution is though and I don't think that Dr.
Denning, President Clingon or the NSA really has one.  The cat is out
of the bag now and they seem to realize to their near depression that
it won't go back in.  I requested the phone meeting with her because I
needed to discuss these moral issues with someone that I felt was
looking a bit more deeply into it all.  I am not sure what I am going
to do.  I no longer really want to be the one to open the box with
something easy to use and foolproof but I know that it is just a matter
of time before someone else meanders down the path I found so why act
on my personal concerns only to lose the chance to be the first out of
the gate.  I asked these questions and ran into heavy sighs.  I believe
it is well understood that only voluntary means of controling this
exist and that liklihood is very small.  Persuasion is not working and
the press has been whipped into a near hysterical state over this by we
and our friends (yes, we on the internet are considered to be the force
that has derailed their hopes and that was unforseen.)

As is obvious I don't consider this government to be a monolithic
antagonistic entity out to strip us of rights.  Sure it has happened in
areas but they are reasonably isolated areas.  There are *many* people
in this rather diverse government and in an advising capacity to it
whose sole concern is our safety and these people are worried.  I find
it interesting that there are many people here who lack the imagination
to understand that there probably are a goodly number of reasons for
rightly feeling the need for a Clipper like solution and that it would
not be appropriate for the government to be public about them.  Why is
that so difficult to understand in these times of international strife,
terror and technology?



Bob Cain    rcain at   408-354-8021

           "I used to be different.  But now I'm the same."

--------------PGP 1.0 or 2.0 public key available on request.------------------

More information about the cypherpunks-legacy mailing list