Denning backs away from GAK

Vin McLellan vin at
Fri Aug 1 00:55:56 PDT 1997

	Tim May <tcmay at> rejected reports of D. Denning's change of

>And her "second thoughts" on GAK were not based on a principled repudiation
>of the concept of "escrowing" keys, or on Constitutional grounds,  but only
>on the grounds that her study did not show that many criminal cases were
>much affected by the lack of key escrow.
>So what if they had?
>(Insert usual arguments here about how many consitutionally-protected
>rights affect criminal investigations, but that this is no reason to ban
>window shades, locks on doors, whispering, etc.)
>Denning and her allies can always support GAK in the future, when "new
>studies indicate that law enforcement is being severely hampered by the
>growing menace of unbreakable cryptography."
>I never trust utilitarian arguments on things of this importance.

	To note the obvious, the Constitutional argument cuts both ways,
with warranted access to "private papers," versus the Founding Fathers'
proto-privacy and their rude distrust of federal power.  (It's kind of like
the abortion debate, where the premise you start off with almost dictates
which conclusion you arrive at, many steps later.)  Denning's pragmatic,
utilitarian, arguments are useful, but I suggest they mask a deeper shift
of primacy among competing principles.

	Utilitarian arguments are historically (even in C'punks;-) used to
defend a pre-defined philosophical position.  (And anyone who thinks that
it would have been hard to tilt the Denning/Baugh study with reports of
crypto use by drug cartels and distributors, even within the US, is just
out of touch.)

	Of course, crypto has (and will in the future) muck up criminal

	On the evidence her comments over the past four months, I think it
is clear Prof. Denning has had some profound second thoughts about ultimate
cultural values and the balance of power between the state and the
individual.   (Make your appointment, Declan! When Dorothy is ready to talk
about this, it will be _very_ interesting.)  Denning, like many on the
other side, is smart & idealistic.  This study and other recent statements
have her overtly balking at being herded along the pro-GAK path... at the
very time the US LEA chiefs are twisting every arm they can to demonize
free access to strong crypto.  That proves her to be thoughtful as well.
Not many standard-bearers cross from one side to the other in this debate.

	Dennings refusal to offer rote support for the LEAs now is itself a
major event in this debate, with significant implications in Congress.

	For players who operate at the level Denning has worked, I have a
gut sense that the international issues -- the multi-cultural,
multi-national, Merchantile side of the debate -- are often much more
important than they have been in the Stateside discussion, such as it is.

	Restructuring world commerce around "licenses" from various
national spy organizations is a disconcerting prospect for many, with
widely-varied political identities.  Also, Denning's middle-class trust in
American government agencies doesn't have a direct parallel in European
political culture -- and once people notice that, the contrasting views of
the state are often disconcerting.

	(Most countries, even in Europe, vividly recall foreign occupation
-- which gives a notable tweak to presumptions of bureaucratic Virtue.)

	Dorothy Denning will never march under a Libertarian flag, but
neither will I. There are other banners which are on the same side of the
barricades, guys.  No need to shoot all your allies until after the
Revolution.  And, if we win it together, you may need a consensus before
anyone shoots anyone, AP notwithstanding;-)


"Cryptography is like literacy in the Dark Ages. Infinitely potent, for
good and ill... yet basically an intellectual construct, an idea, which by
its nature will resist efforts to restrict it to bureaucrats and others who
deem only themselves worthy of such Privilege."
_ A thinking man's Creed for Crypto/ vbm.

 *     Vin McLellan + The Privacy Guild + <vin at>    *
  53 Nichols St., Chelsea, MA 02150 USA <617> 884-5548

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