reuters crypto story (fwd)

Lauren Amy Gelman gelmanl at
Fri Aug 1 17:11:51 PDT 1997

Lauren Amy Gelman, USACM			gelman at
U.S. Public Policy Committee for the Association for Computing

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 01 Aug 1997 16:24:40 -0400
From: Aaron Pressman <aaron.pressman at>
Subject: reuters crypto story

Human rights groups favor strong encryption abroad
  WASHINGTON, Aug 1 (Reuter) - Human rights activists came to Capitol Hill
on Friday to tell lawmakers of their need to use strong computer encoding
programs, subject to strict U.S. export limits, in their work outside the
   The debate over exports of encryption technology, which scrambles
information and renders it unreadable without a password or software "key,"
 has largely pitted the interests of commercial companies and civil
libertarians against those of law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
   But human rights advocates said Friday they also had a critical interest
 at stake.
   Swift and inexpensive communications over the Internet "promise to
destroy the ability of abusive regimes to silence their people, hide their
atrocities and blockade the truth," said Dinah PoKempner, deputy general
counsel for Human Rights Watch.
   "Encryption offers the most fundamental protection to those who seek to
bring abuses to light in these circumstances," she added at a briefing for
congressional staff.
   Those who report human rights abuses can become victims of abuse if
discovered, so the availability of encryption to hide electronic mail
messages or faxes can be a matter of "life or death," said Patrick Ball,
who trains human rights activists to use the technology.
   The Clinton administration generally prohibits the export of strong
encryption unless the products allow the government to decode any message
by gaining access to the software keys. A variety of encryption-related
legislation is pending in Congress, including bills that would overturn the
 Clinton policy and relax the export limits.
   Ball, senior program associate with the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS), warned that the use of so-called key
recovery features to give governments access to coded messages could
compromise the work of human rights groups.
   "How can we ensure that intelligence and law enforcement groups in
repressive countries will not directly or indirectly obtain human rights
groups keys from the U.S. government," Ball asked. "Human rights monitoring
 is always defined by repressive regimes as a threat to national security."
   Congressional staffers attending the briefing also heard from leading
cryptography scientists who said U.S. export controls stifled research on
encryption, thereby slowing the development of more secure computer
   Alex Fowler, project coordinator with the AAAS, said the presentations
were intended to counter the portrait of encryption users painted by law
enforcement agencies.
   "We want to reaffirm that cryptography is a science, not just a pastime
of anarchists, terrorists and hackers," Fowler said.
   The export rules prohibit U.S. researchers from collaborating with
foreign scientists on coding technology, according to Ian Goldberg, a
graduate student at the University of California.
   In January, Goldberg sucessfully cracked a message in a few hours that
had been encoded with the most powerful encryption allowed to be freely
exported from the United States.
   A Canadian citizen, Goldberg said that he could collaborate with others
or publish research on the Internet while home from school. "But I can't go
 home every time I have an idea --the plane fare alone..." he joked.
   --Aaron Pressman((202-898-8312))

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Friday, 1 August 1997 16:04:06
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