Rep. Lofgren on McCain/Kerrey (good. long.)
geeman at best.com
geeman at best.com
Thu Jun 26 23:43:13 PDT 1997
[Congressional Record: June 25, 1997 (Extensions)]
>From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
ENCRYPTION BILL: AN EXERCISE IN DECEPTION
HON. ZOE LOFGREN
in the house of representatives
Wednesday, June 25, 1997
Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, last week the Senate Commerce Committee
reported a bill, S. 909, sponsored by Senators McCain and Kerrey, which
largely embodies the latest administration proposals to deal with
encryption technology. This misguided legislation (S. 909) would be a
great leap backward in the effort to reform current American export
restrictions on encryption and remove serious impediments to the
competitiveness of our Nation's high-tech industry.
In addition, by proposing unprecedented domestic controls on the use
of encryption, the McCain-Kerrey bill also poses serious threats to
fundamental civil liberties and privacy rights. I believe that the
Senate effort is propelled largely by a lack of understanding of both
the worldwide prevalence of strong encryption and the technical
challenges posed by the massive key recovery-escrow infrastructure
envisioned in the bill.
Earlier this week, Mr. Dan Gillmore, columnist for the San Jose
Mercury News discussed the problems with S. 909 and strongly urged a
rejection of the McCain-Kerrey approach. I submit his column into the
[From the San Jose Mercury News, June 23, 1997]
Encryption Bill: Federal Exercise in Self-Deception
(By Dan Gillmor)
As a bill bearing his name zipped last week through the
Senate Commerce Committee he heads, Arizona Republican John
McCain said, ``This bill carefully seeks to balance the
concerns of law enforcement with individual privacy
The legislation, co-sponsored by Nebraska Democrat Bob
Kerrey and two other Democrats, was the latest futile attempt
in Congress to achieve the impossible: compromise on an issue
that fundamentally has no middle ground.
The issue is encryption, the scrambling of digital
information. Try as they might, lawmakers must eventually
understand the reality. When it comes to the privacy of
personal information in the digital age, we have two simple
choices. Either we allow people to encrypt their messages,
using scrambling and unscrambling ``keys'' to which only they
have access, or we do not.
Governments are certain that bad people will use encryption
to help achieve bad ends. They're right. But their cure would
shred our basic liberties.
So the Clinton administration and its allies--the McCain-
Kerrey legislation is widely viewed as an administration-
approved plan--are pushing a policy that would force us to
put descrambling keys in the hands of third parties. Then,
when law enforcement people wanted to see our communications,
they'd simply get the keys from that third party.
The McCain-Kerrey bill pretends to stop short of that. It
would force government agencies to use only electronic
hardware and software that included this key-recovery scheme.
It would also require the same system for anyone using a
network that is funded in any way by federal funds, including
virtually all university networks.
While one section calls the system ``voluntary'' for
private individuals, the rest of the legislation would make
it all but impossible to resist. Hardware and software
companies, which so far have resisted the government's moves,
will be much more likely to simply give in and build this
key-recovery method into all of their products if they have
to build it into ones bought by the government. Consumers
need options, not monolithic products.
Another section of the bill would, in effect, require even
private citizens to use such software--and therefore give
their keys to the third parties--if they want to buy anything
online. People tend to use what they have in front of them.
There's nothing wrong with the idea of letting a third
party hold onto a descrambling key in certain cases. As
former White House official Jock Gill noted recently on an
Internet mailing list, all government communications should
use such a system so the public can keep an eye on what the
government is doing in our name and with our money. We'll
need to create a system, of course, where such oversight
doesn't end up forcing the public to use exactly the same
technology for its own encryption needs--or at least keep
private keys out of the hands of centralized third parties.
Companies, meanwhile, will need to hold onto the business-
related keys of employees, so that vital records won't be
lost when someone leaves or dies. But I can't think of many
companies that will be happy about giving the vault keys to
third parties they can't control.
Private citizens also should consider giving their keys to
trusted third parties, just as they give their house keys to
neighbors when on vacation trips. I intend to do just that--
but it's none of the government's business who gets my
personal encryption key. I need strong encryption, as the
digital age arrives, because more and more of my life will
exist on these public networks.
The practical difficulties of setting up a centralized key-
recovery system are immense. Even if it could be done, I
would never trust such a government-run system to be even
remotely secure from corruption. I remember the Social
Security employees who sold personal information to
outsiders. I've also seen too much evidence that governments
tend to abuse liberties when they have too much power--and
the McCain-Kerrey bill would allow virtually anyone at any
level of law enforcement to have access to private
information on the flimsiest pretext, not even requiring a
Kerrey's participation in this latest travesty is sad. He
needs no lessons in courage. He lost part of a leg in
Vietnam. Later, as he stood up to the know-nothings who would
ban flag-burning, he noted that our strength comes partly
from our ability to express ourselves even in ways that
offend many others.
Now, however, Kerrey is aligning himself with a much more
dangerous crowd of know-nothings: those who'd ban our right
to keep private information private. He may believe this is
about finding common ground; if so, someone has fed him
falsehoods. His proposal, if enacted, would create the worst
invasion of our fundamental liberty in many decades.
If you care even slightly about your privacy in the future,
pick up a pen today and write your Senators and member of the
House of Representatives. Tell them to reject the Clinton-
McCain-Kerrey approach. Tell them you value your privacy and
won't give it up without a fight. And remind them that you
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