1996-08-26 - Denning interview in Wired

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From: “Vladimir Z. Nuri” <vznuri@netcom.com>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: f91feaf4806e7de3b705e035ac58f4bcdb0f390f551c5ca47388f735a96f7691
Message ID: <199608261817.LAA03556@netcom11.netcom.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1996-08-26 23:58:49 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 27 Aug 1996 07:58:49 +0800

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From: "Vladimir Z. Nuri" <vznuri@netcom.com>
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 1996 07:58:49 +0800
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Denning interview in Wired
Message-ID: <199608261817.LAA03556@netcom11.netcom.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

don't recall anyone mentioning this--
Steven Levy did a lengthy piece on Dorothy Denning for the
recent Wired. 

any reactions?

I was personally struck at how Dorothy seems to lack strong
convictions that hold up in the face of others. she wrote
a paper urging that hackers be studied and worked with by
the security community and then backed away from the position
quickly after talking to "authorities".

I was amazed that Dorothy, after a long time, has failed to
confront some very basic issues in her advocation of 

1. constitutional issues. it would be ok for me if she described
why she thinks that privacy is not constitutionally protected,
but she fails to mention constitutionality issues in virtually
any of her writings. frankly this strikes me as the utmost
weasely evasion. is she aware of any court precedent on freedom
of speech, freedom to speak in private etc? she never quotes
any case law etc.

2. she fails to address the issue of "returns vs. cost" or
"cost/benefit" ratio. her argument amounts to an extremely
simplistic line, "law authorities have been stymied by crypto. therefore
it should be restricted". but this reminds me of speed limit
advocates saying, "55 saves lives". well, how many? 35 saves lives
over 55. the key issue is that of *compromise*: what is the optimum
compromise?  we can catch more criminals by adding security cameras
everywhere, but what are the costs? 

such back-and-white thinking has 
little place in any complex policy issue, yet unfortunately tends to 
dominate them. it's very bizarre to see an academic like Denning
just seem to be vacuously oblivious to such simple concepts such
as "tradeoffs". nothing I've read suggests she has ever addressed
the issue of *compromise* in regard to catching criminals vs.
protecting rights.

but amazingly, people like Kallstrom seem to think the same way.
paraphrased, "if even one criminal gets away because we didn't have enough
funding in the FBI, we need more funding in the FBI" etc.

3. she fails to address the "big brother" issue. why is wiretapping
never going to be used by "big brother"? it's inconceivable to me
how she can honestly evade this issue as well. she has never addressed
the issue of abuse by law authorities from what I can tell.

4. Denning seems to be to be remarkably swayed by "authority figures".
she has changed her opinion before based merely on conversations 
with "authority figures" in the FBI and NSA. it seems maybe she has
a bit of "spook envy" or something like that. many of her arguments
for me essentially amount to, "people that claim to know what they
are doing say we need [x], therefore we need [x]"

well, I am not trying to start a new round of Denning-bashing 
(although that's always fun, hee, hee) but the recent article does
give a little new food for thought about Denning's psychology etc.

frankly I think that Denning has lost the intellectual battle because
she absolutely fails to address some of the above key points. (particularly
the total failure to address the constitution is getting more egregious). I 
suggest that anyone who wants to debunk her line of thinking (which apparently
is getting to be awfully easy) just focus on any of the above areas.
she apparently has no reponse to these points in anything I have
read of hers.