1997-05-22 - Compelling a key (fwd)

Header Data

From: Jim Choate <ravage@einstein.ssz.com>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 7683f686e806da78b12796d43fdc642af77c87cb143f24cc3fa3a4141e89c2ef
Message ID: <199705220045.TAA14677@einstein.ssz.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1997-05-22 01:41:58 UTC
Raw Date: Thu, 22 May 1997 09:41:58 +0800

Raw message

From: Jim Choate <ravage@einstein.ssz.com>
Date: Thu, 22 May 1997 09:41:58 +0800
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Compelling a key (fwd)
Message-ID: <199705220045.TAA14677@einstein.ssz.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text

Hi Tim,

And here I was believing your speal about being in your kill file, oh well.
It must be true that nothing is sacred.

Forwarded message:

> Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 22:33:35 -0800
> From: Tim May <tcmay@got.net>
> Subject: Compelling a key

> >> Would it be possible for a court to subpeona a encrypted file or key,
> >>
> >> and order you to tell them the key ?
> >> If you didn't would you be held in 'contempt of court' ?
> >
> >If they had reasonable cause to believe you had knowledge of the key and
> >were refusing to divulge it under direct order of the court you would be
> >held in contempt until you were very old and gray.
> Not necessarily. Mike Godwin, and others, have written about the
> "compelling of keys." It is by no means clear that a key can be compelled.
> Citing the Fifth is one approach, saying one "forgot" is another.

Citing the 5th ONLY works if no immunity from prosecution for the results
is offered. If the judge offers and you refuse, don't worry about buying
toothpaste for many years.

Saying you 'forgot' will not keep you out of jail on contempt. It might
buy you sympathy from the jury but then again, they have nothing to say
about contempt charges.

> As to being held indefinitely, imprisonment as an inducement to cooperation
> has limits. (I just saw a spiel by Alan Dershowitz and others on this
> tonight, vis-a-vis how long Susan McDougal can be imprisoned for contempt
> in the Whitewater investigation.)
> Basically, only until there is no reasonable expectation that the contempt
> will be satisfied (or whatever the exact term is).
> In practice, I think the Washington, D.C. doctor, Elizabeth X, the woman
> who refused to say where her children were, was held for about 2 years, and
> that this was the all-time record for a contempt case. She was ultimately
> released when the court concluded she had no intention of cooperating.

Exactly! It is ENTIRELY up to the individual judge who issued the contempt
citation. If they are pissed enough 2 years will be nothing. As far as I
have been able to find there are NO statutes, other than that of a statute
of limitation for a particular type of crime, that limit how long you can
sit in jail on contempt.

The only way you would get out in that case would be to file with the
appropriate courts for a writ of habeas corpus.

                                                  Jim Choate