1997-09-10 - Re: House National Security committee guts SAFE, worse than no bill

Header Data

From: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
To: Jonah Seiger <jseiger@cdt.org>
Message Hash: 23a4748fd5d173aa900dd09faa9829c071560d51aed2545f258f14330b0bcedc
Message ID: <Pine.GSO.3.95.970909193137.9741A-100000@well.com>
Reply To: <v03102807b03ba8918f73@[]>
UTC Datetime: 1997-09-10 03:19:18 UTC
Raw Date: Wed, 10 Sep 1997 11:19:18 +0800

Raw message

From: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 1997 11:19:18 +0800
To: Jonah Seiger <jseiger@cdt.org>
Subject: Re: House National Security committee guts SAFE, worse than no bill
In-Reply-To: <v03102807b03ba8918f73@[]>
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.3.95.970909193137.9741A-100000@well.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

On Tue, 9 Sep 1997, Jonah Seiger wrote:

> I am not suggesting that we should relax because the Administration is not
> completely satisfied with this provision. They scored a hit against SAFE,
> just like we won one at the Foreign Relations Committee.  Border skirmishes
> in the larger, ongoing war.

The war in Congress is essentially over. There is no realistic hope of
good crypto legislation passing. I'd be interested to hear any
hypothetical that you'd suggest to the contrary. Keep in mind when
concocting it that you'd have to get past the Senate -- where pro-crypto
legislation has been dead for months -- and a presidential veto.

Can you honestly say that any legislation that would survive such a
fearsome test would be better than the situation we have now? (That is, no
domestic controls, an export control regime hanging from a shoestring, and
moderately successful court challenges.)

> None the less, this is much bigger than a quibble over details, IMHO.
> There are important policy implications of this language.  And politically,
> it is extremely significant that Reinsch would be critical at all,
> considering that the Committee voted to substantially undercut the bill
> (one of Reinsch's top priorities).  Perhaps you missed this nuance.

The "important policy implication" of this language may just be Freeh
serving as a convenient launching platform for trial balloons. Reinsch can
swat them down as he sees fit if they get hit by too severe a barrage,
then reintroduce them later after the clamor dies down. (Politically, BTW,
it is much more interesting what Gore said today than Reinsch.) Like I
said, bad cop and worse cop. Reinsch was critical of nuances -- ones that
you perhaps missed -- not the general plan to wire in Big Brother.

Keep in mind this is not just law enforcement talking. This is policy that
comes from the top. Remember Clinton's executive order last fall. Or
before that, his predecessor. Classified documents reveal George Bush in
December 1991 approved a policy to ban strong crypto and allow only
snooperware (crypto with a backdoor). Then in early 1992 the White House
OMB moved to suppress related documents critical of mandatory
wiretappability and privacy. Again, this comes from the highest levels of
the administration. Tell me again how you'll get past that veto.