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Industry Group Rebuffs U.S. on Encryption
The New York Times, November 8, 1995.
Industry Group Rebuffs U.S. On Encryption
By John Markoff
The campaign by the Clinton Administration to create a
standard for data encryption acceptable to industry, civil
liberties and law enforcement groups broke down yesterday
when a group including some of the nation's most powerful
technology companies rejected a compromise proposal.
The aim is to set a policy that meets the needs of
electronic commerce as well as the concerns of the National
Security Agency and other Federal offices that are opposed
to the proliferation of data-coding software, feeling it
will make it impossible for them to gather intelligence
The Administration offered a compromise plan and had been
seeking comment from the public. But the industry coalition
said yesterday that it found the Government unwilling to
compromise. Thus, the group of 37 companies said, it would
formulate its own policy proposal to present to the White
House and to Congress in the next six months.
High-technology industries want a data-coding standard
secure enough that both businesses and overseas customers
could use it for sensitive financial and business
correspondence. They seek a longer and more powerful
encryption key than the Government is willing to grant, and
object to Government demands that law enforcement agencies
have "back-door" access to such transmissions that would
allow them to intercept coded messages.
The letter is signed by several of the country's leading
computer, software and on-line companies, among them
America Online, Apple Computer, AT&T, Eastman Kodak
I.B.M.'s Lotus Development division, MCI Communications,
Microsoft, Novell, Oracle Sybase and Tandem Computers.
On Aug. 17, the Administration proposed a liberalization of
export-control procedures for "key escrow" software
products, or those providing law-enforcement access.
"The current policy directive also does not address the
need for immediate liberalization of current export
restrictions," the letter said "Such liberalization is
vital to enable U.S. companies to export state-of-the-art
software products during the potentially lengthy process of
developing and adopting a comprehensive national
The Washington Post, November 8, 1995
Encryption Control Plan Sparks Industry Protest
High-Tech Groups Say Proposals Unworkable
By Elizabeth Corcoran
High-technology companies and advocacy groups are writing
to Vice President Gore and House Speaker Newt Gingrich to
protest what they contend are unworkable federal proposals
for controllng the export of data scrambling technology.
The letters deepen an industry-government rift that began
only days after federal officials unveiled an outline of
what they hoped would be a palatable plan at an industry
meeting in August.
Two separate coalitions are criticizing the
administration's draft proposal, which the government
circulated on the Internet on Monday.
Current export regulations prohibit companies froan sending
overseas any encryption, or data-scrambling technology,
that exceeds a certain degree of sophistication. The
government argues that it needs to be able to peek at
messages and files with proper court authorization -- to do
its job of protecting U.S. citizens from terrorist groups
and other malevolent organizations.
In July, some French students demonstrated they could
readily break the type of encryption technology that the
U.S. government lets companies export. In August, the
administration said it would let companies include more
complex types of encryption, provided they pledged to
entrust to an authorized agent a "spare key," or the means
for unscrambling the information.
Unlike early proposals in which the government said it
would hold such keys, the administration is suggesting that
companies and individuals would be able to select private
keyholders, much the way people pick their banks.
But after a brief honeymoon, industry and civil liberties
groups began to find flaws with the details in the new
proposals. This week's letters indicate that whatever
fragile compromise the government had hoped it had found
has grown even weaker.
One coalition, pulled together by the Washington advocacy
group Center for Democracy and Technology, includes about
three dozen high-tech companies and associations. The group
has promised to draft an alternative plan within six
"There is a very serious message here: that national
security can't be controlling the Internet," said Jerry
Berman, executive director of the center. "There are other
issues, global competitiveness and privacy, that need to be
placed in the balance -- and the administration's policy
doesn't do that."
A second coalition of about 10 free-market and libertarian
groups, led by another policy group, Americans for Tax
Reform, plans to send their letter to Gingrich in the next
day or two. The group contends the administration's
encryption proposals are an encroachment on citizens' civil
The administration's proposals would not restrict tbe
encryption technologies that people use within U.S.
boundaries. But it would require that if they
electronically send an encrypted message to parties outside
the United States, a spare key must be stored with an
"Even though we recognize [the administration] has worked
hard on its proposals, it's not the right direction," said
Rebecca Gould, director of policy at the Business Software
Alliance, a trade association of software firms.
"We've been in this [debate] since July 1994," she added,
a long time for companies that churn out a new version of
most products every 18 months. "That means lost sales for
us and a loss of U.S. industry sales abroad."
Both slipped by gummed eyes, thx gnu.