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OTA releases report on Encryption
From the Washington Post, Sept. 23.
(please ignore typos)
_Delay Urged on Encryption Technologies_
by Elizabeth Corcoran
WP Staff Writer
The Office of Technology Assessment, in a report to be released
today, suggests that Congress consider stopping the Clinton
administration from using some the data encryption technologies that have
aroused public criticism until legislators can review the policies.
Industry and public policy groups have continued to critize he
adminstrations plan to rely on specific technologies for encrypting phone
and computer messages since it was made public in early 1993.
Studies by the OTA, which reports to Congress, usually outline a
spectrum of public policy recommendations. In contrast, those familiar
with this report say it takes an unusually strong stand.
It suggested that legislators take an active role in issues such
as "key excrow" encryption, a technique that would let the government
crack scrambled phone and computer messages by putting the means for
unlocking such communications into the hands of a designated grou, such
as a government agency.
"It's essential to have an open debate before putting key escrow
into place," said Joan Winston, who directed the OTA report. "Given the
government's track record so far, the only place that debate can take
place openly is in Congress."
Ray kammer, deputy director at the National Institute of
Standards and Technology, said the OTA reports fairly portrays both sides
of the encryption debate and that the adminstration "expects and
welcomes" additional discussions. Even so, he added, " the administration
needs to move adhead with the key escrow system on a strictly voluntary
With recess only a few weeks away, Congress is unlikely to act on
the adminsistration's encryption policies this year, sources said. Sen
William V. Roth (R-Del.), who requested the OTA study, said in a prepared
statement that he intends to call for hearings and offer admendments to
the Computer Security Act, which comes up for review next year.