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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.


Doug Shapter
[email protected]