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US Should Forbid Export of Digital Wiretap Technology (fwd)
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comp.society.privacy yields the following from [email protected]
(Mike Crawford). I _think_ it's black humor, but the moderator of c.s.p
seems to have accepted it at face value.
The United States Congress is considering bills to require telephone
equipment manufacturers to make their equipment easy to wiretap.
While the Digital Telephony bills (H.R 4922 and S. 2375) may concern to
Americans who worry that the government will overstep its legal
authority to tap phone calls, it presents a truly horrifying prospect
to the citizens of many other countries.
Many countries, perhaps most countries, make no pretense of
guaranteeing their citizens due process. In such countries, equipment
that met the standards required by this bill would be a powerful weapon
of political repression.
Further, even democratic governments may use such equipment to spy on
the offices of American companies doing business in their countries.
I suggest that the bill be amended, so that in the event that it does
pass, to require strict export controls over equipment that is "wiretap
At the very least, wiretap-ready equipment should be controlled as
rigorously as the export of military weapons. I assert that the
controls should be tighter - we should only allow export to countries
that have legal protections that are at least as rigorous as required
in the US, and also that really enforce such laws. Further, we should
require evidence of long-term stability to avoid the possibility that a
democratic government will be overthrown by a totalitarian regime that
will then use our technology to evil ends. Wiretap ready equipment
could even destabilize democratic governments, if the governments are
unable to prevent political opponents or insurgents from covertly using
the wiretapping system.
Such export rules should be closely monitored by Congress. History
shows that the administrative branch often bends the rules to favor
foreign policy convenience over human rights. For example, the Reagan
and Bush administrations routinely refused political asylum to citizens
of El Salvador, even when such refugees had credible reason to fear
murder at the hands of the death squads.
A possible solution would be for Congress to authorize export to
particular countries for only a year or two at a time. Each year the
relevant committee could take testimony from the State department,
business groups, and international human rights organizations, and pass
a bill to allow export to the qualifying countries.
Consider that high-tech wiretaps are in some ways more dangerous than
bullets or bombs. Once a bomb has exploded, it is not dangerous
anymore. A national phone system with built-in monitoring system would
last for many years, even outlasting the governments and corporations
that originally installed them.
If America really stands for liberty, we will take great care before
unleashing this weapon on the world.
If you agree with me, call or fax your Senators and Representatives.
Suggest they introduce this amendment. I also suggest that special
attention be paid to such people as Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who leads
Congress in the effort to hold the People's Republic of China, and
other legislators with an interest in the human rights climate in other
A list of Senate fax and phone numbers follows, copied from a previous
post made by EPIC.
[I have placed that list in the CPD Archives, it has been posted
here once already. MODERATOR]
Roy M. Silvernail -- [email protected]
"I'm a family man, model citizen."
-- Warren Zevon
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