[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

good news about the EFF...

This might be of interest:

 ---------- Forwarded message ----------
 Date: Tue, 20 Dec 1994 17:04:23 -0800
 From: Brock N. Meeks <[email protected]>
 To: [email protected]
 Subject: CWD Changes in the Wind At EFF

 CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1994 //

 Jacking in from the "Back to the Future" Port:

 Washington, DC -- The Electronic Frontier Foundation has fired its Policy
 Director Jerry Berman and will soon release a sweeping new agenda for 1995
 that promises to return the organization to its original grassroots

 Asked to comment on his firing, Berman bristles and says:  "I think that's
 baloney." Then he quickly adds:  "Did you ever think I might have wanted to

 Berman has, in fact, left EFF, to head a new, as yet unannounced, policy
 group called the Center for Democracy and Technology.  His departure from
 EFF and the creation of CDT will be made public this week in a joint
 announcement with EFF, sources said.  The official line that will be spun
 to the public is that the two came to a "mutual parting of the ways."

 That benign statement, however, doesn't reflect the long hours of the
 behind the scenes deliberations, in which the language of the press
 releases will be a cautiously worded as an official State Department

 Heroes and pioneers always take the arrows;  EFF lately has looked more
 like a pin-cushion than its self-appointed role as protector of all things
 Cyberspace.  The beleaguered organization has over the course of the past
 two years endured often withering criticism from the very frontier citizens
 it was sworn to uphold and protect.

 The reason:  A perceived move away from its grassroots activism to the role
 of a consummate Washington Insider deal maker.

 Berman is the man largely responsible for cutting EFF's policy cloth.  He
 wears the suit well.  Maybe too well.  Although he has the political acumen
 to arm-wrestle inside-the-beltway, it comes at the expense of his
 management style, EFF insiders said.  Those shortcomings came at the
 expense of EFF's day-to-day operations and didn't go unnoticed by its board
 of directors.

 The EFF board in October fired Berman for mismanaging the group's
 organizational and fiscal responsibilities.  No impropriety or malfeasance
 was alleged, the board was simply dissatisfied with Berman's day-to-day
 managing of the shop.

 In a precursor to the board's October decision, it split Berman's job,
 giving him charge of just the policy arm, which board members said played
 to his strength.  They then hired Andrew Taubman as executive director to
 oversee the day to day tasks.

 Separate from the organizational and fiscal misgivings, the board also
 couldn't brook with priority on policy affairs that Berman had engineered.
 Although Berman expertly navigated EFF through the choppy political waters
 of Washington, that course increasingly steered the organization away from
 its original vision as a populist group.

 Never was the hardcore policy-driven slant of EFF more apparent than during
 the two-plus year political firestorm that surrounded the FBI's infamous
 Digital Wiretap.

 The political wrangling during that time, in which Berman brokered the
 influence of EFF with the backing of the telephone, computer and software
 industries, to reach a compromise with legislators and the FBI on the
 bill's language, increasingly drove a wedge between the organization and
 its grassroots membership.

 Nobody within EFF interviewed for this article disagreed with how Berman
 ran his policy tour de force.  In fact, the board was generally in
 agreement that Berman did an excellent job in helping to broker a less
 nefarious version of the FBI's wiretap bill than would have otherwise
 passed without his involvement on EFF's behalf.

 As effective as Berman was in shuffling between the political and
 ideological interests of EFF and its members, the "inside baseball"
 political bullshit was largely lost on the community of the Net, who viewed
 it as a kind of betrayal.

 The fact that there would be a backlash from the Net came as no surprise to
 Berman and EFF, who recognized the fine line they had to walk in dealing
 with a politically charged issue rivaled only by the Administration's
 insipid Clipper Chip encryption policy.

 You see, the Net community is a binary braintrust, a world of ones and
 zeros -- either on or off -- in which shades of grey are rarely an option.
 Yet it is exactly these shades of grey in which Berman excels and thrives.
 It is a skill --  and damn near an art form -- to be able to move among the
 shadows and Washington's land of a thousand different agendas.  And that's
 right where Berman had steered EFF.

 However, it's not where the EFF board thought the organization belonged.

 And so, in a few days the Net community will read a grand announcement in
 which EFF and Jerry Berman state they've had a "mutual parting of the
 ways."    The announcement will be several fold, including:

 -- The formation of  Berman's new Center for Democracy and Technology.

 -- That EFF has hired current board member David Johnson, currently a
    computer law attorney with the Washington law firm of Wilmer, Cutler and
    Pickering, to be its new policy director, although that exact title has
    yet to be finalized.

 -- A new policy agenda for EFF that includes creation of an annual "State
    of the Net" report.

 EFF Executive Director Taubman declined to comment on Berman's firing,
 saying only that the organization and its former director had, indeed,
 agreed to a "mutual parting of the ways."    He said EFF and Berman's new
 group would continue to work closely with each other and that the efforts
 of each would be mutually beneficial.

 Johnson said he was excited about the new policy efforts he would be
 heading up for EFF, which, in addition to the "State of the Net" report,
 includes commissioning papers and studies to help build a more solid idea
 of what exactly constitutes the Net "community" on a global basis and
 helping to define the Net's community as recognizable legal entity.

 In addition to the new policy efforts, Johnson will have to restock EFF's
 policy department:  All the EFF policy wonks have jumped ship, resigning
 their positions and joining with Berman's new venture.

 The upheaval at EFF -- which included moving the entire operation here to
 new digs in Washington -- apparently hasn't hurt moral which has "never
 been higher," Taubman said.

 Underscoring Taubman's remarks is EFF's on-line legal council Mike Godwin,
 who said the changes "create an opportunity for us to return to our more
 populist mission and vision that we started with."

 All Things Being Equal

 Adversity for a political junkie is the warp and woof  of  Washington
 culture.  Berman is no worse for the wear, having parachuted out of EFF and
 into his new organization. He said CDT will be differ from EFF "on what to
 emphasize."  That emphasis will be to focus on "on the ground public
 policy," he said.

 And it won't only be Berman's staff that sets the scene for familiarity as
 he jump starts CDT.  The former EFF policy staffers will supply him with
 horsepower and his political currency will open doors.  But he needs cold
 hard cash to feed the troops and pay the rent.

 That means his new organization must have financial backing and here, too,
 there are no strangers.  Berman's bringing along a fair chunk of EFF's
 corporate sponsors to his new home.

 Companies providing seed money to Berman's CDT include AT&T, Bell Atlantic,
 Nynex, Apple Computer and Microsoft.  These same companies provided a
 combined $235,000 in donations to EFF in 1993, minus Nynex, which wasn't
 listed as a major donor (over $5,000) on EFF's tax returns.

 It's not known if these companies will continue to fund EFF in full or in
 part or what amount they have pledged to Berman's group.  Just how
 well-heeled CDT is and exactly who makes up the full roster of its
 sponsorship remains to be seen.  We'll know that after the organization
 files its first tax returns, which will be a matter of public record.

 Meeks out...