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Re: NSA Realists v. Nuts (Was: Re: Crypto APIs)

Perry E. Metzger wrote:

>The real problem with the NSA is the same as the problem with the FBI
>re: digital telephony. They've gotten used to a certain model of how
>the world works and rather than adapt to new times where most people
>have access to strong crypto, they have decided to use the laws to try
>to retard the inevitable.

Perry is absolutely right about this.  We have been living in a "golden era" 
for the FBI and NSA.  By analogy, we have also been living in a golden era 
for physicians:  during the last several decades (in the developed world 
anyway) we have relied on antibiotics to the point where they are taken for 
granted.  This time has passed, and there is no going back.  The Golden Age 
of Antibiotics is over.

Similarly, the Golden Age of Wiretaps is over.  No amount of wishful 
thinking and convoluted logic can put the genie back into the bottle.  An 
attempt to (in effect) make certain types of mathematics illegal will only 
serve to knock us out of our technological leadership position, not make our 
country safe from terrorism and drugs.  Given a world in which strong crypto 
is actually used, and that use is illegal, how can a government make the 
punishment fit the crime?  Would all use of illegal cryptography be treated 
as though there was an actual threat of terrorism?  The death penalty?  This 
is, of course, an absurd point of view.  The government could no more 
accomplish this than they could make muttering over the phone (thereby 
defeating a plaintext wiretap), or the use of obscure language (such as 
Native American dialects) illegal.  It just doesn't hang together as a 
rational approach.

Like physicians, the FBI and the national security operations must devise 
alternative schemes to combat the real "enemy," terrorists and drug dealers 
 -- not mathematicians and ordinary citizens trying to have a private 
conversation.  The suppression of basic rights that would be required in any 
attempt to overcome the "force of nature" that is human knowledge would make 
a mockery of our "inalienable rights" as free people to conduct our lives 
without fear of the overbearing scrutiny of unrestrained government.