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Re: "Dear Newt" Letter...
>And what did any of the Democrats do?
>Anyone who thinks that Democrats are "better" for privacy and personal
>freedom than Republicans has probably been taking very high quality
>drugs indeed. A Democratic president has been pushing Clipper --
>Senator Exon is a Democrat.
Yes and Coates is a Republican, Meanwhile Grassley and Dole have a parallel set
of lossage. Incidentaly on the Exon-Coates ammendment, look into the connections
between Rimm and the Christian right. The legal footnotes were apparently
drafted by legal council for the Christian Coalition. Granted there are few
friends of the Christian Right's manifesto on the Internet, I personally
consider them an entryist group which the Republicans should recognise as a
The point was that the original post made the assumption that the Republicans
were somehow differentiated from the Democrats on this. Its simply not true.
Clipper was started under Bush (or possibly Regan) and Clinton carried it over
without change. I don't see any sign at present that a Republican president
wouldn't simply continue as well.
The only way something is going to get done is if the Clipper program gets
labeled with the "take out with the trash" tag. Essentially there are always a
whole series of civil service initiatives that continue from administration to
administration that everybody knows are looser ideas but it is easier to
continue with them than give the opposition an opportunity to claim that it was
a retreat. It sounds (and is) a stupid way to do politics but that is the way it
works. For some reason the american people consider stopping a bad policy to be
a "flip-flop" and hence something which demonstrates the unfitness of the office
holder, just as willingness to negotiate is "vacillation".
Its not a new principle. Clinton axed a whole raft of programs that the Bush
adminstration had realised were losers but had continued for the same reason.
What you have to avoid here is making the issue one of party politics. First off
you will lose because you will bet on the losing side at least half the time.
Secondly policies that get into the party political arena end up being treated
in an absolutist and ideological manner which prevents any common sense input.
You are likely to find both sides taking positions you don't like simply because
it is advantageous politically.
Secondly you are likely to win the argumkent in the Congress and then lose it in
the Whitehouse. The next administration will be either Dole or Clinton, more
likely Clinton because Dole is a fossil and the next election will not be about
the second world war or the cold war, it will be about responding to new
technology. Neither Dole nor Clinton is likely to respond well to a mandate from
congress concerning issues of national security. That is the card the FBI will
play. The NSA have their own card but none of us know what their real concern
What I am saying is that we must not allow the Congress to attempt to beat up
the Whitehouse. They simply do not have leverage on this issue. No President
will overule the experts on a matter of National security lightly, if it is a
partisan congressional mandate it will be much easier to reject.
A much better strategy is to portray the FBI as being a rogue agency acting
outside their brief. The debate must be turned from a simple question of privacy
versus national security which you will lose regardless of which party is in
power to one of ecconomic security versus short term national security. You need
to point out the ecconomic cost of insecure communications. You have to bring to
light the behaviour of the French for example. Make it clear that US companies
are loosing business because the French regularly tap fax communications.
Make it clear that encryption is essential to provide high grade protection
The privacy issue may be what drives cypherpunks but it is not the argument
which will work in the arena you need to be heard in. They do not care about
privacy, most particularly not protection against government intrusion. They are
not even that concerned about protecting individuals privacy against corporate
If you make it a party issue you will not only lose but risk turning the clock
the other way. At the moment everyone knows that the export control laws are not
stopping people from getting PGP. It is not a good idea to rub peoples noses in
it. It is easy to ignore export violations by turning a blind eye. It is
difficult to turn a blind eye when people are so anxious to announce what is
going on. Phil Z. is not having problems because he wrote PGP, he is having
problems because he made sure the FBI couldn't pretend they did not know what
was going on.
If you make encryption a party issue then one of those Grassley bills will pass
and the President in power may not veto it.