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Re: FBI calls for mandatory key escrow; Denning on export ctrls

On Wed, 3 Sep 1997, Will Rodger wrote:

> Yes, but  -  Freeh said all products needed to have the _option_ of a 
> key-escrow backdoor built in. The actual deployment of the system 
> should be at the users' discretion. Then again, Sen. Feinstein 
> suggested he needed mandatory key escrow since there was no way to 
> make a voluntary system work. Freeh seemed to warm to the idea of 
> making key escrow mandatory.

Will is right to say Feinstein was harping on mandatory key escrow the
entire time. I disagree, though, that Freeh "seemed to warm" to the idea;
it's been a wet dream of the FBI for the longest time. Towards the end of
his testimony he was perhaps less guarded in his calls for it, that's all.

As for the backdoor, Freeh was vague on what that would mean. At one point
he said it could be done in a mandatory or voluntary manner as long as it
got done. At another he talked about mandating it but giving users the
option to turn it off -- but then what's the use of mandating it? I've
attached some excerpts from the transcript below that might be helpful.

> Unfortunately, he added, mandatory key escrow isn't a possibility - 
> or foolproof, either.

I didn't catch him saying mandatory k.e. isn't a possibility, but he did
admit it wasn't foolproof. Check out the transcript.



[Louis Freeh is talking]

Here we're not saying the key recovery standard X, Y, Z.  We're telling
the manufacturers that they need to have a feature that would allow
immediate decryption, and they can do that in the cheapest, most efficient
way that they can design.  And I think they can do that fairly easily.


There are a number of ways that that could be
implemented, but what we believe we need as a minimum
is a feature implemented and designed by the
manufacturers of the products and services here that
will allow law enforcement to have an immediate lawful
decryption of the communications in transit or the
stored data.  That could be done in a mandatory
manner.  It could be done in an involuntary manner.
But the key is that we would have the ability, once we
have the court order in hand, to get that information
and get it real-time without waiting for what it would
take for a supercomputer to give us, which is too long
for life or safety reasons.


Mandatory key recovery, to the extent that
it was implemented, would be the best law enforcement
solution.  I would not be candid with you if I told
you anything other than that.


I think we can design a system short of mandatory key
recovery which will work certainly better than no
system at all.  And I think the precepts of 909 and
some additions which could be added thereto will give
law enforcement at least a fighting chance, which is
really what we're asking for in this context, to keep
a technique which is very valuable. I don't think
we'll ever solve the problem 100 percent.  There are
loopholes now.  There will be loopholes even with a
mandatory key recovery system.  What we want to try to
do is design an infrastructure which will give us as
many access points for that court order as possible. 
And that's the end game that we're involved in right