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Political News from Wired News
Senators Embrace Mandatory Data
by Wired News Staff
12:03pm 4.Sep.97.PDT In a major advance for
hard-line proponents of giving the government wide
access to electronic data, several influential
senators have declared their support of mandatory
key recovery features for all encryption-enabled
software sold in the United States.
At a Judiciary subcommittee meeting Wednesday,
Senator Dianne Feinstein was among those who
came out strongly in support of the position taken
by FBI Director Louis Freeh that mandatory key
recovery is essential to deterring crime.
"Nothing other than some kind of mandatory key
recovery really does the job," the California
Democrat said at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary
Committee's technology, terrorism, and
government information subcommittee. "The
public-safety issue is a paramount one."
The subcommittee's chairman, Senator Jon Kyl
(R-Arizona), added that he was "in complete
The Clinton White House, like past
administrations, have, along with major police and
spy agencies, been strong supporters of such
measures. But in Congress, sweeping measures
to give government agents an easy-open back
door to scrambled data have been met with strong
opposition and legislation that cuts in the
Bills in both the House and Senate have sought to
exclude mandatory key recovery systems as a
requirement not only for US software-makers and
users but also for export products. The Senate
version of this liberalized policy is, practically
speaking, dead, supplanted by the Secure Public
Networks Act by Senators Bob Kerrey
(D-Nebraska) and John McCain (R-Arizona). The
bill offers incentives to software manufacturers
building key recovery features into their products.
In the House, a liberalization bill by
Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) is not only alive but
gained a majority of members as cosponsors.
The software industry, civil liberties advocates,
privacy groups on both the right and the left have
opposed mandatory key recovery. Some
opponents were stunned by Wednesday's hearing.
"It was really shocking to hear how casually
senators and the FBI director talked about
imposing domestic controls," said Alan Davidson,
staff counsel at the Center for Democracy and
Technology. "They've crossed a new line in this
"It appears that Senator Feinstein wants a
Constitution- free zone for the Internet," said
Banisar, staff counsel at the Electronic Privacy
Reuters contributed to this report.