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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
                     Information Center. 

                     Reuters contributed to this report.