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Feinstein in S J Mercury (and my reply) ...

Feinstein answers her critics in the usual way slimy politicians
answer critics: Dodge the crucial details and make broad, sweeping,
feel-good but substance-less statments.


Here is my reply via a letter to the editor:

> Date: Mon, 15 Sep 1997 13:31:10 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Ernest Hua <[email protected]>
> To: [email protected]
> Subject: Feinstein's ignorance on encryption ...
> As with the previous Mercury interview with William Reinsch,
> I am extremely disappointed with this interview with
> Feinstein.  There was absolutely ZERO attempt to ask
> Feinstein to answer the tough policy questions in an open
> forum where ALL facts are present (not just the distorted
> information presented by the FBI in classified meetings).
> Look at these examples of the same tired arguments from the
> FBI and the NSA, now being spewed by a senator who openly
> admitted that she does not know much about the issue:
> > Q: Doesn't government control of encryption technology used
> > by American citizens infringe on their constitutional
> > rights?
> >
> > A: No one is talking about intrusion on privacy rights. That
> > is important. I would not support an intrusion of privacy.
> Everyone outside the law enforcement and the intelligence
> agencies ARE talking about privacy; that is why everyone
> wants strong encryption.
> When some of the most vocal groups fighting for encryption
> rights include privacy and civil liberty groups, I really
> wonder where Feinstein gets her information.  Is this just
> ignorance, living in denial, or "spin"?
> > ... When law enforcement authorities ... obtain a court
> > order, there should be some ability to act on behalf of
> > public safety.
> In fact, there is, but the entire focus as been on
> encryption, as if, in case that door were closed off, law
> enforcement and intelligence agents would be completely shut
> out.
> Technology has enabled strong encryption, but technology has
> also left a huge and UNENCRYPTED audit trail giving
> significant clues to what the user has been doing.  San Jose
> Mercury has even reported on one of the up and coming
> companies taking advantage of these hidden and very
> revealing trails of information to significantly boost a
> civil or a criminal investigation.
> Law enforcement is not crippled by encryption.  They just
> have to keep up with technology, which has offered them more
> advantages than they've ever had before.
> > Encryption is already being used by criminals, terrorists
> > and drug cartels. ... Imagine the tragedies that might not
> > be prevented if law enforcement officials are unable to
> > decode encrypted files ...
> Law enforcement lobbyists like to paint this picture that
> strong encryption is some sort of technological guarantee of
> absolute secrecy which has crippled their investigations.
> In fact, the FBI, when forced by court order to reveal the
> facts, admitted that no investigations to date were really
> obstructed.  Dorothy Denning, the only pro-law-enforcement
> academic on this issue, confirmed this in her recent study.
> No wonder the FBI fought tooth and nail to keep their
> internal memos from the public.
> > People's safety must keep pace with new developments in
> > technology, or we will live to regret it. ...  In this
> > case, the industry is being asked to put people's safety
> > ahead of their bottom line.
> This is the sort of bogus public safety reasoning that the
> FBI has been promoting.  There is not one single expert
> outside law enforcement that believes criminals will
> actually use any kind of government-mandated encryption.
> This is not 1960's.  Back then, strong encryption could not
> possibly be in the hands of individuals because they require
> very sophisticated computers to run.  Programming these
> systems were considered black magic.  The few experts on the
> topic were strongly censored by the NSA.
> Today, the same computing power is available in everything
> from a personal computer to a smart toaster.  You can buy a
> powerful chip for under $2.00 from Fry's.  Every
> engineering, math and science graduate today must have
> programming skills to be an effective employee.  Encryption
> books are widely available, and the Department of State
> admitted as much that they could no longer censor these
> books, even from export to unfriendly nations.
> If a terrorist can build a bomb from a $5 watch, he can type
> in a program to encrypt his plans.  So which nasty criminals
> can the FBI really snoop on?  Certainly not the ones
> building bombs from everyday appliances.
> > ... You replied that ``it seems to me that nothing but some
> > sort of mandatory key recovery does the job.'' Why?
> >
> > A: There needs to be some means, within the strict confines
> > of due process of law, for recovery of encrypted information
> Feinstein is obviously not a Constitutional scholar here.
> Where in the constitution does it say that law enforcement
> must be GUARANTEED the means to eavesdrop in ANY
> circumstance?  This sort of "make it up as it is convenient"
> attitude is why many people have long questioned her ability
> to genuinely protect civil rights.
> > Q: The National Research Council ... concluded that ... [the
> > risk of] ... unlimited encryption was outweighed by the
> > positive aspects of unlimited encryption, because that
> > provides the best opportunity for government, corporate
> > and individual computer users to protect themselves from
> > computer crime.
> > A: ... encryption ... already is being used in some of the
> > most serious crimes. ... Law enforcement officials must
> > maintain the ability to pierce encrypted communications in
> > these kinds of criminal operations.
> This is another dodge of the real question: Most of the
> members of the NRC panel ALSO got the classified briefing.
> These are the technical and policy experts (that's why they
> are on the panel in the first place).  What makes Feinstein
> think she is so much smarter than these experts, despite her
> claims of ignorance on the matter?
> Let's be realistic:
> 1.  Feinstein has a very warped view of the Bill of Rights
> because she has been the target of, among other things, a
> letter bomb.  She is running scared, and will demand nothing
> short of a crack down from law enforcement, so we cannot
> expect her to side with anyone AGAINST the wishes of law
> enforcement.  (Just look at her stance on the issue of
> freedom of speech on the Internet.)
> 2.  Feinstein has clearly stated in previous senate hearings
> that she is ignorant on this matter, and that she will
> definitely defer judgement to the law enforcement agencies.
> Well, she has once again proven her ignorance, but at least
> she's admitted it in the past.  The trouble is that she goes
> on to take significant policy positions on the matter
> anyway.  Why speak up so strongly on a topic where she's so
> clueless?
> 3.  Feinstein, like many politicians, does not want to deal
> with the details of issues because it would mean that she
> would have to make some very TOUGH questions and decisions.
> The high tech industry is absolutely against encryption
> regulations, so she is in a tight spot.  No wonder, in that
> same senate hearing, she left the room before her
> constituents showed up to testify.
> It's difficult to force a coward face reality and answer to
> real world concerns, and let us keep in mind that the FBI
> and the NSA have insisted on secret meetings rather than
> open discussions on this issue.  They simply do NOT want to
> have to face open scrutiny.  No matter how big a favor they
> THINK they are doing for us, they must be reminded that this
> is an open and democratic society, and that they may not
> choose to have a secret meeting just because they cannot win
> in open debate.
> ----
> Ernest Hua, Software Sanitation Engineer
> Chromatic Research, 615 Tasman Drive, Sunnyvale, CA 94089-1707
> Phone: 408 752-9375, Fax: 408 752-9301, E-Mail: [email protected]