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Why the White amendment is a good idea (fwd)





---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 24 Sep 1997 19:06:33 -0600
From: Aaron Weissman <[email protected]>
To: "'[email protected]'" <[email protected]>
Subject: Why the White amendment is a good idea

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Today, the House Commerce Committee made an 
important statement which will have lasting 
ramifications on the status of personal privacy 
in our nation for the foreseeable future.

I know what you all are thinking -- former White 
staffer, praising his old boss.  In the interests 
of total disclosure, I did work for Rep. White, 
and I still think he is an all-around great guy.  
However, solely on the merits of this amendment, 
I believe that it deserves the support of the 
Internet community (whatever *that* is).

The NETCenter is a great idea.  Very few of us 
would argue that our society has an interest 
defining rules and in prosecuting their 
transgression as crimes.  Once we have agreed on 
that point, the issue changes to a (still very 
important) discussion on methods.  By creating a 
decryption lab (and funding it with tremendous 
amounts of money), our society will fulfill the 
basic obligation to protect against the 
transgression of our rules.

However, despite the worst intentions of some, 
this laboratory cannot be an indiscriminate tool. 
 The United States Government may be a the 
ultimate example as an organization possessing 
"national means," however, it's resources are far 
from infinite.  In addition, such a lab would 
require our very best and brightest 
mathematicians. We may be able to afford one of 
these labs, but more would be a large stretch.

Once this NETCenter exists, the demands for it's 
services will soon outstrip it's resources.  In 
addition, the massive cost involved per use would 
be large enough to attract public scrutiny.  I 
have no doubt that our government could crack the 
very largest keys if it were to through billions 
of dollars at the problem.  However, in an age of 
shrinking budgets and a commitment to a balanced 
budget, that much money is not spent without 
considerable oversight.

I have no doubt that a considerable portion of 
the NETCenter's time will be spent in matters of 
foreign intelligence.  (As I said, we cannot 
afford two massive decryption laboratories -- the 
NSA will have to give its decryption mandate to 
this new agency).  In sum, this amendment gives 
us a powerful decryption laboratory with a great 
deal of sunshine on its use and limited resources 
on behalf of law enforcement.

These factors make the NETCenter a great tool for 
targeted decryption, but they also guarantee that 
appropriate judicial supervision is acquired 
before the NETCenter can be used.  In other 
words, this is a great tool for prosecutors to 
use *after* they have established probable cause 
in their most heinous cases, and a strong 
guarantee that the eyes of the government will 
not intrude into our persons, papers and effects.

The passage of this amendment helps ensure that 
the terms of this debate remain centered on our 
civil liberties -- not kiddie porn.  If we are 
going to win this argument (and the stakes are 
very large) we have to keep this debate framed 
with our criteria.

Many may disagree with me on these points, and I 
we
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