Time: Wed Aug 13 17:27:08 1997
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Date: Wed, 13 Aug 1997 12:55:00 -0700
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: Don't Let Janet Reno Read Our E-mail (fwd)

>                                                     August 13, 1997
>The personal privacy of individual American citizens
>is rapidly eroding on every front. Advancing
>technology has made it easier for government
>agencies, the police, credit bureaus, telemarketers,
>and all sorts of nosy people to monitor where we are,
>who we associate with, how we spend our money, who we
>talk to on the telephone, and what medical care we
>With business computers and government bureaucracies
>constantly compiling data about our comings and
>goings, encryption is a wonderful technology that can
>enable us to get back some of our privacy. Encryption
>locks up your messages so that only the intended
>recipients, each of whom has his own key, can unlock
>them, and you can carry on a cell-phone conversation
>without snooping from scanners.
>Once encrypted, your phone conversations and E-mail
>will sound or look like gibberish to everyone except
>those who have the key to decrypt it. We look forward
>to the day when encryption technology will be just as
>common as sealing an envelope before you mail it.
>Encryption has become a hot political issue. Most of
>us want control over our own encryption keys, just as
>we demand and expect control over the keys to our
>Civil liberties groups correctly assert that we have
>a First and Fourth Amendment right to speak in a
>manner of our own choosing and to be secure from
>government searches. Just as we have the right to
>speak in Spanish or Greek as well as in English, we
>have a right to speak in code on our computer or on
>our cell phone so that our messages and conversations
>will be private.
>But Bill Clinton and Al Gore want to regulate
>encryption. The Clinton Administration has come up
>with plans to control encryption, variously called
>"clipper," "key escrow," "key recovery," or "key
>management infrastructure."
>These plans have been rejected by consumers,
>industry, those who believe in civil liberties and
>the free market, and even the Europeans. Only the
>U.S. Senate takes the Clinton plan seriously.
>Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE)
>have introduced the Secure Public Networks Act,
>S.909, which is a direct attack on the Bill of Rights
>as well as on our right to privacy. To avoid coping
>with arguments against it, they rushed it through the
>Senate Commerce Committee without any publicity.
>S. 909 gives the FBI and other government agencies
>the ability to seize your cryptographic keys. The
>bill's advocates assert that the government is merely
>trying to maintain the status quo, and that civil
>liberties are protected because court orders are
>required before the government can get your keys.
>That's false. S. 909 overturns the status quo and
>gives government agencies the practical power to
>pervasively monitor electronic communications in a
>way they cannot now. As originally drafted by the
>Clinton Administration, S. 909 would have allowed
>government agents to seize private keys without a
>court order or search warrant, and even without
>notice to the individual whose privacy is violated.
>Supporters of S. 909 added a fuzzy one-sentence
>amendment to the bill in committee and claim it now
>guarantees full protection of our constitutional
>rights. Critics of the bill believe it takes more
>than a single sentence to paper over the bill's
>enormous dangers to personal liberty.
>Supporters of the bill say the government-mandated
>key escrow system would be "voluntary." That's also
>false. A panoply of federal regulations, federal
>purchasing policies, criminal penalties, and civil
>liability exposure would effectively force any
>business of any size to use the government system,
>and all the business's customers would have to follow
>The bill would also make a type of government
>regulated electronic ID code effectively mandatory
>for doing business. To get the ID, you would have to
>buy into the government system.
>FBI Director Louis Freeh is passionately eager to
>have a law that lets his agents seize private keys
>without a court order. He speaks ominously about what
>he calls "the looming spectre of the widespread use
>of robust, virtually uncrackable encryption."
>Freeh compares encryption to fast cars, saying,
>"Would we allow a car to be driven with features
>which would evade and outrun police cars?" Maybe
>he'll try to ban Corvettes when he finds out how fast
>they can go.
>This is the same Louis Freeh who last year proposed
>that one percent of the telephone capacity in urban
>areas be reserved for wiretaps (that's 10,000 phones
>in a city of one million). Even the KGB and the
>Gestapo didn't reach that level of surveillance.
>Sensible people are not persuaded by Freeh's alarmist
>speeches. Last year, the National Research Council
>Commission concluded that national security arguments
>for controlling encryption are increasingly outdated,
>and that the ability of the private sector to
>transfer confidential financial and other data over
>telecommunications pathways without interception is a
>higher priority than government wiretapping.
>No free nation has ever tried to regulate or snoop on
>the content of private messages until the Clinton
>Administration. The crucial political question is
>whether law-abiding Americans will be able to secure
>their own keys, giving them only to persons of their
>own choosing, or whether we will be forced to
>surrender our keys to government surveillance agents.
>                     Phyllis Schlafly column 8-13-97
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Paul Andrew Mitchell                 : Counselor at Law, federal witness
B.A., Political Science, UCLA;  M.S., Public Administration, U.C. Irvine

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