24 February 1998
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 18:49:25 +0000 (GMT) From: "Dr I. D. Goodyer" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Group to Attack Clinton on Crypto From http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,19388,00.html I hope that this isn't too American for us the majority on this list. I thought that it was relevant. Ian
By Courtney Macavinta
Staff Writer, CNET NEWS.COM
February 23, 1998, 2:40 p.m. PT
A bipartisan group of politicos, high-tech companies, and privacy advocates will announce a broad coalition next week to overturn the White House's current encryption policy through a million-dollar media blitz and lobbying campaign, CNET's NEWS.COM has learned.
Encryption secures digital communications, rendering it unreadable if intercepted. The technology is the center of a U.S. debate with federal law enforcement officials asking Congress for access to the "keys" that unlock encrypted data on one side, and consumer groups and industry representatives arguing that such provisions make encryption products useless and constitute an invasion of privacy.
The formation of the coalition--Americans for Computer Privacy--signals a shift in the diligent, but Beltway-confined, fight against the White House's crypto stance. The players in the coalition will attempt to force encryption policy on the mainstream radar by convincing Americans that the government has plans to read their private digital discourse.
"This will be an effort with very major financial backing, and this effort will be joined by a breathtaking coalition of interests," Jack Quinn, the coalition's legal adviser, told CNET's NEWS.COM today. Quinn is a senior partner with Arnold & Porter in Washington and is a former counsel to President Clinton.
"I think people will understand that the FBI director's [Louis Freeh] proposal for domestic encryption controls is really like asking them to make a duplicate of their front door key and leave it at the post office in case he wants to get inside...I don't think it will be hard to explain," he added.
The coalition includes the Business Software Alliance, which will be just one of the financial backers, the trade group confirmed today. The hired guns to head up the coalition's strategy and media campaign also include Ed Gillespie, president of Policy Impact Communications and the strategist behind the Republican's sweeping 1994 legislative package known as the Contract with America; and the firm of Goddard-Claussen, which is best known for creating the famous "Harry and Louise" commercials that helped defeat the president's health care reform initiative the same year.
In addition, Mindshare Internet Campaigns will be in charge of the online strategy and Web site for the coalition, with the Dittus Group in charge of public relations. Recruiting pamphlets with scant details about the coalition's membership, but with clearly laid out goals, already were circulated at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference in Austin, Texas, last week.
These forces and other yet-to-be named members of the coalition will try in about 50 calendar days remaining in Congress's session to derail legislation already on the table that they say will prevent private online communication.
The group will fight an FBI-backed plan that would require all federally funded computers to store encryption keys with a government-approved party, allowing law enforcement to unscramble documents without users' knowledge or even a court order in some cases.
"Even if you don't have a PC at your home or office, still there is information about you that is computerized; maybe it's your medical or financial records. We want to make sure that the technology that can keep that information private stays that way," said Tom McMahon, a spokesman for the coalition, which officially will launch next Wednesday.
In addition, the Americans for Computer Privacy will ramp up an ongoing battle to overturn Clinton administration regulations prohibiting the export of strong encryption products unless the codes are made available to law enforcement agencies. A bill know as the SAFE Act was the vehicle for this export relief, but at least one version of the bill altered by the House Intelligence Committee would grant law enforcement access to encrypted protected communication in the United States. (See related story)
"BSA is involved in this broader coalition of users, industry, and privacy groups. We are coming together to push for a policy that is based on a voluntary, market-based system that is based on consumer demand vs. the government's demand to access your communication in a way that is unprecedented and violates privacy," said Kim Willard, a spokeswoman for the BSA.
The media campaign is expected to cost more than $1 million and will continue over the next eight months. The goal is to stimulate grassroots action against the bills that add more controls on cryptography. At the same time, the coalition's political heavyweights will be working with Congress members to secure a victory.
"They clearly want to get this out to broader public audiences and move outside the Beltway to focus on what the public has at stake in this the debate," said Richard Claussen, whose firm will work on the TV campaign. "The indication is that we want to move pretty aggressively on this."