Re: CryptoBill: Is Big Brother Finally arriving?

Hal Finney (
Fri, 19 Sep 1997 14:50:05 -0700

The general sense I get from reading cypherpunks is that this bill is
unlikely to get to the floor during the current session. No compromise
is in sight to smooth the way, and there are a lot of other things on
the Congressional agenda.

The big fight looks to be shaping up for next year. My guess is that
supporters of restrictions will try to enlist some industry support.
The sudden turnaround in Congress seems to have caught everyone by
surprise, and there hasn't been much opportunity to grease the skids.
They'll promise to feed business to some of the companies which tend
to support restrictions, like Trusted Information Systems, HP, IBM,
and others with big government contracts. These companies will sense
profit opportunities selling Big-Brother-enabled crypto software, so
they may well get on board.

On the other hand the computer literate press will probably oppose these
restrictions just as they did with the CDA and with the Clipper chip
before that. Technical experts will probably also line up against them.
Even Dorothy Denning, called in to testify in support of government access
to keys (GAK), said that she did not feel that it would be safe to
implement a GAK program right now; there are too many technical questions
and vulnerabilities.

It will come down to whether the Big Brother rhetoric of the cypherpunks,
supported by a sympathetic press, can capture the public's attention well
enough to overcome the FBI's trumpeting of national security. I believe
the cypherpunks have a good chance of winning the PR battle, with the
press on their side. If we can keep the congressman in a position where
he either has to vote for Big Brother or vote for terrorists, there will
be no vote. So I think there is a good chance that this issue will go
nowhere for some time, and we will be left with the status quo.

Just my guess, your crystal ball may differ.