Declan McCullagh on Thu, 24 Oct 96 12:25 MET

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nettime: U.S. crypto-czar appointment -- "Crypto Imperialism" in HotWired

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 24 Oct 1996 03:50:17 -0700 (PDT)
From: Declan McCullagh <>
Subject: U.S. crypto-czar appointment -- "Crypto Imperalism" in HotWired

HotWired, The Netizen
Global Network

Crypto Imperialism
by Declan McCullagh, Kenneth Neil Cukier, and Brock N. Meeks
Washington, DC, 23 October
   The US offensive for international controls on strong encryption  
   will soon become a fusillade. In the next week, the Clinton         
   administration is set to create the position of a roving ambassador   
   whose job will be to marshal international support for a controlling  
   new US crypto policy, the Netizen has learned.

   The crypto-czar will lobby foreign governments to change their laws 
   to comply with the US regulations announced on 1 October, which    
   temporarily allow businesses to export slightly stronger           
   data-scrambling applications if they pledge to develop a "key   
   recovery" system. In such a system, a still-undefined "trusted third 
   party" would hold the unscrambling key to any encryption, and could
   be forced to give it over to law enforcement officials with a         
   warrant. The catch, of course, is that such a system permits         
   continued government access to encrypted communications.
   But for that plan to work, an international "key recovery" framework
   must be established. "What we need to do very clearly is to spend a
   lot of time with other countries," William Reinsch, the US Department
   of Commerce's undersecretary for export administration, told The
   Reinsch said the newly annointed crypto ambassador would be          
   responsible for helping these countries move "in the same direction"
   as the US by "helping facilitate that process and helping to reach any
   agreements that need to be reached between us and them."              
   Reinsch said the position would defy the label "crypto-czar," because
   the position isn't "a czar in the policy sense.... We don't envision
   this person as one who would be giving a lot of speeches on the    
   subject and operating as a kind of public defender of the process."
   Rather, the person would work within "a context which is largely
   private, not public," Reinsch said. The president can confer the rank
   of ambassador on a political appointee for up to six months without
   Senate confirmation, the State Department said. And with ambassadorial
   rank, the czar will be able to speak for the president.              
   The administration is currently considering a "short list" of
   candidates "in the low single digits," drawn from current government
   employees and private citizens, Reinsch said. If a current government
   employee is chosen, he or she would be at the ambassadorial level, he
   said, and the crypto duties would simply become an additional
   If chosen from the private sector, it will be someone with
   "significant stature," Reinsch said. That person would have "a close
   association with the administration and the president and would be
   viewed by the other countries as a senior representative who could
   speak for the president with some confidence," Reinsch said. If a
   private citizen is chosen, they would "do it for free and we'd pick up
   the travel I guess."

   The announcement should come "fairly quickly," he said. "I would hope
   next week we could ice this one."
   This bypasses the ongoing public debate in Congress over lifting
   crypto export controls through legislation - Sen. Conrad Burns
   (R-Montana) has pledged to keep fighting next year - and in the OECD,
   says Marc Rotenberg, the director of the Electronic Privacy
   Information Center. "This is backdooring the backdoor."
   While others - notably Clint Brooks and Mike Nelson - have played the
   role of crypto spokesperson before, this move represents a redoubling
   of the administration's plans to impose its will internationally.
   Yet international observers say the United States may find its plans
   thwarted in the global arena, where many governments - already uneasy
   about America imposing its hegemony on regional politics - will likely
   resist another cryptocrat, even if the person comes with an        
   ambassador's honorific before his or her name.
   "Europe would consider that unacceptable and arrogant, no question,"
   says Simon Davies, director of Privacy International and a fellow at
   the London School of Economics. "There would certainly be a backlash,
   and it would cause immense suspicion. This whole business has become
   extremely sleazy, and the Americans appear to have taken it all very  
   personally. I would be very surprised if it was taken seriously here."
   Viktor Mayer-Schvnberger at the University of Vienna Law School, an 
   expert on international crypto policy, said that "if the US ups the
   ante and brings in a sort of a quasi-diplomatic person to push     
   European countries further, I think we'll see tremendous        
   "It may backfire," says Mayer-Schvnberger. "The US put tremendous     
   pressure on Europe and that is going to increase if the US government
   makes such a bold move as to appoint someone to do nothing but lobby
   for key escrow." Many countries, he said, "have been very apprehensive
   of the US coming in as the 'big guy' and telling the world what is  
   good and what is bad" regarding encryption.


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