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[FYI] (Fwd) NEWS Release: Home Office climbdown on Internet snooping

------- Forwarded message follows -------
From:           	"Caspar Bowden" <cb@fipr.org>
To:             	"Ukcrypto \(E-mail\)" <ukcrypto@maillist.ox.ac.uk>
Subject:        	NEWS Release: Home Office climbdown on Internet snooping rebuttal
Date sent:      	Thu, 1 Jun 2000 21:47:18 +0100
Send reply to:  	ukcrypto@maillist.ox.ac.uk

News Release - Thursday 1st June 2000


Contact: 	Caspar Bowden - Director of FIPR
   020 7354 2333

See RIP Information centre at www.fipr.org/rip
...for references and live links
and Parliamentary coverage http://www.fipr.org/rip/parliament.html

CLIMBDOWN by Home Office Press Office
= RETRACTS quote that RIP requires proof that key "deliberately
= In a humiliating climb down, the Press Office of the Home Office has
been obliged formally to retract a quote given to a Reuters reporter
covering the UK's intensely controversial Regulation of Investigatory
Powers (RIP) Bill.

The Reuters story
also syndicated to

...had quoted an unidentified Home Office spokesman as saying that the
"the police have to prove the encryption key was deliberately

This simple sentence encapsulates the crucial issue - the government
has insisted repeatedly that the burden is on the DEFENCE to show "on
the balance of probabilities"
(http://www.fipr.org/rip/burdenproof.html) that a key has been lost or
forgotten to avoid conviction. A REASONABLE DOUBT WILL NOT ACQUIT - if
the court believes you are lying 51%, you go to jail for two years.
The Government has twice rejected Opposition amendments which WOULD
have required the prosecution to show "mens rea" - a guilty mind -
i.e. that a key HAD been DELIBERATELY withheld

The Home Office's statement was therefore the most egregious
misrepresentation imaginable of the actual policy.

FIPR queried the report with Reuters the following day, and the
journalist confirmed that he still had a note of the quotation as a
verbatim statement, and offered to put these objections to the Home
Office spokesperson on FIPR's behalf. The journalist subsequently told
FIPR that the spokesman stood by his statement and wished to alter

FIPR made other enquiries and confirmed the identity of the spokesman
as Tim Watkinson, the press officer who has dealt with the RIP Bill
since it was published in January. In a telephone conversation on
Wednesday 31st, Mr.Watkinson confirmed to FIPR that he understood the
reverse-burden issue of the RIP Bill perfectly well, but had made no
mistake. He could not recollect whether he had used the words
"deliberately withheld" but promised FIPR he would not be using those
words in future. He claimed that the last conversation with the
Reuters journalist had only been to confirm the story "in general

FIPR checked again with Reuters, who again put the issue to
Mr.Watkinson on Thursday 1st June - this time Mr.Watkinson retracted
the "deliberately withheld" quote, but admitted only to a "slight
mis-brief" and "paraphrasing in order to clarify the issues".

Reuters has agreed to re-write the story.

The Home Office Press Office can be contacted on +44 (020) 7273 4610

Caspar Bowden, director of Internet policy think-tank FIPR commented,
"The Home Office were given ample opportunity to discreetly withdraw
an untenable statement - their refusal smacks of desperation. What
confidence can journalists have in information provided by a Press
Office that will peddle a brazen falsehood, and issues only a grudging
retraction after humiliating exposure?"

Notes for editors
1. FIPR is an independent non-profit organisation that studies the
interaction between information technology and society, with special
reference to the Internet; we do not (directly or indirectly)
represent the interests of any trade-group. Our goal is to identify
technical developments with significant social impact, commission
research into public policy alternatives, and promote public
understanding and dialogue between technologists and policy-makers in
the UK and Europe. The Board of Trustees and Advisory Council
(http://www.fipr.org/trac.html) comprise some of the leading experts
in the UK.

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