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Fwd: OECD delegates waylaid in Paris, special report by K. N. Cukier

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>Date: Thu, 26 Sep 1996 17:55:56 -0700 (PDT)
>From: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
>Subject: OECD delegates waylaid in Paris, special report by K. N. Cukier
>Message-Id: <Pine.GSO.3.95.960926173839.19570L-100000@well.com>

Attached is a special report filed for the fight-censorship mailing
list from the OECD crypto meeting by Kenneth Cukier, a Paris-based
journalist. Read on for his description of how U.S. delegates are
pushing for an international government-snooping agreement.

Cukier's article is now archived at:


More info on global Net-muzzling:




Fight-Censorship Dispatch:

By Kenneth Neil Cukier (100736.3602@compuserve.com)

PARIS, Sept. 26 -- The people involved in the crypto debate are all
intelligent, honorable and pro-escrow, but they never possess more
than two of these qualities at once.

Or so it seems to me after a conversation tonight with eight North
American delegates to the OECD crypto meeting currently taking place
in Paris. While they were finishing dinner in a small restaurant, I
introduced myself to them, although a few knew me already.

"Watch out -- the press," said one. "How in the world did you find us?!"

(Here I'll jump into that oxymoron "journalistic ethics." A two-bit
reporter in a cheap suit has only his wits and reputation to get by
on, so I didn't reveal my source to them, as I can't reveal any names
of those at the table to you... I told them if they let me join them,
I would listen and "not know who they were.")

No great secrets were shared, but it made for a terrific chance to get
an earful on what delegates are thinking after the first day of the
closed-door meeting.

In considering their remarks, it appears that:

 * Nothing is firmly decided at the moment.
 * The OECD will eventually come up with non-binding principles on
   crypto policy for their member-states.
 * The aggressively pro-escrow position of the U.S. is meeting
   resistance during the meetings.
 * Key, limelight delegates are concerned about the shroud of secrecy
   surrounding the talks, and the effect it has on furthering
   crypto-conspiracy fears.
 * The commercial and law enforcement perspective is more represented
   than privacy concerns.

One delegate said that a North American country "made others unhappy"
by their stance. (Without saying who was unhappy or why.) But the
person also said that the most important parts of the meeting took
place during the coffee breaks -- which offer chances not just for
different countries to discuss issues, but for national delegations to
negotiate their stances among themselves

Another delegate vilified the position of the crypto experts who spoke
against "key escrow" at a conference here Wednesday -- especially
Whitfield Diffie -- alleging that cryptographers have commercial
motives for the positions they advocate. The delegate said that the
business community was in favor of key escrow, and that technical
people approach key escrow as a technical problem, although the system
can be easily put into place and iron out their worries. That remark
may have been aimed at Matt Blaze, the AT&T Bell Laboratories
scientist, who at yesterday's conference explained that key escrow
would entail a high cost and a major risk.

The person -- the only one who didn't have the top button of his shirt
unbuttoned and wear his tie loosely -- defended key escrow by saying
that car dealers can make keys based on the registration number on the
windshields, but that people aren't in an uproar. I responded by
pointing out that "If you look at U.S. politics over the past 20
years, you'd probably feel more comfortable giving your crypto keys to
your car dealer than your government."

Others at the table said that it would be good to issue a press
release after the meeting finishes Friday, and a more substantial one
than was issued when the group met last December. The person said that
such a public communique should be specific and mention all the issues
involved. They also noted that the OECD's secrecy led to wrong
assumptions on the nature of the talks in the crypto community.
Another person explained that OECD's "recommendations" would be
non-binding guidelines for the member countries.

As for the process itself, some at the table said that the OECD had a
deadline, which the organization is not used to operating under, but
that it was such an urgent issue that there was no other way.
Separately, one of the delegates at the dinner said that the OECD
would likely meet its deadline of February to issue the report. The
deadline was announced in July by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno at
the G-7 conference on terrorism in Paris.

After about 20 minutes, the delegates paid the bill and returned to
their hotels.

But we in the Net community are left with picking up the tab.


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