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[ISN] France tell NSA to shove it

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Sat, 20 Feb 1999 16:32:42 +0200 (EET)
Subject:       [ISN] France tell NSA to shove it  (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 02:45:58 -0700 (MST)
From: mea culpa <>
To: InfoSec News <>
Subject: [ISN] France tell NSA to shove it 

Forwarded From: "Dr. Vann Harl" <>


By far the most significant intelligence and security news of the
fortnight is French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's 19 January
announcement that France is suddenly reversing its long-term and
traditionally restrictive policy toward the public use of encryption
systems and allowing complete freedom of use of systems with key
lengths up to and including 128 bits.  Currently, only 40 bit keys are
legal and they must be deposited with a trusted third party ... of
which there is only one recognized in all of France.  Under today's
French law, the government has a right to understand any type of
communication using public facilities, meaning post,
telecommunications, semaphores, or what have you, although this law is
seldom invoked publicly. 

The implication of this French decision goes far beyond France itself
and is the first splash of a tidal change that will, in all
likelihood, drown the international public encryption policy the US is
trying to impose on the world in the name of fighting crime, drugs and
terrorism.  France, which has probably suffered more deaths in the
past few years from foreign terrorists than any other developed
nation, "heard the players, questioned the experts and consulted its
international partners" and explicitly decided that American high-tech
eavesdropping and economic espionage is more detrimental to French
interests than terrorists using encrypted communications.  The
American menace is easily discernable in the opening lines of Mr.
Jospin's statement concerning this tidal change in encryption policy: 
"With the development of electronic espionage instruments,
cryptography appears as an essential instrument of privacy
protection." No mention of crime, drugs or terrorists. 

Since the EU has already imposed much stronger privacy protection laws
than the US, has debated the threat posed by the NSA Echelon worldwide
telecommunications surveillance system, and has resisted "falling in
line behind the FBI" on public eavesdropping, experts expect all EU
countries to announce similar public encryption liberalization in the
near future. Indeed, this seems to be the developing EU strategy of
letting the "uppity, snobbish Gallic French stand up to the
Americans", something the French have always done with pride.  Then,
"once the rampart is breached", suddenly the other EU countries follow
suit in a movement that could only have been negotiated and organized
beforehand.  Specialists know it's coming on drug policies, but very
few anticipated that a French Socialist government would stand up so
unexpectedly to French security and intelligence services (which
imposed the 40 bit key limit, a record lower limit in Western
countries) and to the US.  Now it's done, the floodgates are open and
watch what's going to happen ...  (...cut...) 

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