Industry Leaders to Meet with Freeh on Encryption

(June 2, 1998)  Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis Freeh is scheduled to meet with industry leaders to discuss encryption on June 9.  Computer, Internet and telecommunications industry leaders favor strong encryption legislation which would guarantee Americans the right to use encryption products, and allow American companies to export encryption products.  Current law permits Americans to use encryption products, but limits exportation.

Strong encryption legislation is supported by bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate.  However, Freeh opposes such legislation, and has successfully lobbied against it.

The meeting is being arranged by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), who opposes strong encryption legislation.  According to MSNBC, likely attendees in include Bill Gates (Microsoft), Michael Armstrong (AT&T), Timothy Price (MCI Communications), Scott McNealy (Sun Microsystems), Steve Case (America Online), and Jim Barksdale (Netscape).  However, Sen. Feinstein's office would not  confirm this list.

The FBI and industry are downplaying the event.  "We have been invited along with other state and federal law enforcement officials," said the FBI's Barry Smith, who works on encryption matters.  "There is no FBI meeting: the FBI has been invited along with other officials."  Smith would not disclose the meeting's location, attendees, or agenda.   

However, representatives of privacy groups, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Democracy and Technology, have not been invited.

Many of the industry leaders likely to be in attendance are CEOs of companies which are members of Americans for Computer Privacy.   ACP spokesman Sue Richards said that "this meeting is another of a long series of dialogue" between industry and the FBI.  However, she stated that it represented neither a summit, a breakthrough, nor something new.  "Industry has sat down before with him."

Meanwhile, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), the lead sponsor of the pro encryption PRO CODE bill (S 377), said Monday that it is unlikely that any encryption bill would pass this year.  Sen. Burns spoke at a meeting of the Technology Network in Mountain View, California.

Americans for Computer Privacy Organizes, 3/4/98.
Senate Holds Hearing on Encryption, 3/17/98.
Democrats Write Clinton on Encryption, 4/6/98.
Secretary Daley Calls Crypto Policy Implementation a 'Failure', 4/16/98.
Freeh Warns of Encryption Use, 4/23/98.
New Encryption Bill Introduced in Senate, 5/14/98.