Industry Leaders Meet With Law Enforcement Officials on Encryption

(June 10, 1998)  Industry leaders and federal law enforcement officials who are at odds over encryption policy met privately in Sen. Diane Feinstein's Washington DC office on Tuesday.  No significant progress or compromise was announced.

The participants of the meeting included Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. John Kyl (R-AR), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jim Barksdale (Netscape), Tim Price (MCI), Steve Case (AOL), Scott McNealy (Sun Microsystems), Eric Schmidt (Novell), Louis Freeh (FBI), and Atty. Gen. Janet Reno.

"[Tuesday's] meeting represents an important step in our collective efforts to have meaningful and productive dialogue about encryption," read a joint statement released by the business and government participants in the meeting. "We enjoyed frank and open discussion about the various equities and are confident this meeting will lead to further discussion throughout the government, industry and in Congress."

"From here we intend to continue the dialogue between industry, law enforcement and Congress in hopes of identifying possible approaches that support the needs of all parties," the statement said.

Senators Feinstein and Kyl have both joined with the FBI Director Louis Freeh in opposing bills that would liberalize encryption export, and guarantee Americans' right to use any encryption products.

Sponsors of such legislation, such as Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO), and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) were not present at the meeting.  Nor were representatives of privacy groups invited.

However, Sen. Burns, the sponsor of the Pro CODE bill (S 377), meet separately with Bill Gates.

"Mr. Gates and I ... discussed the need for a more realistic encryption policy.   Currently, the administration will not allow U.S. companies to export software that contains high-end encryption without leaving a key to the software with a third party.   Our businesses simply cannot be sure that all of their transactions are safe if someone out there has a key to all of the transactions they make," said Sen. Burns in a press release.

"Mr. Gates completely agreed with me that we need to free up the market and stop treating ordinary citizens like criminals who need to be watched.  It's bad for business and an intrusion on our civil liberties," said Burns.

Industry Leaders to Meet With Freeh on Encryption, 6/2/98.
Compromise Encryption Bill Introduced in Senate, 5/14/98.
Freeh Warns of Encryption Use, 4/23/98.
Secretary Daley Condemns Encryption Policy, 4/16/98.
Democrats Write Clinton on Encryption, 4/6/98.
Senate Holds Hearing on Encryption, 3/17/98.
ACP Brings Together Strange Bedfellows, 3/16/98.
Americans for Computer Privacy Organizes, 3/4/98.