FBI Director Louis Freeh remains determined to require cryptography users to register their keys so that the Bureau can crack their secret files whenever a judge can be persuaded that information contained therein might facilitate a prosecution.
There were fifty-three cases last year which slipped through the FBI's hands because their (apparently overrated) technicians were unable to crack the cryptography with which the incriminating files were encoded, Freeh explained in testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday.
"We are operating with primitive tools," Freeh allowed.
"If this area remains unanswered, we will be unable to investigate some of the major cases" of cyber crime, he added.
"We don't need a major change in the Constitution or our authority. We can get this plain-text access, which comes only with a court order, without changing any statute which protects not only privacy, but the expectation of privacy," Freeh claimed.
"If this remains unanswered, we will be unable to work many of these cases," he warned.
Freeh and his boss, US Attorney General Janet Reno, have repeatedly called for strict crypto regulations along the lines preferred by the British and Communist Chinese governments. It remains to be seen whether the US Congress, which has the last word in this debate, will come around to their way of thinking.
In America, many Members are reluctant to give such power to Big Brother for fear of a Nanny State gone out of control. Reno and Freeh may well be condemned, like Cassandra, to repeating their gloomy message to deaf ears ad nauseum.
We note that just as the British government is announcing appallingly Draconian ambitions to require crypto keys to be registered, the Irish government is renouncing any such development in the name of lubricating e-commerce.
We note further, and with delicious irony, that US Trade Representative Charlene Barchefsky is currently involved in a heated dispute with the Chinese, decrying their Blair-esque ambitions to require the registration of crypto keys, which the USTR fears might interrupt the flow of sex, money and greed upon which all developing economies, and those who would exploit them, necessarily depend.
Meanwhile, far across the Pond, Congressional gridlock all but guarantees that the United States will have time enough to learn for itself which approach works best. ®
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