Senators hope to find common ground

Sen. J. Robert Kerrey (D-Neb.) and Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) said last week that they intend to broker a compromise on federal encryption policy that has so far eluded the Clinton administration industry privacy advocates and Congress.

"We have to make the Internet more secure and we have to make sure security is something that becomes commonplace " Daschle said Thursday at a press briefing. Kerrey said future commerce government operations and national security depend on the passage of a law that protects privacy and allows law enforcement officials to pursue criminals. "The government is going to have a difficult time doing its business if we don't change the law " he said.

He added that none of the encryption bills pending in Congress have enough support to be enacted and that he does not support them. Meanwhile the administration is developing a measure of its own [FCW March 31].

None of the sponsors of the current legislation nor the House and Senate leadership have agreed yet as to what the details of a compromise should be. Kerry said however he wants "to write the law so that the market develops solutions " including commercial development of a key management infrastructure. He said the measure probably would have some restrictions on exporting and importing encryption technology however to satisfy law enforcement and national security needs.

Although Kerrey thinks law enforcement must have access to encrypted communications to gather evidence against criminal suspects he said he opposes giving investigators more authority than they have under current federal wiretapping laws to tap such transmissions. Civil-liberties advocates have objected to provisions of other proposals that they see as expanding the government's ability to listen in on private communications.

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