The New York Times, November 8, 1995.
The campaign by the Clinton Administration to create a standard for data encryption acceptable to industry, civil liberties and law enforcement groups broke down yesterday when a group including some of the nation's most powerful technology companies rejected a compromise proposal.
The aim is to set a policy that meets the needs of electronic commerce as well as the concerns of the National Security Agency and other Federal offices that are opposed to the proliferation of data-coding software, feeling it will make it impossible for them to gather intelligence overseas.
The Administration offered a compromise plan and had been seeking comment from the public. But the industry coalition said yesterday that it found the Government unwilling to compromise. Thus, the group of 37 companies said, it would formulate its own policy proposal to present to the White House and to Congress in the next six months.
High-technology industries want a data-coding standard secure enough that both businesses and overseas customers could use it for sensitive financial and business correspondence. They seek a longer and more powerful encryption key than the Government is willing to grant, and object to Government demands that law enforcement agencies have "back-door" access to such transmissions that would allow them to intercept coded messages.
The letter is signed by several of the country's leading computer, software and on-line companies, among them America Online, Apple Computer, AT&T, Eastman Kodak I.B.M.'s Lotus Development division, MCI Communications, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle Sybase and Tandem Computers.
On Aug. 17, the Administration proposed a liberalization of export-control procedures for "key escrow" software products, or those providing law-enforcement access.
"The current policy directive also does not address the need for immediate liberalization of current export restrictions," the letter said "Such liberalization is vital to enable U.S. companies to export state-of-the-art software products during the potentially lengthy process of developing and adopting a comprehensive national cryptography policy."