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I would like to supplement with a few other facts that may be of
interest concerning the Sept. 16 announcement.
Sweden found out that the software they used from Novell had a
backdoor in it, so that agencies in the US could read every encrypted
message posted in the Sweden central government. Think about how the
Swedes must have felt when they found out. Think about how people here
would feel if the US government found out that somebody had full
access to their supposedly safe communication.
Germany a few months ago announced that they considered software from
Microsoft not to be safe even when encryption was used. The
German government felt that backdoors were very likely.
I think these two examples suggest another reason for giving up the
strong export control on encryption. The US was making a fool of
itself abroad (as well as domestically), and after having other
countries signing the Wasenaar agreement (setting up some export
controls in other countries), they could relax a bit more.
Finally, to get us to be paranoid: The government wants to review the
software so that they can find bugs in the code to be exploited.....
-- Preben Kjaer Kristensen, October 1, 1999
Today's news gives another reason why European governments might want to support the use of strong crypto :)
U.S. Reportedly Tapped German Embassy Phones
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany has evidence that U.S. spies tapped the telephone system and computer network of their embassy in Washington, a German magazine reported Sunday.
The allegation follows a separate report last week that three American CIA employees had been expelled from Germany this summer for spying.
Citing unnamed sources, current affairs magazine Focus said Germany's Federal Information Service (BND) -- the German CIA -- discovered in 1994 the embassy's phone lines had been tapped and had evidence the U.S. government was behind the surveillance.
The magazine said German officials complained to the U.S. government that they were being spied on but their objections were rejected as groundless.
Contacted through a spokeswoman, the political chief of Germany's intelligence service told Reuters the government did not ``as a matter of principle'' comment on reports of spying.
Ernst Uhrlau, the government's secret services coordinator, further stressed the ``good and trusting relations'' and hoped they would not be harmed by media reporting.
Governments often seek to hush up incidents when spies from ''friendly'' countries are caught out.
Investigative documentary series ``Kennzeichen D'' last week reported that Germany had this summer expelled a married couple of CIA agents together with their ``handler,'' believed to be operating for the United States' Munich consulate.
Neither government has commented on the report.
(03 Oct 1999 09:57 EDT)
-- Hal Abelson, October 3, 1999
When I was preparing for the presentation, I saw the articles about the bugs being found in US software that was being used abroad. That, and the fact that having a technical review often means ongoing interaction for the government suggested another reason why the government might want to relax the crypto standards, but still require the review: they might want to use it to try to pressure the companies into putting the backdoor in their products; sort of "we'll give you the permission if you do this:...". However, that argument was too much speculation and conspiracy theory for me to include it in the presentation (so, of course, this discussion list is the perfect place to list it :) )
-- Lucy Borodavkina, October 1, 1999
Well, it looks like the NSA is at least succeeding. Knowing other countries' internal secrets is of course a very big plus for the US. I think they're walking on a thin line, by trying to spy on our own allies, especially with them trying to promote NAFTA so much. I'm sure they're doing much more of this, and especially in Russia, China, and Iraq.
I'm studying the cold war right now so maybe this is why our actions seem very much like Big Brother's. Eventually we're going to have to stop this behavior before we get our allies on our bad side.
-- D J, October 4, 1999