The FBI group


  • Allison Ames
  • Chanda Fletcher
  • Jennifer Itskevich
  • Kirstin O'Callaghan
  • Christine Sas

    What to prepare for You will write a supporting memo (3 pages long) for a senior FBI official testifying before a committee of the U.S. Congress. The official has been asked to testify in support of a bill tightly regulating the sort of encryption software which can be sold. Some points listed below may be helpful to you, but don't feel limited to them, please. Consult the FBI website and possibly find more support for your positions at the NSA and CIA websites.

    In your oral rebuttal Be prepared to deal with the financial argument that restrictions on strong crypto domestically lead to decreased sales since residents of other countries can write software with good crypto. Also, export regulations of crypto software lead to de facto restrictions on what U.S.~citizens are likely to be able to use inside the U.S. since there is, effectively, world-wide, one market for software, thereby regulating even what U.S.~citizens are likely to be able to use inside the U.S.! Be prepared to deal with arguments about civil liberties.

    The oral presentation made by this group was perhaps the most compelling -- is it easy to "act like FBI agents"? The written report from the group follows.

    To: United States Congress Committee
    From: Jane Doe, Senior FBI Official

    On behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice, I am writing to you to inform you of our position on encryption and the factors that have led to it. Our main concern and goal is public safety and national security. How to balance this with the remarkable technological advancements being made in cryptography is a key issue that must be addressed by the lawmakers of this country.

    A challenge that we face today that I will specifically address is that of virtually unbreakable encryption. In short, our main concern with this issue is the inability on our part to decrypt renders the Untied States vulnerable to serous crimes and terrorism. It cripples the FBI's ability to perform electronic surveillance and search and seizure, which are necessary techniques for effective law enforcement that maintains national security.

    The FBI recognizes the benefits of strong encryption. It provides industry information security and communication privacy needs. However, at the same time we recognize the dangers of strong encryption schemes. For example, strong cryptography could help kidnappers by allowing secret communication between the criminals, and assisting synchronization of their actions. Strong cryptography easily available could assist international terrorists, who may be backed by rogue nations, use international communications and then local communications to target and execute their missions. Easily available, it could also deter our efforts to protect the nations' information infrastructure, increasing the vulnerability of financial communications.

    More specifically, there are several cases that the FBI has been involved with that deal with the harmful effects of strong encryption. There is a convicted spy Aldrich Ames that was told by the Russian Intelligence Service to encrypt computer file information that was to be passed to them. An international terrorist, Ramzi Youset, the mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, was plotting to blow up eleven Untied States-owned commercial airlines in the Far East. His labtop computer which was seized during the arrest in Manilla contained encrypted files concerning this terrorist plot. A subject in a child pornography case used encryption in transmitting obscene and pornographic images of children over the Internet. A major international drug trafficking subject recently used a telephone encryption device to frustrate court-approved electronic surveillance. It is clear by the aforementioned instances that strong encryption is in fact a major threat to public safety and national security.

    We support a balanced solution which will satisfy commercial needs for information security and law enforcement's public safety decryption needs. Key recovery encryption is one balance solution to this problem. A decryption "key" for a given encryption product is deposited with a trustworthy key recovery agent for safe keeping. The key recovery agent is the choice of the owner of the encryption device. The key recovery agent could be a private company, a bank or other commercial or government entity that meets established trustworthiness criteria. We further support the creation of a Regulatory Agency independent of the FBI that will oversee the access to and distribution of the various decryption keys. Should we the FBI or the encryption users need to gain access to encrypted information for lawful purposes we can only do so after the regulatory agency had processed and approved our request.

    We want to make it clear to everyone that we are no opponents of strong cryptography. It is quite the opposite. We encourage strong cryptography but at the same time we demand access, after the proper legal proceedings, to the encryption keys for public safety purposes.

    We continue to support the tight controls over decryption device exportation. We recognize that industry has expressed concern that export controls needlessly hurt United States competitiveness overseas. However, when we were recently considering using restriction of encryption device exports, several of our close allies expressed their concern that we would be flooding global markets will increase the likelihood that the cryptography will be used by criminals and terrorists. If we relaxed export controls in the United States it will tighten import controls in other overseas countries. Hence, no significant gains would be realized in loosening our controls over decryption device exportation.

    All in all, the FBI supports a solution to this controversial issue that would balance the demands of strong cryptography with public safety and national security. Action must be taken now, as technological advancements are increasing rapidly in this day and age. Strong cryptography must be allowed to flourish without threatening the safety of our society and the lawmakers of the United States of America must do this through appropriate legislation.

    Maintained by and last modified 10/20/99.