- During the 2000 presidential elections, Al Gore claimed
to have invented the Internet. Gore's dubious claim of techno-savvy came
within days of his admission that he managed to delete all of his e-mail
concerning meetings with large DNC money donors.
- Yet recently declassified secret documents show that
Al Gore did help invent new ways to violate the privacy of every U.S. citizen
using the Internet. The secret documents, obtained from the U.S. State
Department through the Freedom of Information Act, show that Gore rejected
"due process" in an effort to force America to give up the Fourth
- The Gore-led effort included classified memos describing
ways to obtain access to all private computer information using "key
escrow," or key recovery. The key escrow system was designed to force
U.S. citizens to give computer code keys in order to meet required "law
enforcement and intelligence" access.
- In 1996, Gore proposed the legislation in order to restrict
the use of "encryption," a technique of scrambling private information
on personal computers with secret code keys.
- According to a secret 1996 paper, "in August 1995,
Vice President Gore approved a decision memo to introduce 'soft' legislation
to regulate key escrowers."
- The official reason for the Gore proposal was to stop
criminals and terrorists from using advanced scrambling technology and
preventing legal wiretaps. However, the secret documents show that Gore
knew that it was impossible to stop criminals from scrambling their information.
- "Drug distributors, organized crime and terrorists
are beginning to acquire and use strong encryption. While U.S. policy
can only have limited impact on such use, the urgency of supporting general
use of escrowed products is increasing," states a secret 1996 document.
- Prime targets for key escrow monitoring would be honest
citizens, foreign governments, banks, corporations and dissidents unpopular
with the then Clinton administration. The escrow keys were to be held
by "key recovery agents" licensed by the Commerce Department
under Secretary Ron Brown.
- According to the 1996 report to V.P. Gore by CIA Director
Deutch, the Justice Department proposed an all-out federal takeover of
the computer industry. The Justice Department, proposed "legislation
that would ... ban the import and domestic manufacture, sale or distribution
of encryption that does not have key recovery."
- After 9/11
- After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, former
FBI Director Louis Freeh suggested that domestic encryption software should
be banned so that law enforcement could monitor all e-mail. Privacy and
information security specialists contend that such a drastic restriction
would simply deny legal users the tools to defend critical information
from terrorist attacks.
- Yet in 1996, the Clinton-Gore administration predicted
that a future terrorist attack would lead to calls for a ban on domestic
- "Notorious criminal acts could have the effect of
forcing Congress' hand, to pass 'hard' legislation restricting domestic
use of encryption," warned the 1996 secret document.
- Ironically, the secret papers drawn up for the Clinton-Gore
team were a product of FBI Director Freeh, the same ex-director of the
FBI calling for a ban on legal domestic encryption today.
- Still, one cannot always take the word of former director
Freeh as the best advice. The same Director Freeh also ignored Chinese
generals roaming in and out of the White House and appointed a top KGB
agent to be his counterintelligence director in New York.
- Yet, the secret FBI documents approved by Al Gore clearly
show the previous administration skipped whole sections of law in an overzealous
attempt at absolute power.
- "Without an effective 'voluntary' policy, encouraging
the use of key escrow encryption, it will only be a matter of time before
crime brings the issue up. If we wait for refined international agreements
and due process, key escrow will not get off the ground soon, if ever,"
concluded the secret document.
- Oppression, Not Law Enforcement
- "Can Key Recovery be used against dissidents and
political opponents?" questioned Adm. William McConnell, the former
National Security Agency (NSA) director under Presidents Bush Sr. and Clinton.
- "In a word, YES," noted McConnell flatly.
- Privacy advocates were shocked when they discovered that
the former director of the NSA agreed with their analysis of the Gore idea
to monitor America.
- The director of the NSA may have greeted the Clinton/Gore-led
key escrow project with dismay, but it was welcomed inside U.S. corporate
- The newly declassified documents note that the CEOs of
large U.S. computer firms gave their support to the Clinton-Gore proposals.
The Computer Systems Policy Project, or CSPP, a lobby group composed of
the largest U.S. computer makers, supported the idea as long as it did
not interfere with profits and export sales. CSPP members include the
CEOs of IBM, Apple, Silicon Graphics and AT.
- According to a secret 1996 document, the CSPP agreed
with the Gore proposal as long it would "protect the market share
of U.S. encryption producers, as much as possible."
- In return for their support, the corporate CEOs managed
to obtain secret briefings inside the Clinton White House, starting in
1995. The secret meetings included detailed information about supercomputer
and encryption exports.
- Just by coincidence, the CSPP lobby group was led to
these secret Clinton White House briefings by Ken Kay, an employee of Tony
Podesta, the brother of then-Clinton adviser John Podesta.
- Further documents show that John Podesta was also in
charge of encryption export policy at that time for the White House. Immediately
after the secret briefings in 1995, Podesta left the Clinton White House
and went to work for his brother Tony.
- When confronted by questions about possible conflicts
of interest, attorney C. Boyden Gray and White House counsel Michael B.
Waitzkin both denied that John and Tony Podesta engaged in any sort of
- In fact, the White House counsel noted that John Podesta
had obtained a waiver from Clinton lawyers in 1997 for the activities that
took place in 1995.
- Please note that John Podesta obtained that Clinton waiver
two years after the closed meetings were held inside the White House.
Usually, a legal waiver is given before any conflict of interest takes
place, not after. By definition, a legal waiver given after the fact should
be called a pardon. Still, the waiver came from the same president who
argued with a federal judge over the definition of 'is'.
- Leadership 101
- Are you surprised that the U.S. computer CEOs of IBM,
Apple, Silicon Graphics and AT supported Al Gore and his crazy idea to
bug America? The fact is that big business is not interested in civil
rights or the Constitution, especially when it gets in the way of profits.
- Yet the current Bush administration did not introduce
a ban on encryption technology in the recent anti-terrorist legislation.
- Why does President Bush want encryption to stay legal
for all Americans? Perhaps George W. wishes to avoid the mess that Al Gore
stepped in. Maybe, but I think not. I am certain that President Bush could
teach some U.S. history to Al Gore along with how to be a leader.
- After all, our nation started with a coded message when
a lone rider looked anxiously toward a church tower: "One if by land,
two if by sea ..."