Chapter 16 Page 4 of 7

Or, to stretch the analogy nearly to the breaking point, because key escrow lets the public use long keys but gives part of the keys to the FBI, it is analogous to cars that are manufactured with remote-control rev-limiters such that the police can push a button while sitting in a patrol car and slow down a getaway car. This would have foiled Bonnie and Clyde in their speedy Ford.

Proponents of key escrow argue that honest citizens should not mind such things. If the police are the only ones with the remote control units for rev-limiters, then it is still possible for one citizen to speed away from another. And, if police must have a search warrant before pushing the button, and if we trust the US government, then what is there to worry about?

Hmmm… Watergate… Federal taps on Martin Luther King… Hoover… Tokyo Rose… Iran-Contra… Do I trust the United States government? Only to a degree. I prefer to think of search warrants as a necessary protection against government intrusion, a protection that is necessary only because the ability of government to intrude is too great, not too weak.

Consider this: a natural progression from key escrow is full information escrow. Why not archive all human interaction (neverminding the impracticalities for the time being)? I could wear a microphone around my neck; all of my conversations could be encrypted with an escrowed key and recorded for later access with a search warrant. Now, when the FBI gets a warrant they can obtain not only any information they can gather from my house, but all of the escrowed voice recordings. Even whispered face-to-face conversations in a secluded outdoor setting would not be beyond the reach of a search warrant. Ludicrous? Orwellian? I agree. I will not voluntarily escrow private one-on-one face-to-face conversations. Nor will I voluntarily escrow private one-on-one remote message exchanges. I fail to see any great distinction between the two situations other than the small difference that the FBI has become accustomed to eavesdropping on electronic communications without any cooperation, whereas eavesdropping on a face-to-face rendez-vous is harder in today’s world. I take the same stand on both: no microphone around my neck; no key escrow. No Big Brother.

Such a stand is not so terrible for society. Civilization existed prior to electronic surveillance. It is not as if the world suddenly became a safer and more comfortable place to live once wire-tapping became technically feasible. Furthermore, even when strong encryption is permitted, the FBI can still tap unencrypted communications. Not everybody will use strong encryption for everything — its too expensive, too slow, and too awkward. Even when people do use cryptography, the same information is often available in other (unencrypted) forms (e.g. papers, books, disk files, and other forms of physical evidence). There is no shortage of forensics methods. The FBI has cited cases where “unbreakable” cryptography was used in crimes. Yet the crimes cited were solved. How? By more traditional forensic techniques.

Cryptography can even help, by making it harder for users of the Internet to hide. The next version of the Internet Protocol, IPv6, will include provisions for strong authentication. Technologies such as public-key cryptography give us the equivalent to unforgeable digital signatures and digital fingerprints. For that matter —

The buzzer sounded on Agnes’ desk, rudely interrupting my silent rebuttal to Samuelson’s stance on cryptography. We all were startled by the buzzer. For a moment all four of us just stared at it. Nobody moved. The buzzer sounded a second time and now Agnes reached out and acknowledged it.

“Mr. Templemeyer is here Mrs. Brown,” said the voice on the other end of the line. “He has two gentlemen with him: Walt Little and Lorenzo Thomas.”

“Show them in.”

Then, to the three of us she said, “It’s showtime.”

As it turns out, `Little’ was not only Walt’s last name but also an apt description of his stature. As he and his associate walked into the room one could not help but note the contrast. Walt Little was probably about five feet tall and thin. He couldn’t have weighed more than 120 pounds. I’d place him at about fifty-five years old, but his hair was still dark brown (and didn’t appear to be dyed). A neatly trimmed beard and mustache adorned his face. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, his face had a sharply chiseled look.

Lorenzo Thomas, on the other hand, was much bigger, weighing about 175 pounds, none of which was flab. He had an imposing physique for somebody of his years. Mr. Thomas had short white hair which was beginning to thin a bit at the top. He too appeared to be in his late-fifties.

Templemeyer I already knew from our earlier meeting. Once again he was wearing a light grey suit with a white shirt. His tie was Burgundy with brown paisley.

Little and Agnes exchanged handshakes and pleasantries. Agnes showed none of the irritation over their punctuality that she had voiced earlier.

Jonny, Lisa, and I stood by waiting for our turn to be introduced. Mr. Thomas did the same.

“I’m pleased to have the assistance of the NSA on this matter,” Agnes was saying. “The FBI has been able to unravel much of the case and to uncover some of the lower-level culprits, but we have run into a bit of an impasse recently. I’m hoping that the NSA can help us move forward.”