Skip to main content
Podcast Episode: Building a Tactile Internet

EFFector - Volume 10, Issue 9 - Stop the Big Brother Amendment, Coming up in House Commerce Cmte.


EFFector - Volume 10, Issue 9 - Stop the Big Brother Amendment, Coming up in House Commerce Cmte.

    ________________          _______________        _______________
   /_______________/\        /_______________\      /\______________\
   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\/        |||||||||||||||||     / ////////////////
    \\\\\________/\          |||||________\       / /////______\
     \\\\\\\\\\\\\/____      ||||||||||||||      / /////////////
      \\\\\___________/\     |||||              / ////
       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\/     |||||              \////   e  c  t  o  r
EFFector        Vol. 10, No. 09        Sep. 18, 1997
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation        ISSN 1062-9424


Stop the Big Brother Amendment, Coming up in House Commerce Cmte.!
      Stop the Government From Building Big Brother Into The Internet
      What You Can Do - Please contact four leading members of Congress
      About This Alert
Quote of the Day

 * See for more information
   on current EFF activities and online activism alerts! *

Subject: Stop the Big Brother Amendment, Coming up in House Commerce Cmte.!

 ____  _         ____            _   _
| __ )(_) __ _  | __ ) _ __ ___ | |_| |__   ___ _ __   Stop the Big Brother
|  _ \| |/ _` | |  _ \| '__/ _ \| __| '_ \ / _ \ '__|  Amendment, coming next
| |_) | | (_| | | |_) | | | (_) | |_| | | |  __/ |     week in the House
|____/|_|\__, | |____/|_|  \___/ \__|_| |_|\___|_|     Commerce committee!
                          Posted September 18, 1997
           Please forward where appropriate until September 28, 1997

                        This alert brought to you by
The Voters Telecommunications Watch, The Center for Democracy & Technology,
              the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wired Magazine,
                        and Americans for Tax Reform


Table of Contents
      Stop the Government From Building Big Brother Into The Internet
      What You Can Do
            -Please contact four leading members of Congress
      About This Alert



In 1948, George Orwell described a future world in which Big Brother
peaked over the shoulder of every citizen -- watching every move and
listening to every word.

Now, in 1997, the FBI is pushing the United States Congress to pass
legislation which would make George Orwell's frightening vision a reality.

Next week the House Commerce Committee will meet to consider a
proposal that would require all Americans to provide the government
guaranteed access to their private online communications and business
transactions.  Taking a page out of Orwell's 1984, the FBI-spawned
proposal would require that every part of the Internet -- from the
software on your computer to the network provider that carries your
messages around the net -- be jury-rigged to divulge your private
conversations immediately on request by the FBI (see below).

Unfortunately, this is not a work of fiction.

The amendment, to be offered by Representatives Mike Oxley (R-OH) and
Thomas Manton (D-NY), is a serious threat to your privacy and represents
the first and final step in the construction of a National Surveillance

A vote is expected on September 25.  The future of privacy and security
in the information age is in the hands of the Commerce Committee, and
they need to know that folks are watching and care about the outcome.

On Monday September 22, please join thousands of Internet users all across
the country as we call on Congress to stop big brother.  With your help and
support,  we can ensure that George Orwell's 1984 does not become a reality.

All the information you need is attached below.



1. ON MONDAY SEPTEMBER 22, pick up the phone and call as many of the four
   leading members of the Commerce committee as you can:

     Chairman Thomas Bliley (R-VA)         (202) 225-2815
     Ranking member John Dingell (D-MI)    (202) 225-4071
     Rep. W.J. Tauzin (R-LA)               (202) 225-4031
     Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA)                 (202) 225-2836

2. Ask for the staffer that handles the encryption issue.

3. Say that you're calling to urge the Congressman to pass SAFE (HR695)
   without amendments.

   Americans should not be required to give the government keys to the front
   door of their house, and they shouldn't be required to give the government
   the keys to unlock their private online communications."

Other amendments may be proposed.  Please urge the Congressman to pass SAFE
"as is" and oppose any amendments. Feel free to use your own words though
here are some points you might want to stress:

- Oxley/Manton is a dramatic expansion of law enforcement power.  It would
   give law enforcement "immediate" access to private online communications
   and business transactions without any notice or knowledge to the user.

   ENFORCEMENT CONCERNS, as some supporters have argued.  It gives the FBI
   broad new power while stripping Americans of their Fourth Amendment right
   to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures.

- Oxley/Manton would give the Attorney General authority to dictate the
   design of Internet services and software to suit the needs of law

- Oxley/Manton would not stop crime. Strong encryption without "immediate
   access" features is available today at home and abroad.

- Oxley/Manton would increase opportunities for cybercrime as criminal hackers
   attack vulnerabilities in the key recovery access system.

4. Let us know how it went!  Go to one of the following web pages, depending
   on who you called, and tell us about the conversation.

   Rep. Bliley
   Rep. Dingell
   Rep. Tauzin
   Rep. Markey

5. Forward this ALERT to your friends and colleagues.

6. Feel good about yourself!  Know that you've stood up for privacy, and
   contacting Congress is more than most people take the time to do!



The House Commerce Committee is considering a bill known as the "Security and
Freedom through Encryption Act" (HR 695, a.k.a. SAFE).  SAFE would
encourage the widespread availability of strong, easy-to-use encryption
technologies in order to protect privacy and promote electronic commerce on
the Internet.  SAFE enjoys broad support from Internet users, civil
liberties advocates, and over 250 members of Congress.

Last week, the Commerce Committee delayed its vote on the SAFE bill in
order to give the Committee more time to study the implications of the
Oxley/Manton amendment, which would change SAFE to ban encryption which
does not contain features that provide law enforcement with "immediate
access" to the plain text of encrypted information, including private
communications and business transactions (visit

The Oxley/Manton amendment would for the first time impose sweeping
restrictions on the ability of American citizens to protect their privacy
on US soil. Specifically, the amendment would:

   proposal would prohibit the manufacture, sale, import, or distribution
   within the United States of any encryption product unless it allows
   "immediate access" to the plain text of any user's messages or files
   without the user's knowledge.

   STANDARDS FOR ENCRYPTION PRODUCTS: The proposal allows the Attorney
   General to set standards for what are and are not acceptable
   encryption products. The proposal's requirement of immediate access to
   plain text would seem to seriously limit the options available to
   encryption manufacturers seeking approval of their products.

The amendment does not specify whether the immediate access "features"
could be activated (or not) at the option of the purchaser or end user.
Nonetheless,  requiring that such a capability be installed in all domestic
communications networks and encryption products is the equivalent of
enabling a national surveillance infrastructure and asserts unprecedented
control over the design of Internet software, hardware, and services.

The amendment is analogous to the government requiring surveillance cameras
in every new house built in the United States, which could be turned on
remotely by the police if you were ever suspected of committing a crime.

Worse yet, such "key escrow" or "key recovery" technologies pose
significant risk to the security of the Internet -- providing new
points of vulnerability for hackers, terrorists, and industrial spies
to exploit.  A recent study by 11 of the worlds leading cryptographers
concluded that the large scale deployment of such technologies would be
too complex and too insecure to meet the needs of an Information Age
society (see

Despite widespread opposition from Internet users, civil liberties
groups, privacy advocates, and the computer and communications
industries, Oxley and Manton plan to push for this FBI-spawned amendment
at the Commerce Committee vote.  If it is adopted, it would
represent the first and final step in the development of a national
surveillance infrastructure.



This message was brought to you by the Center for Democracy and
Technology (, the Voters Telecommunications Watch
(, the Electronic Frontier Foundation
(, Wired Magazine (, and
Americans for Tax Reform ( who have joined together
on this alert.

end alert 09.18.1997 net


Subject: Quote of the Day

"I don't think it was intended, but as a practical matter, [Judge Patel's
December decision in Bernstein v. US Dept. of State] may have the
consequence that the government simply has to abandon control [of
encryption export]." 
  - Stewart Baker, Steptoe & Johnson, former NSA counsel

Find yourself wondering if your privacy and freedom of speech are safe 
when bills to censor the Internet are swimming about in a sea of of 
surveillance legislation and anti-terrorism hysteria?  Worried that in 
the rush to make us secure from ourselves that our government 
representatives may deprive us of our essential civil liberties? 
Concerned that legislative efforts nominally to "protect children" will 
actually censor all communications down to only content suitable for 
the playground?  Alarmed by commercial and religious organizations abusing
the judicial and legislative processes to stifle satire, dissent and 

Join EFF! (or send an inquiry to

You *know* privacy, freedom of speech and ability to make your voice heard
in government are important. You have probably participated in our online
campaigns and forums.  Have you become a member of EFF yet?  The best way
to protect your online rights is to be fully informed and to make your
opinions heard.  EFF members are informed and are making a difference.
Join EFF today!



EFFector is published by:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
1550 Bryant St., Suite 725
San Francisco CA 94103 USA
+1 415 436 9333 (voice)
+1 415 436 9993 (fax)
Membership & donations:
Legal services:
General EFF, legal, policy or online resources queries:

Editor: Stanton McCandlish, Program Director/Webmaster (

This newsletter is printed on 100% recycled electrons.

Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is encouraged.  Signed
articles do not necessarily represent the views of EFF.  To reproduce
signed articles individually, please contact the authors for their express
permission. Press releases and EFF announcements may be reproduced individ-
ually at will.

To subscribe to EFFector via email, send message body of "subscribe
effector-online" (without the "quotes") to, which will add
you to a subscription list for EFFector. To unsubscribe send a similar
message like so: "unsubscribe effector-online". Please tell to
manually remove you from the list if this does not work (e.g. if you get
mail at a different address, such as, than the one you are
subscribed as, which might be or just for

Back issues are available at:, /pub/EFF/Newsletters/EFFector/

To get the latest issue, send any message to (or, and it will be mailed to you automagically.  You can also get
the file "current" from the EFFector directory at the above sites at any 
time for a copy of the current issue.  


End of EFFector Online v10 #09 Digest


Back to top

JavaScript license information