Code War

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Stuck between wanting to please both law enforcement officials wanting the ability to monitor Internet transactions and companies and individuals concerned about privacy rights, President Clinton has offered a third attempt at a compromise on computer encryption technology. The White House said Tuesday that the President will sign an Executive Order later this month implementing a plan allowing U.S. software firms to sell more powerful encryption tools overseas, an estimated several billion-dollar market that they have been until now kept out of by national security concerns. The catch? Law enforcement agencies will be given the keys to break the codes with the permission of a court order. "Clinton was taking a beating all over Silicon Valley, a potentially rich source of campaign contributions, due to his hard-line views on encryption," says TIME's Joshua Quittner. "Clearly a compromise was hammered out. The software industry is too big a part of the international economy for Clinton to ignore its concerns." The White House's plan allows the export of software which encrypts data using codes up to 56 bits long, which are much harder to break than the 40 bit codes which are currently exported. The move cools but does not end a longstanding battle pitting computer industry and privacy advocates pushing for a law allowing the international sale and use of more powerful encryption software against law enforcement groups arguing that if data scrambling is too effective, terrorists and other criminals will use it to conceal their activities. I know that's something real tough in life Mark Coatney