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Group sues for crypto czar records

Privacy advocates file a lawsuit seeking public disclosure of the travel records of David Aaron, the Clinton administration's point man on encryption.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center today filed a lawsuit seeking public disclosure of the travel records of ambassador David Aaron, the "crypto czar" for the Clinton administration.

The trip reports will help open U.S. encryption policy to public scrutiny, the civil liberties group said. The administration, led by Aaron, has been on an overseas lobbying campaign to win support for its controversial plan. The suit challenges the "secrecy that has characterized the campaign," EPIC said.

The group calls the administration's plan "bad crypto policy" and seeks the export of "good crypto products" instead.

A representative for Aaron said he did not have an immediate comment on today's lawsuit.

As an example of Aaron's lobbying, encryption is on the agenda at the upcoming G-7, or Group of Seven summit starting in Denver on June 20, EPIC said. "With several encryption bills now pending and an important national debate ensuing, the administration is seeking to accomplish through international understandings what it cannot accomplish through the domestic policy-making process," EPIC added.

The suit follows the privacy group's unsuccessful efforts to get the State Department to release records concerning Aaron's activities on crypto policy, including his travel records and appointment book entries.

"The Cold War mentality that has shielded encryption policy from public view needs to end," EPIC legal counsel David Sobel said in a statement. "This is an issue that directly affects the privacy of every American."

At a speech in San Francisco earlier this year, Aaron, President Clinton's special envoy for cryptography, said his job is to persuade other countries to copy U.S. regulations on encryption with the goal of building an international key management system. Aaron also is widely seen as the White House's domestic representative on encryption.