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Joe Biden tried to ban email encryption back in 1991

There are rumors that the Obama campaign used an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution, though further analysis seems to indicate that these images were fakes. It would be great if someone from the Obama campaign would comment publicly and officially on this. I would love to think that there might be room for Ubuntu and Linux in the next administration, perhaps in the new CTO cabinet position. With Warren Buffet being suggested as a potential Treasury Secretary, I fear that his recently-retired friend Bill Gates might have the inside track on the US CTO chair.

On the other half of the ticket, I learned something interesting about VP-elect Joe Biden yesterday. Al Gore invented the Internet, but Joe Biden open sourced email encryption!

I’m currently reading Steven Levy‘s book, Crypto, about the evolution of cryptography in the United States, overcoming pressure and resistance from the NSA and other areas of the United States government’s intelligence interests.

Levy writes that Phil Zimmerman was in the finishing stages of productizing PGP, Pretty Good Privacy, an email encryption mechanism that predates our modern GPG (GNU Privacy Guard), when on January 24, 1991, Senator Joseph Biden added a paragraph to Senate Bill 266:

It is the sense of Congress that providers of electronic communications services and manufactures of electronic communications services shall ensure that communications systems permit the government to obtain the plaintext contents of voice, data, and other communications when appropriately authorized by law.

Such a law would have eliminated PGP, and aborted countless other technologies we take for granted today (HTTPS, SSL, SSH, VPN).


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