CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1994 //

Jacking in from the Puzzle Palace Port:

Washington, DC -- The National Information Infrastructure isn't really a superhighway at all. It's a giant jigsaw puzzle. The problem is, you can't put the damn thing together unless you're constantly on the look out for the pieces that fall between the cracks... or under the table.

The Commerce Department dropped a few more pieces of the puzzle onto the table yesterday, announcing the establishment of yet another committee: the Federal Wireless Policy Committee (FWPC).

The "major goal" of this new group, Commerce says, is to promote the "development of a digital, ubiquitous, interoperable, transparent and secure wireless communications network that meets the federal government's needs and requirements." No, I'm not joking. That comes right from the Commerce Dept. itself.

Oh, yeah, these guys, have created another acronym they've tossed into the pot: DUITS. Which, while confusing, is a damn sight better than having to say "digital, ubiquitous... blah, blah, woof, woof" every time.

Larry Irving, the assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Policy introduced the new Committee to little fanfare. The FWPC's work will be "invaluable in the administration's evaluation of key issues relating to wireless communications" as part of the NII, Irving said. (Well, we'd hardly expect a government committee to be worthless now, would we?)

The FWPC is broken into 4 subcommittees: Policy; Standards and Requirements; Security and Privacy; Acquisitions.

If the story stopped there, it would be a fairly benign happening. Just another federal committee formed to muck up the works. But the story doesn't stop there, at least not for DISPATCH readers.

If you've been paying attention (and I know you all have), tell me what's wrong with the following picture:

The Standards & Requirements subcommittee is headed by Richard Dean, whose daily gig finds him slipping past security guards and into a nondescript building that houses the NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY.

The subcommittee on Security and Privacy is headed by Raymond Kammer of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Kammer's organization, of course, has played a vital role in helping bring the Clipper Chip to our little community.

The pieces of the puzzle here that might have fallen through the cracks or under the table are these: The intelligence community, without historical precedent, is indeed, becoming directly involved in designing the future of telecommunications networks.

David Sobel, general counsel for Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, shot off a warning flare about this very subject just last Thursday during a Working Group on Privacy for the Information Industry Task Force here in Washington. The issue of privacy on the NII "forces us to ask, 'What kind of society do we really want?' and who will decide?'" Sobel said.

And so, a low-profile committee, now has a National Security Agency employee deciding standards and requirements, which could include the government's own mandated encryption and digital wiretap proposals. And the doors to security and privacy are being watched by charter members of the Clipper Chip club.

Meeks out...