The little No Regrets about PGP piece from Philip Zimmermann and the associated interview "call for questions" we ran on Sept. 24 seems to have stirred up quite a ruckus. Apparently online crypto has become such a hot button issue that it is impossible to hold a rational conversation on the topic right now. Because of this, instead of answering the interview questions, Philip sent us a brief statement. We'll try to interview him (and other crypto experts) later, after passions die down a bit.
Overreaction to Washington Post Article
It seems that my recent clarification of how I was represented in the 21 September Washington Post article has itself created a deluge of harsh criticism of the Washington Post and the reporter who wrote the article.
People seem to be assuming the Washington Post is part of some grand conspiracy to restrict the availability of strong cryptography. I would like to say that this is an overreaction and a misinterpretation on the part of these critics.
I believe this was an honest misunderstanding by the people at the Post, and I never meant to imply in my previous clarification that this was done on purpose or with any malicious intent. On the contrary, I believe the Post worked hard to be fair in the story and had the best of intentions when they ran it.
Further, I'd like to say that all the individual facts and quotes were reported correctly. But the Post connected the dots in a slightly different way to conclude that I was feeling guilty even though I was simply feeling grief and anger just like everyone else since the attacks occurred. Overall, I thought the article was fine except for that one line that says I was "overwhelmed with guilt."
My purpose for sending out my original clarification was not to criticize the Post but to assure everyone that I am still standing firm on my convictions that PGP and other strong encryption products should be available to the public, with no back doors.
Through the years of coverage the Post has given the issue of cryptography restrictions, I have never detected any bias at the Post to promote restrictions on crypto. In fact, if they have any bias at all, it seems to be in the other direction. They helped me when I needed to keep the Justice Department at bay in 1995. We will need them again in the coming weeks as we in the crypto community attempt to keep the freedoms we have, as legislators try to impose new restrictions on strong crypto.
I find this jihad of criticism of the Post to be inappropriate. I can easily tell from talking with the reporter that her intentions were good. It is grossly unfair to punish her with all this hate mail. It's embarrassing to me and damaging to her. If anyone in the world of journalism wants any further clarification from me on that reporter's competence or journalistic integrity, feel free to call me directly and I will explain it to you in more detail.
I am in London at a data security conference, without as much Internet access as I have at home, so I cannot keep writing about this matter for much longer. I hope this letter is enough to put this matter to rest.
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