Magaziner will quit White House post

Ira Magaziner, the sometimes controversial adviser to President Clinton on health care and Internet policy, plans to resign before the end of the year, aides said this week. No date has been set for his official departure.

White House officials didn't give a reason for Magaziner's resignation, saying that he should be the one discussing his reasons. But the officials pointed out that Magaziner, a New England native, has spent the past year travelling and away from his family. Also, Magaziner has been an administration adviser for six years; the average time is about a year.

Magaziner has played a pivotal role in setting policy for Internet taxation and domain names, and his departure comes at a critical time for both areas. His staff will release by November 30 a progress report on the Framework for Global Electronic Commerce white paper, first issued in mid-1997. The paper urges governments to cease new taxes on the Internet during a three-year evaluation period.

Magaziner and the Clinton administration support keeping the Internet tax-neutral, meaning transactions wouldn't be free of taxes, but these would not be higher than conventional face-to-face sales taxes.

Magaziner's office also is overseeing Department of Commerce comments about the creation of the nonprofit International Council on Internet Names and Numbers (ICANN), which will assume full authority March 31. The group will dole out Internet domain names.

Commerce Department officials in October urged ICANN to be a membership body to ensure it reflects the various views of Internet users in business, academia and foreign countries.

In the fall of last year, Magaziner openly criticised the FBI's opposition to exports of data encryption software, saying the restrictions were not realistic amid the quick changes in the technology world. But he said his views were his own, and it was not until a year later, this September, that vice president Al Gore and senior security officials announced a change in that export policy.

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