According to founder Prince Bernhard, each Bilderberg attendee is "magically stripped of his office" upon entering the meeting, becoming "a simple citizen of his country for the duration of the conference."
When these representatives of the Western establishment leave a Bilderberg meeting, however, they carry the Group's consensus with them. The high-powered Bilderberg debates are intended to build unity by resolving differences, and therefore certainly have a significant influence on attendees.
One also must note a significant overlap between the Bilderberg Group and other elitist think-tanks. Many members of the Group are also members of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and other secretive supra-national planning forums. Topics on the Bilderberg's agenda have been smoothly integrated into discussions at G-8 meetings, at the World Economic Forum's annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, and at other global policy venues. The seeds of consensus from these various meetings are then carried home to national governments and corporate boardrooms.
The Bilderberg's advisory committee includes luminaries such as Chase-Manhattan chairman David Rockefeller; Henry Kissinger and Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., are listed among the Group's steering committee. Past attendees include President Clinton (who attended in 1991 just before entering the scene as a possible White House contender), World Bank president James Wolfensohn, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, International Monetary Fund managing director Stanley Fischer, and Ford Motor Company president Alexander Trotman, to name just a few participants.
(See the 1998 Bilderberg attendee list and the "Media Blackout" section of this report for more info on the participants.)
Because Bilderberg debates are held in total secrecy, there is no way to definitively gauge how much impact these deliberations have on the participants' actions. While the Bilderberg portrays itself as a think-tank for perpetuating free democratic institutions, the Group's complete removal from any democratic process contradicts its purported motivations.
Although occasional leaks occur, Bilderberg members generally do their part to preserve the shroud of secrecy surrounding the Group's activities. When questioned, Bilderbergers offer vague responses with only the most basic and mundane details of their meetings.
A search of the British House of Parliament's "Commons Written Answers" revealed an interesting recent example of how Bilderberg attendees protect the Group's secrecy. On July 10, 1998, Conservative Party member Christopher Gill inquired: "To ask the Secretary of State for Defense what mode of transport he used to attend the recent Bilderberg meeting at Turnberry; and what was the cost to public funds." 
Defense Secretary George Robertson responded: "I flew to Scotland on Friday 14 May in an aircraft of the RAF Communications Fleet, accompanied by the Secretary General of NATO, Snr. Solana. I left the following day in an Army helicopter for a further official engagement. The estimated value of the use of Departmental assets for these flights is £3,840."
On July 20, Liberal Democrat Party member Paul Keetch dug deeper into the matter, inquiring, "To ask the Secretary of State for Defense if he will make a statement on his attendance at the Bilderberg Conference in Ayrshire on 14 and 15 May." 
Robertson offered little in his response: "I attended part of the Bilderberg Conference in Ayrshire last May to contribute to one of the discussions relevant to my Ministerial responsibilities."
Gill pressed the matter further on July 23, querying: "To ask the Secretary of State for Defense... if he will list the main topics discussed at the meeting and place copies of (a) the agenda and (b) the minutes of the meeting in the Library." 
Robertson replied flatly: "I have no Ministerial responsibility for the agenda or production of a record of the Bilderberg meeting which I attended in May this year."
And there you have it. With no compelling level of public accountability, Robertson had no duty to elaborate. After all, Bilderberg attendees are "magically stripped of their office," as Prince Bernhard said, upon entering the meetings. This loophole allows attendees to deflect public scrutiny. It is also the quintessential example of how elite groups such as the Bilderberg deliberately and arrogantly elevate themselves beyond the reach of public scrutiny.
It is quite natural that such a secretive modus operandi would raise ominous clouds of suspicion among the Group's critics. As long as the actions of individual Bilderberg attendees have an impact on key issues of public policy, the public has a right to know how much influence this secretive organization actually exerts.
Take, for example, Kenneth W. Dam, an expert in American and foreign law at the University of Chicago Law School who has written extensively on international trade treaties such as GATT. Dam was the chairman of a private National Research Council committee appointed in 1994 to study national cryptographic policy. In 1996, Dam's committee issued a key report in the debate over cryptography, titled "Cryptography's Role in Securing the Information Society" (also known by its acronym, CRISIS). The report spurred significant shifts in Clinton administration policy. (Not long after the report was released, President Clinton signed Executive Order 13010, the notorious "Critical Infrastructure Protection" directive.) The report also drew a great deal of attention in the media.
The NRC report states in its introduction: "For most of history, cryptography -- the art and science of secret writing -- has belonged to governments concerned about protecting their own secrets and about asserting their prerogatives for access to information relevant to national security and public safety."
The report goes on to state: "In pursuing this study, the committee has adopted the position that some secrets are still legitimate in today's global environment, but that its role is to illuminate as much as possible without compromising those legitimate interests. Thus, the committee has tried to act as a surrogate for well-intentioned and well-meaning people who fear that the worst is hiding behind the wall of secrecy..."
What does all this have to do with the Bilderberg? Well, it just so happens that Kenneth Dam is a national representative of the Bilderberg Group, who attended the 1995, 1996 and 1997 meetings.
Now, before your heart stops beating, it should be noted that the report was well-received by many because of its fairly critical evaluation of key escrow encryption as proposed by the Clinton Administration. The report also advocated the widespread adoption of 56-bit DES encryption.
Dam's NRC committee "believed and stated that key escrow is a promising technology," but agreed with critics that key escrow was presently too vulnerable to safely implement. Therefore, Dam wrote in a University of Chicago Law School Paper, "we should proceed with all due caution and prudence in the development of key escrow mechanisms."
The conclusions reached by Dam's private NRC committee were downright enlightened compared to the Clinton administration's proposed policy at the time, which included the dreaded Clipper Chip. However, the NRC committee's recommendations were not exactly a ringing endorsement of the citizen's rights in the information era. The committee concluded that although the concerns of civil libertarians were legitimate, the concerns of law enforcement and intelligence agencies were equally legitimate.
Perhaps it is a flawed or naive assumption to think that the rights of living citizens in a democratic government supersede the concerns of global trade and the National Security establishment. Yet one might argue that when the rights of the citizenry are compromised, national security is also compromised, if power is truly derived from the governed.
Regardless, Dam has, as a matter of record, influenced national debate over encryption in the United States, and he is also a key member of the Bilderberg. Those outside the Group's closed circle have no way to determine the exact significance of this connection. We can merely stab in the dark for clues. For instance, Dam comments rather cynically on the ineffectiveness of public committees, asserting that private committees such as his NRC group are more effective at producing realistic policy recommendations:
Surely there was not a single member who came out of that process with exactly the same views he came in with. In my view, committees cannot make convincing driving recommendations that will command respect if they merely meet to paper over their entering differences. Unfortunately, that is what happens in most public committees and study groups, and the result is, as Churchill put it, "a pudding."
("The Role of Private Groups in Public Policy: Cryptography and the National Research Council," by Kenneth W. Dam.)
Do we hear an echo of Dam's experiences with the Bilderberg in this statement? With no public access to Bilderberg deliberations, we have no way to be certain. Yet citizens' access to robust, secure encryption is a crucial issue in the information economy. It cuts deep to the core of individual autonomy in a technological society. Our level of control over our own personal data could easily become a litmus test for freedom in the 21st century. The Bilderberg has no right to covertly influence U.S. cryptography policy in any way, and if it is capable of doing so, we definitely have a right to know about it. If the Bilderberg network can exert such influence in total secrecy, then it is, quite literally, acting in the capacity of a "shadow world government."
Ironically, Dam touches on the issue of secret debates and restricted information in "The Role of Private Groups in Public Policy":
"In my view, the intelligence community delivered on its promise to tell us everything that was in any way relevant to our inquiry.... We concluded that we were able to say, based on this experience with the intelligence community, that it was not necessary to have access to classified information in order to make a judgment about the proper disposition of the public policy issues.... This conclusion lifted the fog that had obscured public discussion because, so often, the impression was left with outsiders that they were being told by government officials that "if you knew what we know you would agree with us." [Emphasis added]