CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1994 //

Jacking in from Another Brick in the Wall Port:

Washington, DC -- The White House is being heavily lobbied by law enforcement agencies and national intelligence agencies to make the use of the government designed Clipper Chip mandatory in telephones, fax machines and cable systems, according to classified documents obtained by Dispatch.

When the Administration announced on February 4th that it was endorsing the controversial Clipper Chip program, it asserted that any use of the chip would be voluntary. But the White House carefully hedged its bet: Buried deep in the background briefing papers that accompanied the announcement was the Administration's official policy that U.S. citizens weren't guaranteed any constitutional right to choose their own encryption technologies.

Government officials have brushed aside concerns from civil liberties groups and privacy advocates that sporadic adoption of Clipper would eventually spawn a mandatory use policy. To try and forestall that, however, the government has instituted a subtle coercion tactic: You can't do business with Uncle Sam unless your products are "clipper equipped," according to National Institute for Standards and Technology Assistant Deputy Director Raymond Kammer.

The Administration's desire for industry to sign-on as an early Clipper "team player" was so overwhelming that it bribed AT&T into agreeing to publicly support the idea, according to classified documents obtained by Dispatch.

On the same day last April when Clipper was first unveiled, AT&T publicly proclaimed it would be installing the chip in its encryption products. A classified April 30, 1993 memo from the Assistant Secretary of Defense says: "[T]he President has directed that the Attorney General request that manufacturers of communications hardware use the trapdoor chip, and at least AT&T has been reported willing to do so (having been suitably incentivised by promises of Government purchases)."

The government says "incentivised" while prosecuting attorney's all over the country say, "bribed." You make the call.

Take Your Privacy and Shove It

That same memo says the Clipper proposal is a "complex set of issues [that] places the public's right to privacy in opposition to the public's desire for safety." If "privacy prevails... criminals and spies... consequently prosper," the memo says.

What's the answer to such freeflowing privacy? The memo says law enforcement and national security agencies "propose that cryptography be made available and required which contains a 'trapdoor' that would allow law enforcement and national security officials, under proper supervision, to decrypt enciphered communications." The operative word here is "required."

Two Track Dialog

While Clinton's policy wonks wring their hands over such issues as universal access to the National Information Infrastructure, law enforcement and national security officials couldn't care less, frankly. The Working Group on Privacy for the Information Infrastructure Task Force was told in clean, cold language that the desire of law enforcement is to "front load" the NII with "intercept technologies." Under the guise of "do it now or we'll catch less bad guys."

It's all black or white to these guys. Other classified Dept. of Defense documents chime on this debate: "This worthy goal (of building the NII) is independent of arguments as to whether or not law enforcement and national security officials will be able to read at will traffic passing along the information superhighway."

This is not science fiction. The Clipper chip is like a cancer that has eaten into the fabric of all levels of government, including the military. Classified DoD documents state that a "full-scale public debate is needed to ascertain the wishes of U.S. citizens with regard to their privacy, and the impact on public safety of preserving privacy at the expense of wiretapping and communications intercept capabilities of law enforcement and national security personnel."

In other words, they don't think you know what you want. To them, it's a kind of tradeoff, a twisted sort of privacy auction. What do you bid? Your privacy for two drug lords, a former KGB spy and a pedophile. What's the price? Your government wants to know. Honest.

The jury's still out, according to these classified documents: "It is not clear what the public will decide."

But you can rest safely, the Pentagon does. Why? Again from a secret memo: "In the meantime, DoD has trapdoor technology and the Government is proceeding with development of the processes needed to apply that technology in order to maintain the capability to perform licit intercept of communications in support of law enforcement and national security."

Meeks out...