1994-02-08 - Campaign Against Clipper

Header Data

From: Dave Banisar <banisar@washofc.cpsr.org>
To: Cypherpunks List <cypherpunks@toad.com>
Message Hash: 5b233d625b23af05a935547601eb9a8d48a830e09f2ee51acb216c3cd0214cce
Message ID: <00541.2843506175.2994@washofc.cpsr.org>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1994-02-08 04:00:42 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 7 Feb 94 20:00:42 PST

Raw message

From: Dave Banisar <banisar@washofc.cpsr.org>
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 94 20:00:42 PST
To: Cypherpunks List <cypherpunks@toad.com>
Subject: Campaign Against Clipper
Message-ID: <00541.2843506175.2994@washofc.cpsr.org>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

  Campaign Against Clipper


Embargoed until 2 pm, Monday, February 7, 1994

contact: rotenberg@washofc.cpsr.org  (202 544 9240)

Washington, DC -- Following the White House decision on Friday to
endorse a secret surveillance standard for the information highway,
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) today announced
a national campaign to oppose the government plan.

The Clipper proposal, developed in secret by the National Security
Agency, is a technical standard that will make it easier for government
agents to wiretap the emerging data highway.

Industry groups, professional associations and civil liberties
organizations have expressed almost unanimous opposition to the plan
since it was first proposed in April 1993.

According to Marc Rotenberg, CPSR Washington director, the
Administration made a major blunder with Clipper.  "The public does not
like Clipper and will not accept it. This proposal is fatally flawed."

CPSR cited several problems with the Clipper plan:

o The technical standard is subject to misuse and compromise. It would
provide government agents with copies of the keys that protect
electronic communications.  "It is a nightmare for computer security,"
said CPSR Policy Analyst Dave Banisar.

o The underlying technology was developed in secret by the NSA, an
intelligence agency responsible for electronic eavesdropping, not
privacy protection. Congressional investigations in the 1970s disclosed
widespread NSA abuses, including the illegal interception of millions of
cables sent by American citizens.

o Computer security experts question the integrity of the technology.
Clipper was developed in secret and its specifications are classified.
CPSR has sued the government seeking public disclosure of the Clipper

o NSA overstepped its legal authority in developing the standard.  A
1987 law explicitly limits the intelligence agency's power to set
standards for the nation's communications network.

o There is no evidence to support law enforcement's claims that new
technologies are hampering criminal investigations. CPSR recently forced
the release of FBI documents that show no such problems.

o The Administration ignored the overwhelming opposition of the general
public. When the Commerce Department solicited public comments on the
proposal last fall, hundreds of people opposed the plan while only a few
expressed support.

CPSR today announced four goals for its campaign to oppose the Clipper

o First, to educate the public about the implications of the Clipper

o Second, to encourage people to express their views on the Clipper
proposal, particularly through the computer network.

Toward that goal, CPSR has already begun an electronic petition on the
Internet computer network urging the President to withdraw the Clipper
proposal. In less than one week, the CPSR campaign has drawn thousands
of electronic mail messages expressing concern about Clipper. To sign
on, email clipper.petition@cpsr.org with the message "I oppose clipper"
in the body of the text.

o Third, to pursue litigation to force the public disclosure of
documents concerning the Clipper proposal and to test the legality of
the Department of Commerce's decision to endorse the plan.

o Fourth, to examine alternative approaches to Clipper.

Mr. Rotenberg said "We want the public to understand the full
implications of this plan.  Today it is only a few experts and industry
groups that understand the proposal.  But the consequences of Clipper
will touch everyone.  It will affect medical payments, cable television
service, and everything in between.

CPSR is a membership-based public interest organization.  For more
information about CPSR, send email to cpsr@cpsr.org or call 415 322
3778.  For more information about Clipper, check the CPSR Internet
library CPSR.ORG. FTP/WAIS/Gopher and listserv access are available.