1997-01-14 - Re: Newt’s phone calls

Header Data

From: Bill Stewart <stewarts@ix.netcom.com>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 79112c31f500f7b50a7d858ab27ede0515cc32bf81ba5719acd5e3d9c434fdce
Message ID: <>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1997-01-14 20:06:14 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 14 Jan 1997 12:06:14 -0800 (PST)

Raw message

From: Bill Stewart <stewarts@ix.netcom.com>
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 1997 12:06:14 -0800 (PST)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: Newt's phone calls
Message-ID: <>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

>>I just caught the news reports of Newt Gingrich's cell phone calls being
>>taped by "a little old retired couple" with a scanner.  These were then
>>given to a congressman, who gave them to a newspaper.

Eavesdropping on cellphones is illegal, since there's an expectation of
I don't know if tapping the signalling channel is illegal - it's not
eavesdropping on conversations, but it's giving you traffic analysis
including locating your victim.

Cordless phones don't offer an expectation of privacy, by some legal
so it's not illegal, and anyone can listen in with scanners, including police,
unless there are state or local laws to the contrary  It'd be interesting
to test
the legal status of digital spread-spectrum cordless phones, which claim on
the box to offer privacy, but there probably aren't enough police forces with
sufficiently advanced scanners to crack them to make it worth transmitting
lots of bait "Yo, Bubba, I hear you've got 10 kilos of dope for sale!" 
"Yeah, it's $10/gram, I'll bring it by your house at 1234 Main Street."

>>The take on this that we won't hear is: "This is outrageous!  Why don't
>>cell-phones offer encryption to ensure our privacy?"

Analog callphones don't.  (U.S.) Digital cellphones may offer encryption,
though it's really dumbed-down encryption.  It'll probably still keep out
Beavis and Butthead, and maybe your local police, but not professionals.
I've forgotten if the CAVE encryption on John Young's site is the US version,
or if the standard we're graciously permitted by our government to use
is a different one, but it's about that strength.  Phil Karn wrote
some time ago about the NSA's armtwisting that bullied the standards
committee into coming up with the stuff.

> There is a very basic reason that cell phones are not encrypted;
> the government does not want them encrypted. 
Analog cellphones were doing well to work at all, and manufacturers and
service providers didn't want to add the complexity of encryption,
especially as a retrofit, so they got a law passed instead.

Tapping cellphones is more trouble than tapping wired phones -
they move around, and to tap them from the phone company end
requires taps everywhere that you activate when you know where
somebody is.  On the other hand, if you can just scan for them,
and crack the wimpy encryption, it's really a lot less work.
And if you overhear other interesting conversations while pursuing
a legally authorized wiretap, that was "good faith"...

#			Thanks;  Bill
# Bill Stewart, +1-415-442-2215 stewarts@ix.netcom.com
# You can get PGP outside the US at ftp.ox.ac.uk/pub/crypto/pgp
#     (If this is a mailing list, please Cc: me on replies.  Thanks.)