The Government's Keys
Powerful encryption software is deemed by the U.S. Government to be munitions. Encryption systems, which allow parties to send each other secure messages across insecure lines, have existed in various forms for millenia. Today's computer aided incarnations are tightly regulated by the National Security Ageny, which prohibits the exportation of all such powerful programs.
This chapter begins and ends with Phil Zimmerman, a cryptographer who made the first solid, powerful, easy-to-use encryption program for email. His story elucidates many of the absurd posturings of the U.S. government with regards to encryption. When a friend of Zimmerman's posted his program to the Net for free, it soon became the de facto standard. Soon after that the U.S. Attorney's office in San Jose advised him to find an attorney, because it was pulling together a grand jury to indict him for the illegal export of munitions.
Domestically, the FBI says allowing such technology in the hands of criminals would put the entire country at far greater risk from pedophiles, pornographers, and terrorists who could conspire with impunity. Their answer is to give us cryptography with a built in back door for themselves. Hence, the Clipper and Clipper II debacles.
The government has dropped its case against Phil Zimmerman.
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