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Podcast Episode: Building a Tactile Internet

EFFector - Volume 3, Issue 1 - Rapid Growth of Online Services Over the Past 5 Years


EFFector - Volume 3, Issue 1 - Rapid Growth of Online Services Over the Past 5 Years

########## ########## ########## |  RAPID GROWTH OF ONLINE SERVICES  
########## ########## ########## |  ONE BBSCON /EFF LIBRARY/ USENET  
####       ####       ####       |                                   
########   ########   ########   |       JOHN PERRY BARLOW ON        
########   ########   ########   |  THE NSA, THE FBI, ENCRYPTION,    
####       ####       ####       |         AND WIRE-TAPPING          
########## ####       ####       |                                   
########## ####       ####       |         THE TAO TE CHIP           
EFFector Online             JULY 29, 1992         Issue  3.1 / Part 1
         A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation         
                           ISSN 1062-9424                            


A new study released by SIMBA Information, a research group based in
Wilton, Connecticut, says sales by online services increased by 61.1
percent in the last five years. The trend will continue over the next five
years, says SIMBA, with a projected increase of 48%.

By 1996, the online information market should be worth about $14.2 billion
annually. Business uses will consume the lion's share of this market by a
factor of 24 to 1. Regardless of this, the services used by consumers were
the fastest growing segment of the market in the 1990-1991 period. This
growth in consumer use is expected to increase by 145 percent over the next
five years.

The report, "Online Services: 1992 Review, Trends, and Forecast" was
written for SIMBA by analyst Chris Elwell.

Other items in the report of interest: Subscribers to online services
numbered 5.4 million at the end of 1991, an increase of 18% over 1990.
Leading online services (CompuServe, Genie, Prodigy, etc.) reported an
aggregate sales growth of nearly 7% in 1991 from 1990 levels.

Some of the more notable conclusions of this report are:
        #North American-based online services account for 57% of 
         worldwide sales,with rapid growth in the near term. 
        #More than half of the growth in online subscribers in 1991
         was accounted for by Prodigy.
        #One out of every five home computers has a modem.
        #As the Regional Bell companies enter the online services
         arena, the initial focal point of their efforts will be
         online directory publishing.
        #Even though the report gives detailed profiles of 35 major
         players, it notes that most online services and database 
         publishers are relatively small operations.


                        EFF to Crash The ONE BBSCON

         August 13-16, Stouffer Concourse Hotel, Denver Colorado.

The ONE BBSCON is the major BBS conference of the year, hosting seminars in
such topics as How to make your BBS profitable; What is Internet?; FidoNet,
RelayNet, INet, et. al.; Graphics over a Modem; Learn from the Winners; as
well hosting an exhibition attended by vendors of BBS-related products.

And EFF will be there with a booth as well.  We'll be doing the usual
booth-related activities such as handing out literature and selling
t-shirts; however, we're more interested in talking with the members of the
BBS community and learning what it needs from EFF.  Along with seminars on
BBSs and the Law, EFF staff counsel Shari Steele will be presenting a talk
on the EFF at which we will be looking for feedback.  If you'll be
attending, do stop by either the booth or the seminar and tell us what you

For more information on ONE BBSCON, contact
                                       ONE, Inc.
                                       4255 S. Buckley Road
                                       Suite 308
                                       Aurora, Colorado  80013
Note: There is no email address. Leaves room for improvement.


                         UPDATE ON THE EFF LIBRARY

The EFF Library was set up over a year ago when it became clear that,
regardless of the digital revolution, we were being overwhelmed by a wave
of hard copy.  At that time, we had a backlog of around 1,000 documents,
books and magazines concerning issues relevant to the Electronic Frontier.
We engaged a professional librarian, Hae Young Wang, to bring order to
chaos, and to provide us with a method that would enable us to file and
retrieve material necessary to the work of the foundation.

Today, the EFF library in Cambridge houses over 2,300 items. The holdings
cover journal articles, newspaper articles, conference proceedings, court
documents, legislation, magazines, books, and brochures.  The subject areas
include such things as information infrastructure, computers and civil
liberties, intellectual property and copyrights, and EFF archives.

The Library also maintains over 130 subscriptions to magazines and

In addition, the EFF library maintains, classifies and indexes EFF's
anonymous ftp archive files.  These files, which are accessible to everyone
with Internet access, have recently been re-organized into what we hope is a
more user-friendly and informative manner. In the EFF ftp directory, you
can find documents about the EFF, back issues of its online newsletter,
notes on eff-issues, historical items, legal issues, current legislation,
local chapters, and a host of other material germane to the Electronic

While the ftp files are open to all, the EFF Library can now serve only the
staff here and in Washington.  We hope to be able to provide service to EFF
members and the general public in the future, as funding and staffing

In the meantime, we have recently acquired new scanning software which we
hope will reduce the work involved in moving hard-copy information into
digital form. With this in place we will be adding items to the anonymous
ftp archive at an increased rate throughout the rest of the summer.

Recent additions to the EFF ftp files are:
    The EFF Open Platform Proposal. This is the full text of the
    EFF's plan to create a national public network through the
    deployment of ISDN technology.

    Howard Rhinegold's "A Slice of Life in My Virtual Community".
    This meditation on what it means to be online in 1992 was
    first serialized in EFFector Online.

    Senator Al Gore's High-Tech Bill (S.2937) as introduced on July
    1, 1992. This bill provides funding to both NSF and NASA to
    develop technology for "digital libraries", huge data bases
    that store text, imagery, video, and sound and are accessible
    over computer networks like NSFNET.  The bill also funds
    development of prototype "digital libraries" around the
    country. This is the full-text of this bill along with the
    press release from Gore's office announcing the bill.

    An information packet on the GPO/WINDO legislation before congress
    as S.2813/H.R. 2772. This discusses the function of the proposed
    "gateway" for online public access to government databases. From
    the Taxpayers Assets Project.

These files are also available through WAIS as eff-documents.src.  WAIS
clients are available for the Mac, PC, NeXT, X11, and GNU Emacs
environments via anonymous ftp from  A "guest" WAIS client is
available by telnetting to and logging in as 'wais'.

To retrieve these files via email, send mail to,
containing (in the body of the message) the command

send eff 

So to get the Gore bill, you would send

send eff legislation/gore-bill-1992

If you have any trouble obtaining these documents, send email to


                        UNCLEAR ON USENET INTERNET?

Veteran members of the Internet know, through osmosis, the difference
between Internet and Usenet. Still, newcomers are often confused since the
two seem to be, at times, used interchangeably. To provide for an ultimate
answer, we turned to Chris Davis (ckd), star sysadmin at He said:

   "The definitive answer is long and mostly uninteresting except to
pedants like me :).

   "The Internet is that collection of connected TCP/IP networks.  Roughly
speaking, if you can connect directly to '' with telnet, you're
on the Internet.  You may be able to get Internet mail without being on the
Internet proper (say, if you're on America Online).

   "USENET is that set of machines and people who interchange USENET
messages.  A large number of USENET sites are on the Internet, and many
Internet sites get USENET.  Many USENET sites are NOT on the Internet,
however, getting their news via dialup lines, satellite receivers, magnetic
tape shipments (no kidding), and the like.  Roughly speaking, you're on
USENET if you get the 'news.announce.important' newsgroup.

   "They are related in that they are partially congruent and often
confused with each other :) but they are not the same network."


                       Decrypting the Puzzle Palace
                             John Perry Barlow
                       "A little sunlight is the best disinfectant."
                                            --Justice Louis Brandeis

Over a year ago, in a condition of giddier innocence than I enjoy today, I
wrote the following about the discovery of Cyberspace:

"Imagine discovering a continent so vast that it may have no other side.
Imagine a new world with more resources than all our future greed might
exhaust, more opportunities than there will ever be entrepreneurs enough to
exploit, and a peculiar kind of real estate which expands with

One less felicitous feature of this terrain which I hadn't noticed then is
what seems to be a long-encamped and immense army of occupation.

This army represents interests which are difficult to define, guards the
area against unidentified enemies, meticulously observes almost every
activity undertaken there, and continuously prevents most who inhabit its
domain from drawing any blinds against such observation.

It marshals at least 40,000 troops, owns the most advanced computing
resources in the world, and uses funds the dispersal of which does not fall
under any democratic review.

Imagining this force won't require from you the inventive powers of a
William Gibson. The American Occupation Army of Cyberspace exists.  Its
name is the National Security Agency.

It may be argued that this peculiar institution inhibits free trade, has
directly damaged American competitiveness, and poses a threat to liberty
anywhere people communicate with electrons. It's principal function, as
miff colleague John Gilmore puts it, is "wire-tapping the world," which it
is free to do without a warrant from any judge.

It is legally constrained from domestic surveillance, but precious few
people are in a good position to watch what, how, or whom the NSA watches.
And those who are tend to be temperamentally sympathetic to its objectives
and methods. They like power, and power understands the importance of
keeping it own secrets and learning everyone else's.

Whether it is meticulously ignoring every American byte or not, the NSA is
certainly pursuing policies which will render our domestic affairs
transparent to anyone who can afford big digital hardware.  Such policies
could have profound consequences on our liberty and privacy.
More to point, the role of the NSA in the area of domestic privacy needs to
be assessed in the light of other recent federal initiatives which seem
directly aimed at permanently denying privacy to the inhabitants of
Cyberspace, whether foreign or American.

Finally it seems a highly opportune time, directly following our
disorienting victory in the Cold War, to ask if the threats from which the
NSA purportedly protects us from are as significant as the hazards its
activities present.

Like most Americans I'd never given much thought to the NSA until recently.
(Indeed its very existence was a secret for much of my life. Beltway types
used to joke that NSA stood for "No Such Agency.")

I vaguely knew that it was another of the 12 or so shadowy federal spook
houses which were erected shortly after the Iron Curtain with the purpose
of stopping its further advance. It derives entirely from a memorandum sent
by Harry Truman on October 24, 1952 to Secretary of State Dean Acheson and
Defense Secretary Robert Lovatt. This memo, the official secrecy of which
remained unpenetrated for almost 40 years, created the NSA, placed it under
the authority of the Secretary of Defense, and charged it with monitoring
and decoding any signal transmission relevant to the security of the United

Even after I started noticing the NSA, my natural immunity to paranoia
combined with a general belief in the incompetence of all bureaucracies...
especially those whose inefficiencies are unmolested by public scrutiny...
to mute any sense of alarm. But this was before I began to understand the
subterranean battles raging over data encryption and the NSA's role in
them. Lately, I'm less sanguine.

Encryption may be the only reliable method for conveying privacy to the
inherently public domain of Cyberspace. I certainly trust it more than
privacy protection laws. Relying on government to protect your privacy is
like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds.

In fact, we already have a strong-sounding federal law protecting our
electronic privacy, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act or ECPA. But
this law has not particular effective in those areas were electronic
eavesdropping is technically easy. This is especially true in the area of
cellular phone conversations, which, under the current analog transmission
standard, are easily accessible to anyone from the FBI to you.

The degree of law enforcement apprehension over secure cellular encryption
provides mute evidence of how seriously they've been taking ECPA. They are
moving on a variety of fronts to see that robust electronic privacy
protection systems don't become generally available to the public. Indeed,
the current administration may be so determined to achieve this end that
they may be willing to paralyze progress in America's most promising
technologies rather than yield on it.

Push is coming to shove in two areas of communications technology: digital
transmission of heretofore analog signals and the encryption of transmitted

As the communications service providers move to packet switching, fiber
optic transmission lines, digital wireless, ISDN and other advanced
techniques, what have been discrete channels of continuous electrical
impulses, voices audible to anyone with alligator clips on the right wires,
are now becoming chaotic blasts of data packets, readily intelligible only
to the sender and receiver. This development effectively forecloses
traditional wire-tapping techniques, even as it provides new and different
opportunities for electronic surveillance.

It is in the latter area where the NSA knows its stuff. A fair percentage
of the digital signals dispatched on planet Earth must pass at some point
through the NSA's big sieve in Fort Meade, Maryland, 12 underground acres
of the heaviest hardware in the computing world. There, unless these
packets are also encrypted with a particularly knotty algorithm, sorting
them back into their original continuity is not so difficult.

Last spring, alarmed at a future in which it would have to sort through an
endless fruit salad of encrypted bits, the FBI persuaded Senator Joseph
Biden to include language in Senate Bill 266 which would have directed
providers of electronic communications services and devices (such as
digital cellular phone systems or other multiplexed communications
channels) to implement only such encryption methods as would assure
governmental ability to extract from the data stream the plain text of any
voice or data communications in which it took a legal interest. It was if
the government had responded to a technological leap in lock design by
requiring building contractors to supply it with skeleton keys to every
door in America.

The provision raised wide-spread concern in the computer community, which
was better equipped to understand its implications than the general public,
and in August of last year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in
cooperation with Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and other
industry groups, successfully lobbied to have it removed from the bill.

Our celebration was restrained. We knew we hadn't seen the last of it. For
one thing, the movement to digital communications does create some serious
obstacles to traditional wire-tapping procedures. I fully expected that law
enforcement would be back with new proposals, which I hoped might be ones
we could support. But what I didn't understand then, and am only now
beginning to appreciate, was the extent to which this issue had already
been engaged by the NSA in the obscure area of export controls over data
encryption algorithms.

Encryption algorithms, despite their purely defensive characteristics, have
been regarded by the government of this country as weapons of war for many
years. If they are to be employed for privacy (as opposed to
authentication) and they are any good at all, their export is licensed
under State Department's International Traffic in Arms Regulations or ITAR.

The encryption watchdog is the NSA. It has been enforcing a policy, neither
debated nor even admitted to, which holds that if a device or program
contains an encryption scheme which the NSA can't break fairly easily, it
will not be licensed for international sale.

Aside for marveling at the silliness of trying to embargo algorithms, a
practice about as practicable as restricting the export of wind, I didn't
pay much attention to the implications of NSA encryption policies until
February of this year.  It was then that I learned about the deliberations
of an obscure group of cellular industry representatives called the Ad Hoc
Authentication Task Force, TR45.3 and of the influence which the NSA has
apparently exercised over their findings.

In the stately fashion characteristic of standard-setting bodies, this
group has been working for several years on a standard for digital cellular
transmission, authentication, and privacy protection to be known by the
characteristically whimsical telco moniker IS-54B.

In February they met near Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. At that
meeting, they recommended, and agreed not to publish, an encryption scheme
for American-made digital cellular systems which many sophisticated
observers believe to be intentionally vulnerable.  It was further thought
by many observers that this "dumbing down" had been done indirect
cooperation with the NSA.

Given the secret nature of the new algorithm, its actual merits were
difficult to assess. But many cryptologists believe there is enough in the
published portions of the standard to confirm that it isn't any good.

One cryptographic expert, one of two I spoke with who asked not to be
identified lest the NSA take reprisals against his company, said:

"The voice privacy scheme, as opposed to the authentication scheme, is
pitifully easy to break. It involves the generation of two "voice privacy
masks" each 260 bits long. They are generated as a byproduct of the
authentication algorithm and remain fixed for the duration of a call. The
voice privacy masks are exclusive_ORed with each frame of data from the
vocoder at the transmitter. The receiver XORs the same mask with the
incoming data frame to recover the original plain text.  Anyone familiar
with the fundamentals of cryptanalysis can easily see how weak this scheme

And indeed, Whitfield Diffie, co-inventor of Public Key cryptography and
arguably the dean of this obscure field, told me this about the fixed

"Given that description of the encryption process, there is no need for the
opponents to know how the masks were generated. Routine cryptanalytic
operations will quickly determine the masks and remove them.''

Some on committee claimed that possible NSA refusal of export licensing had
no bearing on the algorithm they chose. But their decision not to publish
the entire method and expose it to cryptanalytical abuse (not to mention
ANSI certification) was accompanied by the following convoluted

"It is the belief of the majority of the Ad Hoc Group, based on our current
understanding of the export requirements, that a published algorithm would
facilitate the cracking of the algorithm to the extent that its fundamental
purpose is defeated or compromised."(Italics added.)

Now this is a weird paragraph any way you parse it, but its most singular
quality is the sudden, incongruous appearance of export requirements in a
paragraph otherwise devoted to algorithmic integrity. In fact, this
paragraph is itself code, the plain text of which goes something like this:
"We're adopting this algorithm because, if we don't, the NSA will slam an
export embargo on all domestically manufactured digital cellular phones."

Obviously, the cellular phone systems manufacturers and providers are not
going to produce one model for overseas sale and another for domestic
production. Thus, a primary effect of NSA-driven efforts to deny some
unnamed foreign enemy secure cellular communications is on domestic
security. The wireless channels available to private Americans will be
cloaked in a mathematical veil so thin that, as one crypto-expert put it,
"Any county sheriff with the right PC-based black box will be able to
monitor your cellular conversations."

When I heard him say that, it suddenly became clear to me that, whether
consciously undertaken with that goal or not, the most important result of
the NSA's encryption embargoes has been the future convenience of domestic
law enforcement. Thanks to NSA export policies, they will be assured that,
as more Americans protect their privacy with encryption, it will be of a
sort easily penetrated by authority.

I find it increasingly hard to imagine this is not their real objective as
well. Surely, they must be aware of how ineffectual their efforts have been
in keeping good encryption out of inimical military possession. An
algorithm is somewhat less easily stopped at the border than, say, a
nuclear reactor. As William Neukom, head of Microsoft Legal puts it, "The
notion that you can control this technology is comical."

I became further persuaded that this was the case upon hearing, from a
couple of sources, that the Russians have been using the possibly
uncrackable (and American) RSA algorithm in their missile launch codes for
the last ten years and that, for as little as five bucks, one can get a
software package called Crypto II on the streets of Saint Petersburg which
includes both RSA and DES encryption systems.

Nevertheless, the NSA has been willing to cost American business a lot of
revenue rather than allow domestic products with strong encryption into the
global market.

While it's impossible to set a credible figure on what that loss might add
up to, it's high. Jim Bidzos, whose RSA Data Security licenses RSA, points
to one major Swiss bid in which a hundred million dollar contract for
financial computer terminals went to a European vendor after American
companies were prohibited by the NSA from exporting a truly secure network.

The list of export software containing intentionally broken encryption is
also long. Lotus Notes ships in two versions. Don't count on much
protection from the encryption in the export version.  Both Microsoft and
Novell have been thwarted in their efforts to include RSA in their
international networking software, despite frequent publication of the
entire RSA algorithm in technical publications all over the world.

With hardware, the job has been easier. NSA levied against the inclusion of
a DES chip in the AS/390 series IBM mainframes in late 1990 despite the
fact that, by this time, DES was in widespread use around the world,
including semi-official adoption by our official enemy, the USSR.

I now realize that Soviets have not been the NSA's main concern at any time
lately. Naively hoping that, with the collapse of the Evil Empire, the NSA
might be out of work, I then learned that, given their own vigorous crypto
systems and their long use of some embargoed products, the Russians could
not have been the threat from whom this forbidden knowledge was to be kept.
Who has the enemy been then? I started to ask around.

Cited again and again as the real object of the embargoes were Third-World
countries. terrorists and... criminals. Criminals, most generally
drug-flavored, kept coming up, and nobody seemed terribly concerned that
some of their operations might be located in areas supposedly off-limits to
NSA scrutiny.

Presumably the NSA is restricted from conducting American surveillance by
both the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) and a series
of presidential directives, beginning with one issued by President Ford
following Richard Nixon's bold misuse of the NSA, in which he explicitly
directed the NSA to conduct widespread domestic surveillance of political
dissidents and drug users.

But whether or not FISA has actually limited the NSA's abilities to conduct
domestic surveillance seemed less relevant the more I thought about it. A
better question to ask was, "Who is best served by the NSA's encryption
export policies?" The answer is clear: domestic law enforcement. Was this
the result of some spook plot between NSA and, say, the Department of
Justice? Not necessarily.

Certainly in the case of the digital cellular standard, cultural congruity
between foreign intelligence, domestic law enforcement, and what somebody
referred to as "spook wannabes on the TR45.3 committee" might have a lot
more to do with the its eventual flavor than any actual whisperings along
the Potomac.

                [continued in Effector Online 3.1  Part 2]

      EFFector Online     JULY 22, 1992    Issue  3.1 / end of Part 1
EFFector Online             JULY 29, 1992         Issue  3.1 / Part 2
         A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation         
                           ISSN 1062-9424                            

[Decrypting the Puzzle Palace by John Perry Barlow - continued - ]

Unable to get anyone presently employed by the NSA to comment on this or
any other matter and with little opportunity to assess the NSA's
congeniality toward domestic law enforcement from the inside, I
approached a couple of old hands for a highly distilled sample of
intelligence culture.

I called Admirals Stansfield Turner and Bobby Ray Inman. Not only had their
Carter administration positions as, respectively, CIA and NSA Directors,
endowed them with considerable experience in such matters, both are
generally regarded to be somewhat more sensitive to the limits of
democratic power than their successors. None of whom seemed likely to
return my calls anyway.

My phone conversations with Turner and Inman were amiable enough, but they
didn't ease my gathering sense that the NSA takes an active interest in
areas which are supposedly beyond its authorized field of scrutiny.

Turner started out by saying he was in no position to confirm or deny any
suspicions about direct NSA-FBI cooperation on encryption, but he didn't
think I was being exactly irrational in raising the question.  In fact, he
genially encouraged me to investigate the matter further.

He also said that while a sub rosa arrangement between the NSA and the
Department of Justice to compromise domestic encryption would be
"injudicious," he could think of no law, including FISA (which he helped
design), which would prevent it.

Most alarmingly, this gentleman who has written eloquently on the hazards
of surveillance in a democracy did not seem terribly concerned that our
digital shelters are being rendered permanently translucent by and to the

He said, "A threat could develop...terrorism, narcotics, whatever...where
the public would be pleased that all electronic traffic was open to
decryption. You can't legislate something which forecloses the possibility
of meeting that kind of emergency."

Admiral Inman had even more enthusiasm for assertive governmental
supervision. Although he admitted no real knowledge of the events behind
the new cellular encryption standard, he wasn't the least disturbed to hear
that it might be flawed.

And, despite the fact that his responsibilities as NSA Director had been
restricted to foreign intelligence, he seemed a lot more comfortable
talking about threats on the home front.

"The Department of Justice," he began, "has a very legitimate worry.  The
major weapon against white collar crime has been the court-ordered wiretap.
If the criminal elements go to using a high quality cipher, the principal
defense against narcotics traffic is gone."  This didn't sound like a guy
who, were he still head of NSA, would rebuff FBI attempts to get a little
help from his agency.

He brushed off my concerns about the weakness of the cellular encryption
standard. "If all you're seeking is personal privacy, you can get that with
a very minimal amount of encipherment."

Well, I wondered, Privacy from whom?

And he seemed to regard real, virile encryption to be something rather like
a Saturday Night Special.  "My answer," he said, "would be legislation
which would make it a criminal offense to use encrypted communication to
conceal criminal activity."

Wouldn't that render all encrypted traffic automatically suspect? I asked.

"Well, he said, "you could have a registry of institutions which can
legally use ciphers. If you get somebody using one who isn't registered,
then you go after him."

You can have my encryption algorithm, I thought to myself, when you pry my
cold dead fingers from its private key.

It wasn't a big sample, but it was enough to gain a better appreciation of
the cultural climate of the intelligence community.  And these guys are the
liberals. What legal efficiencies might their Republican successors be
willing to employ to protect the American Way?

Without the comfortably familiar presence of the Soviets to hate and fear,
we can expect to see a sharp increase in over-rated bogeymen and virtual
states of emergency. This is already well under way. I think we can expect
our drifting and confused hardliners to burn the Reichstag repeatedly until
they have managed to extract from our induced alarm the sort of government
which makes them feel safe.

This process has been under way for some time. One sees it in the war on
terrorism, against which pursuit "no liberty is absolute," as Admiral
Turner put it. This, despite the fact that, during last year for which I
have a solid figure, 1987, only 7 Americans succumbed to terrorism.

You can also see it clearly under way in the War on Some Drugs. The Fourth
Amendment to the Constitution has largely disappeared in this civil war.
And among the people I spoke with, it seemed a common canon that drugs (by
which one does not mean Jim Beam, Marlboros, Folger's, or Halcion) were a
sufficient evil to merit the government's holding any more keys it felt the
need for.

One individual close to the committee said that at least some of the
aforementioned "spook wannabes" on the committee were "interested in weak
cellular encryption because they considered warrants not to be "practical"
when it came to pursuing drug dealers and other criminals using cellular

In a miscellaneously fearful America, where the people cry for shorter
chains and smaller cages, such privileges as secure personal communications
are increasingly regarded as expendable luxuries. As Whitfield Diffie put
it, "From the consistent way in which Americans seem to put security ahead
of freedom, I rather fear that most of them would prefer that all
electronic traffic was open to government decryption right now if they had
given it any thought."

In any event, while I found no proof of an NSA-FBI conspiracy to gut the
American cellular phone encryption standard, it seemed clear to me that
none was needed. The same results can be delivered by a cultural
"auto-conspiracy" between like-minded hardliners and cellular companies who
will care about privacy only when their customers do.

You don't have to be a hand-wringing libertarian like me to worry about the
domestic consequences of the NSA's encryption embargoes.  They are also, as
stated previously, bad for business, unless, of course, the business of
America is no longer business but, as sometimes seems the case these days,
crime control.

As Ron Rivest (the "R" in RSA) said to me, "We have the largest information
based economy in the world. We have lots of reasons for wanting to protect
information, and weakening our encryption systems for the convenience of
law enforcement doesn't serve the national interest."

But by early March, it had become clear that this supposedly business-
oriented administration had made a clear choice to favor cops over commerce
even if the costs to the American economy were to become extremely high.

A sense of White House seriousness in this regard could be taken from their
response to the first serious effort by Congress to bring the NSA to task
for its encryption embargoes. Rep. Mel Levine (D-Calif.)  proposed an
amendment to the Export Administration Act to transfer mass market software
controls to the Commerce Department, which would relax the rules. The
administration responded by saying that they would veto the entire bill if
the Levine amendment remained attached to it.

Even though it appeared the NSA had little to fear from Congress, the
Levine amendment may have been part of what placed the agency in a
bargaining mood for the first time. They entered into discussions with the
Software Publishers Association who, acting primarily on behalf of
Microsoft and Lotus, got to them to agree "in principle" to a streamlined
process for export licensing of encryption which might provide for more
robust standards than have been allowed previously.

But the negotiations between the NSA and the SPA were being conducted
behind closed doors, with the NSA-imposed understanding that any agreement
they reached would be set forth only in a "confidential" letter to
Congress. As in the case of the digital cellular standard, this would
eliminate the public scrutiny by cryptography researchers which anneals
genuinely hardened encryption.

Furthermore, some cryptographers worried that the encryption key lengths to
which the SPA appeared willing to restrict its member publishers might be
too short to provide much defense against the sorts of brute-force
decryption assaults which advances in processor technology will yield in
the fairly near future. And brute force has always been the NSA's strong

Whether accurate or not, the impression engendered by the style of the
NSA-SPA negotiations was not one of unassailable confidence. The lack of it
will operate to the continued advantage of foreign manufacturers in an era
when more and more institutions are going to be concerned about the privacy
of their digital communications.

But the economic damage which the NSA-SPA agreement might cause would be
minor compared to what would result from a startling new federal
initiative, the Department of Justice's proposed legislation on digital
telephony. If you're wondering what happened to the snooping provisions
which were in Senate Bill 266, look no further. They're back. And they're
bigger and bolder than ever.

They are contained in a sweeping proposal which have been made by the
Justice Department to the Senate Commerce Committee for legislation which
would "require providers of electronic communications services and private
branch exchanges to ensure that the Government's ability to lawfully
intercept communications is unimpeded by the introduction of advanced
digital telecommunications technology or any other telecommunications

Amazingly enough, this really means what it says: before any advance in
telecommunications technology can be deployed, the service providers and
manufacturers must assure the cops that they can tap into it. In other
words, development in digital communications technology must come to a
screeching halt until Justice can be assured that it will be able to grab
and examine data packets with the same facility they have long enjoyed with
analog wire-tapping.

It gets worse. The initiative also provides that, if requested by the
Attorney General, "any Commission proceeding concerning regulations,
standards or registrations issued or to be issued under authority of this
section shall be closed to the public." This essentially places the
Attorney General in a position to shut down any telecommunications advance
without benefit of public hearing.

When I first heard of the digital telephony proposal, I assumed it was a
kind of bargaining chip. I couldn't imagine it was serious. But it now
appears they are going to the mattresses on this one.

Taken together with NSA's continued assertion of its authority over
encryption, a pattern becomes clear. The government of the United States is
so determined to maintain law enforcement's traditional wire-tapping
abilities in the digital age that it is willing to fundamentally cripple
the American economy to do so. This may sound hyperbolic, but I believe it
is not.

The greatest technology advantage this country presently enjoys is in the
areas of software and telecommunications. Furthermore, thanks in large part
to the Internet, much of America is already wired for bytes, as significant
an economic edge in the Information Age as the existence of a railroad
system was for England one hundred fifty years ago.

If we continue to permit the NSA to cripple our software and further convey
to the Department of Justice the right to stop development the Net without
public input, we are sacrificing both our economic future and our
liberties. And all in the name of combating terrorism and drugs.

This has now gone far enough. I have always been inclined to view the
American government as pretty benign as such creatures go. I am generally
the least paranoid person I know, but there is something scary about a
government which cares more about putting its nose in your business than it
does about keeping that business healthy.

As I write this, a new ad hoc working group on digital privacy, coordinated
by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is scrambling to meet the challenge.
The group includes representatives from organizations like AT&T, the
Regional Bells, IBM, Microsoft, the Electronic Mail Association and about
thirty other companies and public interest groups.

Under the direction of Jerry Berman, EFF's Washington office director, and
John Podesta, a capable lobbyist and privacy specialist who helped draft
the ECPA, this group intends to stop the provisions in digital telephony
proposal from entering the statute books.

We also intend to work with federal law enforcement officials to address
their legitimate concerns. We don't dispute their need to conduct some
electronic surveillance, but we believe this can be assured by more
restrained methods than they're proposing.

We are also preparing a thorough examination of the NSA's encryption export
policies and looking into the constitutional implications of those
policies. Rather than negotiating behind closed doors, as the SPA has been
attempting to do, America's digital industries have a strong self-interest
in banding together to bring the NSA's procedures and objectives into the
sunlight of public discussion.

Finally, we are hoping to open a dialog with the NSA. We need to develop a
better understanding of their perception of the world and its threats. Who
are they guarding us against and how does encryption fit into that
endeavor? Despite our opposition to their policies on encryption export, we
assume that NSA operations have some merit. But we would like to be able to
rationally balance the merits against the costs.

We strongly encourage any organization which might have a stake in the
future of digital communication to become involved. Letters expressing your
concern may be addressed to: Sen. Ernest Hollings, Chairman, Senate
Commerce Committee, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC and to Don Edwards,
Chairman, Subcommitee on Constitutional Rights, House Judiciary Committee.
(I would appreciate hearing those concerns myself. Feel free to copy me
with those letters at my physical address, c/o P.O. Box 1009, Pinedale, WY
82941 or in Cyberspace,

If your organization is interested in becoming part of the digital privacy
working group, please contact EFF's Washington office at: 666 Pennsylvania
Avenue SE, Suite 303, Washington, DC 20003, 202/544- 9237, FAX:
202/547-5481. EFF also encourages individuals interested in these issues to
join the organization. Contact us at: Electronic Frontier Foundation, 155
Second Street, Cambridge, MA 02141,617/864- 0665,

The legal right to express oneself is meaningless if there is no secure
medium through which that expression may travel. By the same token, the
right to hold certain unpopular opinions is forfeit unless one can discuss
those opinions with others of like mind without the government listening in.
Even if you trust the current American government, as I am still largely
inclined to, there is a kind of corrupting power in the ability to create
public policy in secret while assuring that the public will have little
secrecy of its own.

In its secrecy and technological might, the NSA already occupies a very
powerful position. And conveying to the Department of Justice what amounts
to licensing authority for all communications technology would give it a
control of information distribution rarely asserted over English-speaking
people since Oliver Cromwell's Star Chamber Proceedings.

Are there threats, foreign or domestic, which are sufficiently grave to
merit the conveyance of such vast legal and technological might?  And even
if the NSA and FBI may be trusted with such power today, will they always
be trustworthy? Will we be able to do anything about it if they aren't?

Senator Frank Church said of NSA technology in 1975 words which are more
urgent today:

"That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people
and no American would have any privacy left. There would be no place to
hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, the technological capacity
that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to
impose total tyranny. There would be no way to fight back, because the most
careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no
matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to
know. Such is the capacity of this technology."

San Francisco, California
May, 1992

Reprinted from Communications of the ACM, June 1992 
by permission of the author


                           from THE TAO TE CHIP
                           by Jeffrey Sorrenson
               (with help from Steven Mitchell and Lao Tzu)


When users see one GUI as beautiful,
other user interfaces become ugly.
When users see some programs as winners,
other programs become lossage.

Pointers and NULLs reference each other.
High level and assembler depend on each other.
Double and float cast to each other.
High-endian and low-endian define each other.
While and until follow each other.

Therefore the Guru 
programs without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Warnings arise and he lets them come;
processes are swapped and he lets them go.
He has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When his work is done, he deletes it.
That is why it lasts forever.


If a system is administered wisely,
its users will be content.
They enjoy hacking their code
and don't waste time implementing
labor-saving shell scripts.
Since they dearly love their accounts,
they aren't interested in other machines.
There may be telnet, rlogin, and ftp,
but these don't access any hosts.
There may be an arsenal of cracks and malware,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy reading their mail,
take pleasure in being with their newsgroups,
spend weekends working at their terminals,
delight in the doings at the site.
And even though the next system is so close
that users can hear its key clicks and biff beeps,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.


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