Please adjust the frame on the left to read the following story to avoid using the stroll bars at the bottom.

"The government is capable of using its *
sophisticated electronic resources to   *
search for keywords or specific names in*
the entire volume of e-mail that tra-   *
verses the nation's telephone lines and *
airwaves each day."                     *
"Encryption is the great threat to the  *
government's ability to read our e-mail,*
and the government knows it."           *
The Future of Freedom Foundation * Jun/95

The BIRCH BARK BBS / 414-242-5070
* The Future of Freedom Foundation * Jun/95 *

Freedom Through Encryption
by Sheldon Richman

When the history of the modern struggle for liberty is written,
Philip Zimmermann will be celebrated as a true hero. To understand
why, we must explore the issue of privacy in the information age.
It is a story that should the thrill the heart of every lover of

The government has always been able to read our mail. After all, it
controls the postal service. But reading everyone's mail would be
a big job. The government can target a few individuals and steam
open their mail. But it would be impractical for the government to
routinely scan everyone's mail to see what the American people are
up to. The volume is too great. Zimmermann says the government
would have to hire half the population to read the mail of the
other half. 

That is not the case with electronic mail (e-mail). It now would be
cheap and easy for the government to monitor virtually every e-mail
user. And as time goes on, that will include most, if not all, of
us. The government is capable of using its sophisticated electronic
resources to search for keywords or specific names in the entire
volume of e-mail that traverses the nation's telephone lines and
airwaves each day. No one's messages would be safe from the
government's prying eyes, unless those messages are put into a
secret code, or encrypted. 

Encryption is the great threat to the government's ability to read
our e-mail, and the government knows it. So it does not want the
American people to be able to encrypt their electronic
communications securely. It wants to have the key to everyone's
encryption code just in case it needs to sneak a look. That is
where the infamous Clipper Chip comes in. The Clinton
administration floated the idea of requiring the computer industry
to install a special chip in its products that would, in effect,
give the government the key. The outcry was deafening from the
growing number of people concerned about privacy in the computer
age. The government tried to soothe them by promising that it would
not be able to use the key without a warrant. Computer buffs were
not pacified.

Because of the resistance to Clipper, the Clinton administration
decided to go the volunteer route. It is urging the industry to
adopt the Clipper standard as a matter of good citizenship.
Resistance continues. But the voluntary nature of the Clinton
policy is deceptive. If the government tells computer makers that
they must use Clipper if they want to sell their products to the
government, the companies will be strongly influenced to install
Clipper. None of them will want to foreclose the opportunity to be
a government supplier.

Thus it seems that no one will be able to prevent government
snoopers from reading his electronic communications. That's where
Philip Zimmermann comes in.

Zimmermann is offended by what the government is up to. A former
antinuclear- weapons activist and self-described libertarian, he
decided to make a preemptive strike at the government's ability to
snoop. Using published encryption and mathematical principles, he
wrote a program that brings virtually fail-safe encryption to
everyone. Modestly, he calls it Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). Despite
the name, word has it that the government is stymied, it cannot
crack the code. Experts in the field believe the government does
not have the computing power it would take to decrypt mail
processed by PGP. Thanks to Zimmermann, the government is locked

Zimmermann next struck a big blow for liberty: he started giving
the program away to American citizens. He calls PGP political
software and urges everyone to encrypt their e-mail in solidarity
against the government. His rationale is that if everyone would
encrypt everything, no one person's encryption would be
conspicuous. It is the safety-in-numbers principle.
The next chapter in this story begins to make things dicey for
Zimmermann. Someone, not Zimmermann, posted PGP on a computer
bulletin board in the United States that is linked to the Internet,
an international network of computer networks. Once something is on
the Internet, people from all over the world can receive (download)
it. People outside the United States have been downloading PGP, and
it is becoming (or has already become) the world's standard for

The government, which was already unhappy about PGP, blew a fuse
when the program got onto the Net. National-security officials
claim that since foreigners can download PGP, it has been exported.
It is illegal to export encryption software without a government
license. The law classifies such software as munitions. So
Zimmermann could face a federal indictment and more than ten years
in prison if he is convicted. Zimmermann's response is that he did
not put the program on the Internet and that he never sold it.
The Zimmermann case shows that the law is breaking down under the
advance of technology. It is apparently illegal for someone
traveling abroad to give someone else a copy of PGP. But how would
the authorities know? Will they begin looking for the software in
every traveler's luggage and laptop computer?

The ban on the export of cryptography hurts American software firms
because they are reluctant to make products they cannot export.
Moreover, foreign buyers will be reluctant to buy American
computers to which the U.S. government holds a key. American
businessmen working in foreign countries are now at a disadvantage
because their e-mail back home can be read by foreign governments
seeking to help their own domestic firms. Zimmermann says that
Disney was hampered when it was negotiating over EuroDisney in
France because the French government read its unencrypted e-mail
back to the United States and learned the company's negotiating

Disney's problem shows that the U.S. government's interference with
cryptography can harm anyone, not just political activists or tax
evaders. A global economy in the computer age demands secure
encryption, especially from the world's governments. 
What can be done about this? The law banning export of cryptography
should be repealed forthwith. Continuation of the ban is silly. PGP
is based on published principles. Foreigners can get that
information in a library. The Internet has no national boundaries.
It embodies the classical-liberal ideal of the free movement of
goods and ideas. It is the electronic equivalent of the pre-World
War I days when people could travel the world without passports.
The Internet might have its origins in the U.S. military (it would
have come into existence eventually anyway). But today it is an
instance of the spontaneous, decentralized free market that no one
person or group can control. Government efforts to stifle
cryptography are a last, desperate attempt to maintain a grip on
something that is intrinsically uncontrollable. The irony is that
the more the government tries to keep the technology from running
away, the greater the resistance and the more creative the
rebellion. The government cannot win this fight. But it can harass
decent people and degrade our well-being in its losing effort.
The authorities say that they have to have some means of control
because the world is plagued by criminals and terrorists. As
Zimmermann suggests, that is like saying that all physical mail
should have to be on postcards or else the bad guys will seal their
secrets in envelopes. No halfway intelligent person would accept
that argument. In testimony before a congressional subcommittee
last year, Zimmermann said:

When making public-policy decisions about new technologies for the
government, I think one should ask oneself which technologies would
best strengthen the hand of a police state. Then, do not allow the
government to deploy those technologies.

When Russia was in the throes of a coup a few years ago, Zimmermann
received a thank-you note from freedom fighters stating that if
Russia falls into dictatorship, PGP will help keep the forces of
liberty alive. Zimmermann is proud of that note. As he puts it,
people in the former communist countries know the dangers of
government, and they wonder why the people of the West do not.
Philip Zimmermann has taken a big risk for freedom by supplying the
electronic envelope that will keep the government's eyes off our
communications. Let us hope he is not martyred for his valiant
service. We should take his advice and encrypt in solidarity. And
think of Philip Zimmermann when you do. The world needs more people
like him. 

Mr. Richman is senior editor at the Cato Institute in Washington,
D.C., and the author of Separating School & State: How to Liberate
America's Families, published by The Future of Freedom Foundation.

                 * The Future of Freedom Foundation *
                  11350 Random Hills Road, Suite 800
                          Fairfax, VA 22030
                         Tel. (703) 934-6101
                         Fax: (703) 803-1480 

Dear Friend of Freedom:

	We invite you to subscribe to our monthly publication, 
Freedom Daily ($15 per year; $20 foreign), and to become a financial 
supporter of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

	Our mission is to present an uncompromising moral, philosophical, 
and economic case for the libertarian philosophy. In the five years we 
have been publishing our essays, no one has ever found any compromise of 
libertarian principles. Whatever the issue the welfare state; the regulated 
economy; gun control; the CIA; Waco; Randy Weaver; health care; public 
schooling; the drug war; the Persian Gulf War; trade restrictions; immigra-
tion controls; civil liberties; Social Security we hit hard and we do not 
pull our punches. We have never advocated "reform." When it comes to 
advancing liberty, we always talk in terms of abolishing, ending, 
eliminating, and repealing.

	We hope you will subscribe to Freedom Daily and become a financial 
contributor to The Future of Freedom Foundation.  And we believe that you 
would find our books and tapes highly rewarding. We are certain that you 
will not find another foundation that applies libertarian principles in 
such a consistent, uncompromising, and hard-hitting way.

				Yours for liberty,

				Jacob G. Hornberger 
				Founder and President
				The Future of Freedom Foundation