700 Club Report on Clipper

From: mlshew@netcom.com (Mark Shewmaker)

On October 20, 1993, the 700 Club gave a report on the Clipper chip. The report was fantastic. If you want to convince people why the chip is so very dangerous, and why cryptographic freedoms are so important, I recommend that you take a good look at this.

Most people don't take to overly technical explanations of things, at least for the first round of explanations. This is an excellent model of starter explanation for such people.

I've included a transcript of the show's Clipper segments.

Notice one important thing: The report is not overtly religious in tone. It does not need to be. Encryption and privacy issues cut across many political and religious lines. There is no need to alienate the people you are trying to convince by insulting their group affiliations.

Notes on the transcript: It includes only the Clipper-chip segments. The transcript is in three sections. The first is from the intro to the show where they show clips of future segments of that days show, the second is the pre-commercial "Next: The Clipper chip, here on the 700 Club", and the last is the actual report.

All typos and inaccuracies are mine. The editing I did to the report is: (1) remove "uh"'s (2) try to add returns in order to put the speech's format into some semblance of paragraph form for easier reading, and (3) change one case of two people talking simultaneously (at the end) to one person saying a few words, followed by the other saying a few words.

People in the report: Ben Kinchlow and Terry Meeuwsen are the hosts, who talk about the stories between themselves, and Julia Zaher is the reporter for the story. She speaks both in a voiceover to the report, and in the report, interviewing Jerry Berman, Lynn McNulty, Lance Hoffman, and of course Dorothy Denning.

By the way, they showed the Clipper chip itself! Or, at least they showed something they claimed to be the Clipper chip. Unfortunately, there was no close-up, just the chip in someone's hand, with the chip taking about a sixteenth of the screen. It looked like a 28 pin PLCC package, with the cheaper tin plated leads. Odd that there are so few pins.

Here's the transcript:

[The following was clipped from the intros to that day's topics]

Ben Kinchlow:
We've also got a word of caution for you because very soon, if you're familiar with this song: _Every_Move_You_Make,_Every_Step_You_Take: The federal government could be watching you!
Jerry Berrman:
We are going to conduct our lives in electronic media: Order our movies, order our television shows, decide what schools we send our children to, what programs we want to, what products we want to buy, what magazines we want downloaded into our homes.
Ben Kinchlow:
And if you're a big fan of large government, this tiny computer chip could now give the government, Big Brother, instant access to every detail of your private life.
And we'll have details of that still to come.
Terry Meeuwsen:

[The following is the pre-commercial message.]

Ben Kinchlow:
Well coming up next... The clipper computer chip.
It could be a key to invading your privacy.
We'll have that for you as the 700 club continues.

[The following is the actual report.]

Terry Meeuwsen:
The famous line from the book _1984_ was "Big Brother is watching you", and in the future, that could prove to be true.
How would Big Brother watch you?
What method would he use?
Some privacy experts fear the means could be a computer chip. CBN News correspondent Julia Zaher brings us the story from Washington.
Julia Zaher: (voiceover)
The way we communicate is changing rapidly. It won't be long before our telephone, our computer, and perhaps even our television will all be one device.
Jerry Berman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says we'll use that device to conduct most of our daily business, our personal business; and for some of us, our professional business.
Jerry Berrman:
We are going to conduct our lives in electronic media: Order our movies, order our television shows, decide what schools we send our children to, what programs we want, what products we want to buy, what magazines we want downloaded into our homes.
Julia Zaher: (voiceover)
Berman and others in the communications and computer industries welcome the innovative technology, but they also worry that a new danger is threatening the privacy of every American. The danger is that a computerized record of nearly all of our activities will be constantly accumulating. That record could show virtually every move we make, from what we buy, to how much money we make, to what political causes we support.
To protect our privacy, Berman and others believes, more people will start doing what the government and the military have done for decades: Add scrambling devices to telephones and computers, to keep outsiders from tapping into important information and conversations. That process of coding and decoding information is called encryption.
Jerry Berrman:
Today we don't think of encrypting our communications, but it will be done with a flick of a button.
Julia Zaher: (voiceover)
Already, AT&T makes a scrambling device for telephones. Many businesses, especially those with overseas offices, use these scrambling devices routinely.
They also take advantage of the almost 300 computer software programs available to code and decode computer programs and electronic mail.
The Clinton administration has taken a great interest in this information revolution, and the government has invented its own scrambling device.
Lynn McNulty:
This is one of the clipper chips. The chip itself costs about twenty-five dollars.
Julia Zaher: (voiceover)
The new invention is known as the Clipper chip. The chip is supposed to provide the strongest possible method of coding phone, FAX, and computer transmissions to prevent unwanted eavesdropping.
The chip is supposed to be on the market soon.
Lynn McNulty is with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, known as NIST for short.
President Clinton has commissioned NIST to help make the Clipper chip the highest standard for scrambling information. The White House wants to see more businesses and individuals use the Clipper chip to protect their communications once it's on the market.
The reportedly unbreakable scrambling code in the chip would be a big plus in the fight to keep information private.
But there's a catch.
Lynn McNulty:
A good part of the technical details of the, that underlie the standard will not be made public, which is a departure from the way we've done business in the past.
Julia Zaher: (voiceover)
The details of how Clipper works and the keys that can break the code are all being kept secret by the government.
That has nearly everyone in the computer and communications industries alarmed.
Lance Hoffman is a computer science and encryption coding and decoding expert.
Lance Hoffman:
The administration wants to control the whole process, and wants the government to control all the keys, is what it boils down to--that's the real problem.
Julia Zaher: (voiceover)
The government says it alone must hold the keys that can break Clipper's private scrambling code. That would mean that only government agencies could eavesdrop on computer and telephone transmissions. Private agencies, or individuals like private detectives couldn't do it.
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies say, instead of getting court orders for wiretaps, in the future they'll be routinely requesting codes that are scrambling computers and telephones.
Dorothy Denning is one of the five outside computer experts who had the chance to examine the Clipper chip and try to break its code.
Julia Zaher:
And what happened?
Dorothy Denning:
I failed. I didn't break it.
Julia Zaher:
There was no way you could break it?
Dorothy Denning:
There was no way I could break it.
Julia Zaher: (voiceover)
Denning is one of the very few people in the computer science field who sees no danger in the government holding the only keys that can break Clipper's code.
Dorothy Denning:
...And this initiative does not in any way to expand the government's authority to intercept communications.
Julia Zaher: (voiceover)
Denning also says Clipper's unbreakable code would make it more difficult for police or the FBI to do illegal wiretaps.
But Hoffman and many others disagree. They say that all of the secrecy about how clipper works, combined with the government alone holding the keys to break the code, would put the privacy of everyone using Clipper in jeopardy.
Hoffman says that while the chip is just one of many scrambling devices now, the government could eventually argue that everyone coding their information must use Clipper.
Lance Hoffman:
There's no reason they couldn't change their mind at a later point and say "well we tried it voluntari..." "We tried it as a voluntary measure, it doesn't work, so now it's going to be mandatory."
Julia Zaher: (voiceover)
Privacy advocates like Jerry Berman point out the government has been known to spy on citizens when it believes they hold dangerous political opinions.
Jerry Berrman:
There are good governments, there are bad governments. We've gone through abusive periods where we've had intelligence agencies chasing different political dissidents from the right and left around.
We worry about these things.
Julia Zaher: (reporting)
Computer coding and decoding standards may all seem irrelevant at this point, but they'll be important in the future to protect your privacy.
The government's Clipper chip is the most powerful coding and decoding device developed so far.
It hasn't been decided yet if Clipper will be the one national standard used to protect electronic privacy, but if it is, it could also pose the greatest threat, if those decoding keys, held by the government, fall into the wrong hands.
Julia Zaire, CBN News, Washington.
Ben Kinchlow:
And some of us would say that the wrong hands for them to fall into is the government! You know.
What your talking about here, essentially, is a giant superhighway. This is what the President, Vice-President Gore is recommending--that we have this super-highway, which on the surface is wonderful. It enables us all across the world to hook up and, you know, exchange information and communications with people, and that's a wonderful idea, and we need to take full advantage of what's going on in technology today: Marvelous things.
Like one of our cameramen is hooked up to something called Internet, where you can pull out files from the university of Tokyo, if you will.
I mean, it's a wonderful idea.
The problem is, when the government comes in and starts saying, "The only" I mean, everybody has this scrambling device, but the only people who can unscramble this device is the government.
But the government says that "we must have this" in order to track down criminals and terrorists.
The problem is, "criminals and terrorists" eventually become who the government says "criminals and terrorists" are.
And it will not be long before anybody who disagrees with the government, then, can become a criminal, and his whole activities can be tracked down.
And indeed what Orwell said about 1984 becomes a reality.
The Big Brother has the capacity to watch you, track you.
And by the way, interestingly enough, they do have, and have developed, a small uh...
Terry Meeuwsen:
Oh, I don't want to know this
Ben Kinchlow:
...tracking device that goes under...
Terry Meeuwsen:
Under the skin?
Ben Kinchlow:
...under your skin. In fact, they used some of it, according to one report I read, over in the war that just took place in the middle east, so they could track our men by satellite.
Terry Meeuwsen:
Well, you know [sigh], the bottom line is that it's the same thing we've been hearing day after day after day: More government control, more government control. So, we need to hear that...
Ben Kinchlow:
The operative word here being 'control.'
Terry Meeuwsen:
Ben Kinchlow:
Watch it.


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