White House Annoucement of the Clipper Initiative

This is the original public announcement by the White House of the Clipper initiative.

Compare this with the classified Presidential directive of the previous day, which authorized the Clipper program.


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release	   April 16, 1993


The President today announced a new initiative that will bring the
Federal Government together with industry in a voluntary program to
improve the security and privacy of telephone communications while
meeting the legitimate needs of law enforcement.

The initiative will involve the creation of new products to accelerate
the development and use of advanced and secure telecommunications
networks and wireless communications links.

For too long there has been little or no dialogue between our private
sector and the law enforcement community to resolve the tension
between economic vitality and the real challenges of protecting
Americans. Rather than use technology to accommodate the sometimes
competing interests of economic growth, privacy and law enforcement,
previous policies have pitted government against industry and the
rights of privacy against law enforcement.

Sophisticated encryption technology has been used for years to protect
electronic funds transfer.  It is now being used to protect electronic
mail and computer files. While encryption technology can help
Americans protect business secrets and the unauthorized release of
personal information, it also can be used by terrorists, drug dealers,
and other criminals.

A state-of-the-art microcircuit called the "Clipper Chip" has
been developed by government engineers. The chip represents a new
approach to encryption technology. It can be used in new, relatively
inexpensive encryption devices that can be attached to an ordinary
telephone. It scrambles telephone communications using an encryption
algorithm that is more powerful than many in commercial use today.

This new technology will help companies protect proprietary
information, protect the privacy of personal phone conversations and
prevent unauthorized release of data transmitted electronically.  At
the same time this technology preserves the ability of federal, state
and local law enforcement agencies to intercept lawfully the phone
conversations of criminals.

A "key-escrow" system will be established to ensure that the "Clipper
Chip" is used to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans. Each
device containing the chip will have two unique "keys," numbers that
will be needed by authorized government agencies to decode messages
encoded by the device. When the device is manufactured, the two keys
will be deposited separately in two "key-escrow" data bases that will
be established by the Attorney General.  Access to these keys will be
limited to government officials with legal authorization to conduct a

The "Clipper Chip" technology provides law enforcement with no new
authorities to access the content of the private conversations of

To demonstrate the effectiveness of this new technology, the Attorney
General will soon purchase several thousand of the new devices. In
addition, respected experts from outside the government will be
offered access to the confidential details of the algorithm to assess
its capabilities and publicly report their findings.  The chip is an
important step in addressing the problem of encryption's dual-edge
sword: encryption helps to protect the privacy of individuals and
industry, but it also can shield criminals and terrorists. We need the
"Clipper Chip" and other approaches that can both provide law-abiding
citizens with access to the encryption they need and prevent criminals
from using it to hide their illegal activities. In order to assess
technology trends and explore new approaches (like the key-escrow
system), the President has directed government agencies to develop a
comprehensive policy on encryption that accommodates:

the privacy of our citizens, including the need to employ voice or
data encryption for business purposes;

the ability of authorized officials to access telephone calls and
data, under proper court or other legal order, when necessary to
protect our citizens;

the effective and timely use of the most modern technology to build
the National Information Infrastructure needed to promote economic
growth and the competitiveness of American industry in the global
marketplace; and

the need of U.S. companies to manufacture and export high technology

The President has directed early and frequent consultations with
affected industries, the Congress and groups that advocate the privacy
rights of individuals as policy options are developed.

The Administration is committed to working with the private sector to
spur the development of a National Information Infrastructure which
will use new telecommunications and computer technologies to give
Americans unprecedented access to information. This infrastructure of
high-speed networks ("information superhighways") will transmit video,
images, HDTV programming, and huge data files as easily as today's
telephone system transmits voice.

Since encryption technology will play an increasingly important role
in that infrastructure, the Federal Government must act quickly to
develop consistent, comprehensive policies regarding its use. The
Administration is committed to policies that protect all Americans'
right to privacy while also protecting them from those who break the

Further information is provided in an accompanying fact sheet. The
provisions of the President's directive to acquire the new
encryption technology are also available. For additional details, call
Mat Heyman, National Institute of Standards and Technology, (301)



Q: Does this approach expand the authority of government agencies to
listen in on phone conversations?

A: No. "Clipper Chip" technology provides law enforcement with no new
authorities to access the content of the private conversations of

Q: Suppose a law enforcement agency is conducting a wiretap on a drug
smuggling ring and intercepts a conversation encrypted using the
device.  What would they have to do to decipher the message?

A: They would have to obtain legal authorization, normally a court
order, to do the wiretap in the first place. They would then present
documentation of this authorization to the two entities responsible
for safeguarding the keys and obtain the keys for the device being
used by the drug smugglers. The key is split into two parts, which are
stored separately in order to ensure the security of the key escrow

Q: Who will run the key-escrow data banks?

A: The two key-escrow data banks will be run by two independent
entities. At this point, the Department of Justice and the
Administration have yet to determine which agencies will oversee the
key-escrow data banks.

Q: How strong is the security in the device? How can I be sure how
strong the security is?

A: This system is more secure than many other voice encryption systems
readily available today. While the algorithm will remain classified to
protect the security of the key escrow system, we are willing to
invite an independent panel of cryptography experts to evaluate the
algorithm to assure all potential users that there are no unrecognized

Q: Whose decision was it to propose this product?

A: The National Security Council, the Justice Department, the Commerce
Department, and other key agencies were involved in this decision This
approach has been endorsed by the President, the Vice President, and
appropriate Cabinet officials.

Q: Who was consulted? The Congress? Industry?

A: We have on-going discussions with Congress and industry on
encryption issues, and expect those discussions to intensify as we
carry out our review of encryption policy. We have briefed members of
Congress and industry leaders on the decisions related to this

Q: Will the government provide the hardware to manufacturers?

A: The government designed and developed the key access encryption
microcircuits, but it is not providing the microcircuits to product
manufacturers. Product manufacturers can acquire the microcircuits
from the chip manufacturer that produces them.

Q: Who provides the "Clipper Chip"?

A: Mykotronx programs it at their facility in Torrance, California,
and will sell the chip to encryption device manufacturers. The
programming function could be licensed to other vendors in the future.

Q: How do I buy one of these encryption devices?

A: We expect several manufacturers to consider incorporating the
"Clipper Chip" into their devices.

Q: If the Administration were unable to find a technological solution
like the one proposed, would the Administration be willing to use
legal remedies to restrict powerful encryption devices?

A: This is a fundamental policy question which will be considered
during the broad policy review. The key escrow mechanism will provide
Americans with an encryption product that is more secure, more
convenient, and less expensive than others readily available today,
but it is just one piece of what must be the comprehensive approach to
encryption technology, which the Administration is developing.

The Administration is not saying, "since encryption threatens the
public safety and effective law enforcement, we will prohibit it
outright" (as some countries have effectively done); nor is the
U.S. saying that "every Amen can, as a matter of right, is entitled to
an unbreakable commercial encryp tion product." There is a false
"tension" created in the assessment that this issue is an either-or"
proposition. Rather, both concerns can be, and in fact are,
harmoniously balanced through a reasoned, balanced approach such as is
proposed with the "Clipper Chip" and similar encryption techniques.

Q: What does this decision indicate about how the Clinton
Administration's policy toward encryption will differ from that of the
Bush Administration?

A: It indicates that we understand the importance of encryption
technology in telecommunications and computing and are committed to
working with industry and public-interest groups to find innovative
ways to protect Americans' privacy, help businesses to compete, and
ensure that law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to fight
crime and terrorism.

Q: Will the devices be exportable? Will other devices that use the
government hardware?

A: Voice encryption devices are subject to export control
requirements. Case-by-case review for each export is required to
ensure appropriate use of these devices. The same is true for other
encryption devices. One of the attractions of this technology is the
protection it can give to U.S. companies operating at home and
abroad. With this in mind, we expect export licenses will be granted
on a case-by-case basis for U.S.  companies seeking to use these
devices to secure their own communications abroad. We plan to review
the possibility of permitting wider exportability of these products.

Hal Abelson (hal@mit.edu)
Mike Fischer (mfischer@mit.edu)
Joanne Costello (joanne@mit.edu)

Last modified: October 27 1997, 11:51 PM