Efforts to Ban Encryption in the 1990s
FBI Attempts to Outlaw Non-Escrowed Encryption
In the 1990s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation played a leading role in advocating the prohibition of encryption techniques that do not ensure law enforcement access to encrypted communications. A principal architect of both the Digital Telephony legislation and the Clipper Chip initiative, the Bureau worked closely with the National Security Agency to inhibit the development of truly secure and private communications systems. Documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act demonstrate conclusively that the Bureau believed that Clipper-type encryption must be mandated within the United States.
- Freeh Renews Call for Crypto Controls. The FBI Director told a Senate Committee that "non-recovery encryption will devastate our ability to fight crime and terrorism." His comments echoed similar remarks made following the downing of TWA Flight 800, which was caused by mechanical failure and not a terrorist act, contrary to what the FBI Director claimed at the time.
- California CEOs Critical of Feinstein. 26 High-tech CEOs wrote to Senator Feinstein on January 15 critical of Senator Feinstein's claims that the companies supported her proposed ban on non-escrow cryptography.
- Crypto Survey Finds Little Global Support for Restrictions. The Global Internet Liberty Campaign has released the first comprehensive review of cryptography policies around the world. "Cryptography and Liberty: An International Survey of Encryption Policy" finds that few countries restrict technologies for online privacy.
- The Clipper Papers - Full text of key policy documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act.
- Additional information on the FBI documents advocating a domestic ban on non-escrowed encryption (includes images of scanned documents).
- Speech by former federal prosecutor Andrew Grosso opposing mandatory key escrow.
- Excerpts from FBI Director Louis Freeh's Congressional testimony concerning cryptography, and the text of his address before the International Cryptography Institute on September 9, 1995.
- NSA document titled "Options to Address Encryption Effects on Law Enforcement." The second page of this document addresses FBI proposals to "regulate ... manufacturers of encryption devices available for use in the U.S."
- Cyberwire Dispatch, "Jacking in from the Narco-Terrorist Encryption Port," May 12, 1995.
- The 1996 DOJ draft bill to Congress to create a key recovery infrastructure. The bill also allows access to keys in many circumstances without a warrant and criminalizes the use of crypto in a crime.
- S. 974, the Anti-Electronic Racketeering Act of 1995.
- Senator Grassley's Floor Statement on S. 974.
- Brief EPIC overview of cryptography provisions of S. 974.
Share this page:
EPIC relies on support from individual donors to pursue our work.
Subscribe to the EPIC Alert
The EPIC Alert is a biweekly newsletter highlighting emerging privacy issues.
Privacy in the Modern Age