Challenging the Secrecy of the Clipper Chip

EPIC's Challenge to the Secrecy of the Clipper Initiative

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a federal court brief challenging the "national security" classification of information concerning the "Clipper Chip" encryption system and the underlying SKIPJACK algorithm. The brief was filed in opposition to the National Security Agency's attempt to withhold the data from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

Urging disclosure of the disputed information, EPIC argues that:

1) Clipper's technical details have been withheld for *law enforcement* reasons, not "national security" reasons. As such, the information is not properly classified;

2) The security of the Clipper encryption system does not require the secrecy of the SKIPJACK algorithm or other technical details;

3) Disclosure of the withheld information will not (as NSA claims) constitute a violation of U.S. export control laws; and

4) The withheld information was part of the government's decision-making process that culminated in the adoption of FIPS 185, the "Escrowed Encryption Standard."

The brief was filed in a FOIA case initiated on behalf of EPIC's co-sponsoring organization, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, in May 1993. NSA was granted a delay of more than two years in order to process relevant documents. The agency recently moved for summary judgment in the case, arguing (among other things) that the disputed information is properly classified.

To view the full text of the EPIC brief, click here.

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