August 22, 1995 press release from David Sobel, Legal Counsel for CPSR, on the NSA's response to CPSR's request under the Freedom of Information Act
NSA Seeks Delay in Clipper Case
The National Security Agency (NSA) has asked a federal court
for a one-year delay in a lawsuit challenging the secrecy of the
government's "Clipper Chip" encryption proposal. The suit was
filed by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)
on May 28 and seeks the disclosure of all information concerning
the controversial plan.
In an affidavit submitted to the United States District Court
for the District of Columbia on August 9, NSA Director of Policy
Michael A. Smith states that
NSA's search for records responsive to [CPSR's] request
is under way, but is not yet complete. Because the
Clipper Chip program is a significant one involving the
participation of organizations in four of NSA's five
Directorates and the Director's staff, the volume of
responsive documents is likely to be quite large.
Moreover, because the Clipper Chip program is highly
complex and technical and is, in substantial part,
classified for national security purposes, the review
process cannot be accomplished quickly.
CPSR called for the disclosure of all relevant information
and full public debate on the proposal on April 16, the day it was
announced. While NSA has insisted from the outset that the
"Skipjack" encryption algorithm, which underlies the Clipper
proposal, must remain secret, the Smith affidavit contains the
first suggestion that the entire federal program is classified "in
substantial part." In the interest of obtaining timely judicial
review of the agency's broad classification claim, CPSR intends to
oppose NSA's request for delay in the court proceedings.
In another case involving government cryptography policy,
CPSR has challenged NSA's classification of information concerning
the development of the Digital Signature Standard (DSS). The
court is currently considering the issue and a decision is
David L. Sobel
Former CPSR Legal Counsel
CPSR is a national public-interest alliance of computer industry professionals dedicated to examining the impact of technology on society. CPSR has chapters throughout the world and its office in Palo Alto, California. For additional information on CPSR, call (650) 322-3778 or e-mail cpsr @ cpsr.org .