ACCESSION NUMBER:278509 FILE ID:ECO512 DATE:04/16/93 TITLE:CLINTON ANNOUNCES NEW SYSTEM TO PROTECT COMMUNICATIONS (04/16/93) TEXT:*93041612.ECO ECCHIPLD SCIENCE /rd CLINTON ANNOUNCES NEW SYSTEM TO PROTECT COMMUNICATIONS (Uses tiny chip to encrypt transmissions) (650) By Jim Fuller USIA Science Writer Washington -- President Clinton has announced a plan for use of a new technology to scramble telephone and computer transmissions to protect privacy while still allowing law enforcement agencies to intercept the phone conversations of criminals. A White House statement released April 16 said that the new initiative is based on a state-of-the-art microcircuit called the "Clipper Chip" developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The chip can be installed in relatively inexpensive encryption devices that can be attached to an ordinary telephone or computer to scramble transmissions, preventing access by unauthorized eavesdroppers. The new encryption chip is more powerful and provides more security than many other encryption products currently in use. The new technology will be offered to private industry as part of a voluntary program. At the same time, the president has directed the Secretary of Commerce to develop standards that will allow all federal agencies to purchase and use the technology. 1 American Telephone and Telegraph has announced that it will incorporate the new standard into its products. A spokesman said that the Clipper Chip would enable all commercially available AT&T voice encryption products to be compatible with each other. The White House statement said that, under the new plan, export licenses will be granted on a case-by-case basis for U.S. companies that want to use the devices to secure their communications abroad. "The Clipper Chip is designed to protect U.S. business communications against economic espionage, and will be used by government agencies to protect sensitive information, including defense and intelligence-related information," said Raymond Kammer, acting director of NIST. "It can also be used to protect the privacy of personal phone conversations." At the same time, he said, the technology preserves the ability of law enforcement agencies to lawfully intercept the phone conversations of criminals, terrorists or drug dealers. According to Kammer, the current problem is that several different encryption devices are in use to protect business communications from eavesdroppers. But these systems also foil traditional means of wiretapping used by law enforcement agencies. It thus becomes more difficult for these agencies to track down criminals or others who can use these encryption devices. Under the proposed new system, each device containing the Clipper Chip would have two unique numbers, or "keys," needed by authorized government agencies to decode the transmissions. Manufacturers of the devices would send the two numbers for each unit to a data base that would be established by the U.S. Attorney General. Only properly authorized government officials would get access to the keys. The administration emphasized that authorities would never use the new invention to wiretap without a proper court order. "The Clipper Chip technology provides law enforcement with no new authorities to access the content of the private conversations of Americans," the White House statement said. The Clipper Chip is currently being manufactured by only one company, Mykotronx of Torrance, California. However, it is expected that other firms will be licensed to manufacture the chip in the future. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the new chips, the White House said the Attorney General will soon purchase several thousand of the devices. In addition, experts from outside the government will be offered access to the confidential details of the chip's encryption algorithm to assess its capabilities and report their findings. The president has also ordered the Commerce Department to conduct a broad review that will address the need to use voice or data encryption for business purposes, the possibility of permitting increased exports of encryption technology, and the ability of government officials to access phone calls and data under existing legal authority. The review is expected to result in a new comprehensive policy on encryption. NNNN .