TUCoPS :: Crypto :: pgpfund.txt

Phil Zimmerman Defense Fund info. Phil Zimmerman is the author of the PGP

GILLMOR: Zimmermann fighting battle for privacy

By Dan Gillmor

Mercury News Computing Editor

PHILIP ZIMMERMANN wants to advance people's privacy in the digital age. In
my book that makes him someone to admired. Our government, sad to say,
thinks otherwise.

At a conference in Burlingame last week, Zimmermann accepted a Pioneer
Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and dryly observed, ``It's
kind of ironic to get an award for the very same thing I might be indicted

Zimmermann's well-deserved honor was for his work in encryption --
scrambling of electronic communications so prying eyes can't understand
them. More and more of our lives will end up on digital networks in coming
years, making encryption more vital for o ur privacy.

Why would you want to encrypt your e-mail if you had nothing to hide? For
the same reason you put your letters and checks in an envelope rather than
sending postcards.

Taking advantage of a technique called public-key encryption, Zimmermann
came up with software he called Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP. It's very
secure. Better yet, it's free.

It's also a weapon, says the United States government in a policy that
appears to have been written by some North Korean apparatchik and edited
by Monty Python.

PGP is good enough privacy to be listed as a ``munition'' by the feds, and
therefore falls under a law prohibiting export without a license. The
software was posted on the Internet, the worldwide network of computer
networks. According to his lawyer, Zimm ermann made it available to
friends because he wanted to ensure that Americans could protect their
privacy in an era when governments and others have increasingly good tools
for prying. He has no idea who ``exported'' the software. (When a product
exists  in a medium that ignores borders, what does ``export'' mean,

For two years a federal prosecutor in San Jose has been investigating
Zimmermann, a computer security consultant who lives and works in Boulder,
Colo. A grand jury under the prosecutor's direction soon may charge
Zimmermann with violating the arms-export  law.

U.S. News & World Report calls the government's handling of Zimmermann
Kafka-esque, a fitting description. The law is absurd when applied to
electronic communications. Federal officials themselves apparently broke
it with no penalty, and the government al lows you to export a book
containing strong encryption code, though not a diskette with the same

Meanwhile, in what looks from here like an abuse of power, the vast
resources of the United States government have been used to hound

Allowing everyday citizens to protect their privacy is a terrifying
concept to our government. The Clinton administration hasn't given up
trying to persuade people to adopt an encryption standard that allows the
government to unscramble all communications . They just don't get it. This
popcorn can't be put back in the kernel.

NOT only is this case a colossal waste of taxpayers' money, but the export
restrictions are only hurting American companies that want to sell
hardware and software overseas. Dumb and dumber.

Zimmermann's legal bills are already substantial, and will grow
outrageously if he is indicted. His friends have set up a defense fund.
Please contribute.

Send a check to Philip L. Dubois, Attorney Trust Account; 2305 Broadway;
Boulder, CO 80304; note on the check that it's for the Philip Zimmermann
Defense Fund. You can even send e-mail with your credit card number and
amount of donation to dubois@csn.org.

Of course, if you donate via e-mail, be sure to use PGP.


A Frequently Asked Questions about PGP is available from Mercury Center on
America Online (Keyword Mercury). Click on Business, then Computing, then
Computing Library. It also is available on the Internet:
http://www.prairienet.org/ ~jalicqui/pgpfaq.txt.

Write Dan Gillmor at the Mercury News, 750 Ridder Park Dr., San Jose,
Calif. 95190; call (408) 920-5016; fax (408) 920-5917. Better yet, send
him e-mail: dgillmor on Mercury Center or dgillmor@sjmercury.com on the

Published 4/02/95 in the San Jose Mercury News.

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