Zimmermann Legal Defense



    Welcome to the ZLDF!

    Welcome to the story of the Zimmermann Legal Defense Fund (ZLDF), the result of the US government’s campaign of threats of indictment against , the author of the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) software package. The case is now , but these pages will remain as historical reference and a reminder that the fight for “cyber-rights” isn’t yet close to being over. We are doomed to repeat that which we forget.

    Fighting the US Government isn’t a cheap undertaking.

    required an infrastructure (and a

    all its own. People all over the world have contributed time and money to the ZLDF. This page will describe what happened, how the US government dropped its campaign of tilting at windmills, and how we celebrated the news.

    Celebrating the End

    On Thursday 11 January 1996 the U.S. government ended its three-year campaign of intimidation (err, “investigation”) against “Phil Zimmermann”, against the entire cryptography community, and against your comfort level regarding private digital conversations. I heard the

    first from Phil Dubois (thumbnail at right).

    We got together to celebrate in , at Sushi Hamako, near the venerable

    district. From left to right you see lead ZLDF attorney Phil Dubois (pronounced “dew bwah”), defendant-to-have-been Phil Zimmermann (also known as PRZ, pronounced “pee are zee”), me, and local ZLDF attorney Curt Karnow. (It’s confusing talking about “Phil” in any kind of group except a one-on-one with one of the Phils, hence the nicknames.) Dave del Torto was unable to make it to dinner. (There are close-up photos of us at this event and more in the .)

    I’ve been very lucky to have struck up an acquantance with PRZ. He’s a fascinating person, conversant in many other fields than the plight of persons under persecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. If you meet PRZ at a conference, consider asking him about the Nuclear Freeze movement, or books, or movies, or food, or….

    I’ve also been lucky to have an on-going relationship with Dubois, who has been allowed by my cat

    to sleep in the guest room. Dubois is a multi-faceted person as well. (It’s perhaps another sadness in this whole silly tragi-comedy put on by my government that we’ve come to see PRZ and Dubois as caricatures of themselves.) Dubois is a rather quiet kind of guy, unless he’s wearing his cowboy hat. He’s been convinced, with the help of some gentle cajoling, to provide two digital images of himself. Doesn’t your computer need a new image on its desktop?

    The ZLDF Cast of Characters


    that prepared for arguing PRZ’s defense worked long hours, some of the work done pro bono. (The ZLDF was created to cover the for-pay legal costs.) The defense team was scattered across the country, but stayed in touch via telephone and electronic mail. The attorneys were located in New York City (Eben Moglen), Washington, D.C. (Ken Bass), Denver, Colorado (Phil and Phil), and in the San Francisco Bay Area (Curt Karnow and Joe Burton). (I always forget where Tom Nolan lived.) The ZLDF supporters were even more far-flung, with moral and financial support coming in from around the globe.

    In the Beginning

    While the government of Tibet in exile uses PGP to cope with the military conquest of the People’s Republic of China, Zimmermann has been subject to smaller, but not altogether dissimilar mental war of attrition with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which for years now has threatend to indict and jail Philip for handing PGP to someone who then turned around and exported it to the evil peoples everywhere (that is to say, persons who aren’t American, Canadian, or holders of U.S. Permanent Residency “Green Cards”).

    Sound like a mixture of a Kafka novel and a Solzhenitsyn description of the methods of the Gulag administration? It’s very hard to describe the actual facts of Philip’s trek through the mental landscape of officials who tilt at windmills they imagine before them, from FBI Director Freeh onwards and outwards. (Fight Freeh’s flights of fancy – and his subsequent plans before the legislature for a wiretapping frenzy and other threats to the freedom of electronic communications by working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.)

    First it was the threat of Communism, now (apparently) it’s the threat of unconstrained private conversation. The scorecard is confusing, but the cause isn’t. For helping the down-trodden oppressed peoples of the world, by providing them a crutch to base their desires for freedom and self-determination, Zimmermann is being annoyed, harrassed, and bodily threatened (with years of jail time).

    This is an introduction to the strange and twisted tale of Philip R. Zimmermann (PRZ), Pretty Good Privacy, and Bill Keane, the United States Attorney (of San Jose, California). You’ll be thrown into a warped sphere of perceptions, a bizarre combination of Kafka and Burroughs with a bit of Through the Looking GlassĀ  thrown in for good measure. Please try to keep in mind that 2+2=5 and Freedom is Slavery. (Here’s the

    you’ll meet on our journey through the case files.)

    The U.S. government had engaged in a campaign of intimidation against Philip R. Zimmermann (PRZ), the author of the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) software package. The government had been threatening to indict PRZ for “exporting munitions” – the PGP software – even though the undisputed facts of the case include

    The “export” was done without PRZ’s knowledge, by an acquaintance of his.

    A detailed description of the encryption algorithm used was published in Scientific American and distributed world-wide years earlier. Everything required to write encryption software like PGP is publicly available in any country on earth.

    The designers of key components aren’t U.S. citizens. (In fact, the U.S. government holds that it’s unlawful export for you, a member of the trusted class of U.S. citizen, to import source code for a foreign encryption algoritm (such as the Swiss IDEA algorithm), put a user interface around it, and send it back to Switzerland.) Hard to believe, isn’t it?

    It’s not unlawful export to print the source code of cryptographic programs and ship it overseas, because printed items are protected by the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment free speech clause. (One must ask the government for permission to send out such books, by requesting a Commodity Juridistiction Request, or CJR. Cryptography author Bruce Schnier has received favorable CJR rulings on his book.) Did Franz Kafka write U.S. policy? Very likely.

    Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead!

    In an apparent homage to the old “Saturday Night Live” skit (whereby the status of Generalissimo Francisco Franco was repeatedly updated as “still dead”), the United States government continues to almost indict Philip Zimmerman for the actions of other people not under Philip’s control over a decade ago.

    (Ahhh, makes me proud to be an American.)

    Indicting Philip now would be an act of cruel futility, although not too foolish an act in these times of frenzied panic in our techno-ignorant executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

    Only the IRS marches forward in their computerization plans, and they can’t even keep track of a small Individual Retirement Account disbursement to me. (Be afraid, be very afraid.)

    This ridiculous state of affairs, coupled with the most gracious decision of Philip Zimmermann’s legal defense team to allow me to provide an up-to-date resource to their efforts, which you’ll find in the ZLDF resources on the net section.

    Netsurfer has its say


    Or is that the other way around?

    There is usually a howl of laughter or outrage when cryptographers or privacy advocates mention that cryptography is considered a “munition” by the 1954 Munitions Control Act – just like nuclear missiles .

    What is often forgotten is that pivotal battles during World War II, such as the campaign against Rommel in North Africa, or the Battle of Midway, relied upon intelligence gleaned by breaking German and Japanese codes.

    In effect, cryptography played as important or perhaps even more important role compared with

    such plebian materiel as cannons or bombs.

    Although time has passed, export of cryptography is strictly regulatd.

    But at the same time, the Internet has no natural political boundaries.

    PGP, placed on the Net by an enthusiastic user, quickly spread to the rest of the world.

    The same happened to RSA Data Security’s RSAREF reference code library.

    The result is a federal criminal investigation of Philip Zimmermann.

    As the Internet community comes to grips with dealing with export control, World Wide Web and FTP sites

    are creating restrictions and posting advisories to discourage downloading non-Americans.

    More dramatic approaches include an effort to excise DES encryption out of the Kerberos network security system.

    This bare bones system would then be exportable and an encryption engine can be reinstalled abroad.

    The software industry is acutely aware of the cost of export control, and is active in lobbying for its reduction or elimination.

    The recent quick breaking of the 40-bit key version of RC4 used for exportable versions of software has simply served to emphasize the limitations of existing export controls.

    Interestingly enough, although computer code cannot be legally exported, source code in printed form within a book does not seem to face the same restrictions.

    Books containing sample DES implementations are widely available.

    Schneier’s “Applied Cryptography” book can be exported, but not the diskette containing the same source code as is listed in the book.

    One might wonder whether this is a face-saving compromise along the lines of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

    Have you found errors nontrivial or marginal, factual, analytical and illogical, arithmetical, temporal, or even typographical? Please let me know; drop me . Thanks!









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