To the Editor,
For me, one of the most important events in my life happened March, 14, 1997, in Gaithersburg, Md., at an auditorium of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Many of those present had heard of me but never met me.
The event was a meeting of cryptographers from around the world and key governmental officials at which time initial discussions were to take place regarding the selection of an Advanced Encryption Standard for the United States.
The announced purpose of the AES was to aid in safeguarding governmental and private information in a standardized encrypted form.
NSA was to advise in the selection and perfection of the choice as a service. And, as it turned out the people were serviced later for sure.
The then current DES, Data Encryption Standard adopted in the 70’s, had been cracked through the use of civilian designed circuitry in 1997. The “cracker” was developed by a group under that auspices of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation based in San Francisco. There were many heros in the project including importantly the project manager and major benefactor John Gilmore. (Google should bring additional names.) With the growth of personal computer power, the demise of DES which had been generally predicted became a foregone reality.
The NSA crippled DES algorithm with its 64 bit key was susceptible to brute force which means trying all the keys. Of particular note to me was that very little of the encrypted text was required to verify a valid solution. Cryptographic strength should be measured as the rough amount of data necessary to confirm a break, and that should be considerable.
Already well-known as a doubter of government transparency, and for good reasons, on that day a few years ago I rose to comment. I introduced myself followed by a surprisingly loud gasp from the crowd.
As I predicted and for the technical reasons I have often explained then and later, the AES was ultimately done as a replay of former the old DES strategy. NSA’s goal to produce an algorithm that would seem absolutely incredible while being no trick for NSA with its billions of expenditures on computer power and almost countless employees to monitor its use, coming and going.
Good science precludes lying, playing politics with the truth, and compromising research and personal investigatory integrity. There are no greater needs than to respect civil rights, champion official transparency and responsibility, and witness to violations of those most basic standards of freedom that we hold most dear. Illusions to other are travesties with possible frauds as the real reasons. We the people have a say in demanding fidelity to our best of our free futures.
As a young idealistic man, Richard Snowden has refused to be a “good ole boy” and subvert himself. Any real enemy’s first destructive orders of business would be to attack privacy, deny free expression, and punish positive initiative. When asked to present them my honor, I myself have refused, even been a whistle-blower more than once, and demand justice for myself and others. I’ve earned my stripes, proud of them, and continue on.
We in the free encryption community choose to promote your freedom and privacy. Many of us and others also further stand to fight corruption at all layers of government because official misbehavior still might be self-rewarding by devious and constitutionally illegal methods.
Demanding trust of those that want absolute power is a tip that they should not have it ... Are you listening? ... You know who you are.