The right is trying a variation of “Clinton did it” to divert from the NSA illegal wiretapping scandal. In a coordinated effort, they are trying to use the Clinton administration Clipper Chip proposal to justify Bush’s illegal, warrantless NSA spying on Americans, so it’s a good time to catch up on what the Clipper Chip was.
The Clipper Chip was an attempt by the Clinton Administration to bring encryption into wide use. Encryption is eletronically scrambling e-mail messages and phone calls so no one can eavesdrop. The communications are scrambled on one end and descrambled on the other, so in between anyone who taps in only sees or hears scrambled gibberish. The Clipper Chip would be installed in phones and computers.
It is important to understand that right now anyone can listen in on any call or e-mail that is not encrypted. Currently you have to be quite knowledgable and go to some trouble if you want your calls and e-mails encrypted. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you can be sure that your calls and e-mails are not encrypted and anyone can listen in.
So, keeping in mind that Bush has ordered the NSA to listen in on calls and e-mails, and that Clipper was an effort to get calls and e-mails scrambled so no one could listen in, here is what the right-wingers are saying about it now:
White House Press Briefing, Jan. 19,
Q: Scott, I have a two-part question. Apparently, no one in the White House will challenge Al Gore with now public information that he led the Clinton administration’s clipper chip project back in the 1990s to effectively tap every phone, fax machine and computer in the country. And my question: Isn’t that worth pointing out to the American people, after he accused President Bush of breaking the law and violating the Constitution by —
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you just did. This is an administration that is forward-looking, Les. We’re focused on the priorities of the American people.
Q: Well, how about Gore? You mean you’re going to say nothing about Gore and the clipper chip project?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you already have. No, I’m not going to get into that.
Anyone remember the Clipper Chip? Many do, and it’s surprising that some in the mainstream media haven’t brought up the topic. For those of you who don’t recall, back in 1993 the Internet was just beginning to be used widely by the public and the Clinton Administration believed that some communications might not be susceptible to government interception. Their solution was the endorsement of the mandatory installation of the little gadget into computers, cell phones and fax machines. [emphasis added]
But while Gore denounced the selective and limited use of wiretaps by law enforcement officials on calls generated by suspected foreign terrorists, he had no problem – just a decade ago – calling for wholesale, mandatory surveillance on the phone calls and secure computer communications of every single American.
In fact, beginning in 1993, he ran the “Clipper chip” project for the Clinton administration that would have done just that – bug every phone, computer and fax machine in America.
The Clipper Project was to implant a small chip in every telephone which would enable NSA to monitor calls without a court order.
Despite the fact that the president acted to protect Americans from more 9/11’s, and was well within his rights to do so, when as vice president, Gore once planned to allow the feds to shatter the Constitution by secretly bugging the phones of all Americans and then lied about it.
Like I said, ANYONE can listen in now, and Bush has ordered the government to do just that. You don’t need to install anything in phones or computers to listen in on e-mail, you just do it. If Clinton and Gore wanted to listen in our calls they could have just DONE it (they didn’t, Bush did) without installing anything. The idea that Clinton was trying to install a chip that lets the NSA listen in – when anyone could already listen in – should set your alarm bells off.
John Ashcroft led the fight against the Clipper Chip, and then later, under John Ashcroft, the NSA started listening in on our calls and e-mails. They were able to do this BECAUSE there was no Clipper Chip installed.
So don’t be fooled by this. Don’t be misdirected. See the Forest. We know who is and who is not breaking the law. We know who is and who was not illegally listening in on calls and e-mails.