Forwarded From: Paul Boehm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Originally from: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org & www.quintessenz.at
EFA has obtained access to an uncensored copy of the "Review of Policy
relating to Encryption Technologies" (the Walsh Report) and this has now
been released online at:
http://www.efa.org.au/Issues/Crypto/Walsh/index.htm The originally
censored parts are highlighted in red.
The story behind this is a rather comical example of bureaucratic
incompetence. Revisiting a little history, the report was prepared in
late 1996 by Gerard Walsh, former deputy director of the Australian
Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). The report had been
commissioned by the Attorney-General's Department in an attempt to open up
the cryptography debate in Australia. It was intended to be released
publicly and was sent to the government printer early in 1997. However,
distribution was stopped, allegedly at a very high (i.e. political) level.
EFA got wind of this and applied for its release under FOI in March 1997.
This was rejected for law enforcement, public safety and national security
reasons. We persisted, and eventually obtained a censored copy in June
1997, with the allegedly sensitive portions whited out. The report was
released on the EFA website, and in the subsequent media coverage the
department claimed that the report was never intended to be made public, a
claim that is clearly at odds with Gerard Walsh's understanding of the
objectives, as is obvious from his foreword to the report.
It has now come to light that the Australian Government Publishing
Service, which printed the report, lodged "deposit copies" with certain
major libraries. This is a standard practice with all Australian
government reports that are intended for public distribution. .... To
this day, the report remains officially unreleased, except for the
censored FOI version. Interestingly, several Australian government sites
now link to the report on the EFA website.
Quite possibly, this situation would have remained unchanged, except for
an alert university student who recently stumbled across an unexpurgated
copy of the report, gathering dust in the State Library in Hobart. The
uncensored version has now replaced the censored report at the original
The irony of this tale is that the allegedly sensitive parts of the
report, which were meant to be hidden from public gaze, are now
dramatically highlighted. The censored sections provide a unique insight
into the bureaucratic and political paranoia about cryptography, such that
censorship was deemed to be an appropriate response. The official case
for strict crypto controls is now greatly weakened, because much of the
censored material consists of unpalatable truths that the administration
would prefer to be covered up, even though the information may already be
known, or at least strongly suspected, in the crypto community.
This apparent unwillingness to admit the truth is an appalling indictment
on those responsible for censoring the report. It is indicative of a
bureaucracy more anxious to avoid embarrassment and criticism than adhere
to open government principles and encourage policy debate. Even worse,
the censorship was performed under the mantra of law enforcement and
national security, a chilling example of Orwellian group-think.
There are also some controversial recommendations in the report that
demand attention, since they could well be still on the current policy
agenda, in Australia or elsewhere. Examples are proposals for legalised
hacking by agencies, legalised trap-doors in proprietary software, and
protection from disclosure of the methods used by agencies to obtain
encrypted information, an apparent endorsement of rubber- hose
On top of all this is the matter of allegedly sensitive material being
released to public libraries. It would seem that a number of copies have
been gathering dust now for at least a year. So far the sky hasn't
fallen, nor has the country succumbed to rampant threats to national
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Received on Thu Mar 11 17:03:17 1999