Department of Justice
EMBARGOED FOR 3 P.M. RELEASE                                   AG 
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 1994                           (202) 616-2771
Attorney General Janet Reno today announced selection of the two 
U.S. Government entities that will hold the escrowed key 
components for encryption using the key escrow encryption method. 
At the same time, the Attorney General made public procedures 
under which encryption key components will be released to 
government agencies for decrypting communications subject to 
lawful wiretaps.
Key Escrow Encryption (formerly referred to as Clipper Chip ) 
strikes an excellent balance between protection of communications 
privacy and protection of society. It permits the use in 
commercial telecommunications products of chips that provide 
extremely strong encryption, but can be decrypted, when necessary, 
by government agencies conducting legally authorized wiretaps. 
Decryption is accomplished by use of keys--80-bit binary numbers--
that are unique to each individual encryption chip. Each unique 
key is in turn split into two components, which must be recombined 
in order to decrypt communications. Knowing one component does not 
make decryption any more feasible than not knowing either one.
The two escrow agents are the National Institute of Standards and 
Technology (NIST), a part of the Department of Commerce, and the 
Automated Systems Division of the Department of the Treasury. The 
two escrow agents were chosen because of their abilities to 
safeguard sensitive information, while at the same time being able 
to respond in a timely fashion when wiretaps encounter encrypted 
communications. In addition, NIST is responsible for establishing 
standards for protection of sensitive, unclassified information in 
Federal computer systems.
The escrow agents will act under strict procedures, which are 
being made public today, that will ensure the security of the key 
components and govern their release for use in conjunction with 
lawful wiretaps. They will be responsible for holding the key 
components: for each chip, one agent will hold one of the key 
components, and the second agent will hold the other. Neither will 
release a key component, except to a government agency with a 
requirement to obtain it in connection with a lawfully authorized 
wiretap. The system does not change the rules under which 
government agencies are authorized to conduct wiretaps.
When an authorized government agency encounters suspected key-
escrow encryption, a written request will have to be submitted to 
the two escrow agents. The request will, among other things, have 
to identify the responsible agency and the individuals involved; 
certify that the agency is involved in a lawfully authorized 
wiretap; specify the wiretap's source of authorization and its 
duration; and specify the serial number of the key-escrow 
encryption chip being used. In every case, an attorney involved in 
the investigation will have to provide the escrow agents assurance 
that a validly authorized wiretap is being conducted.
Upon receipt of a proper request, the escrow agents will transmit 
their respective key components to the appropriate agency. The 
components will be combined within a decrypt device, which only 
then will be able to decrypt communications protected by key-
escrow encryption. When the wiretap authorization ends, the device 
s ability to decrypt communications using that particular chip 
will also be ended.
The Department of Justice will, at the various stages of the 
process, take steps to monitor compliance with the procedures.

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