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Date: 1999-01-18 Wenn Geheimdienste publizieren

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Der sogenannte "Walsh"-Report zum Thema
Kryptoregelegung verfasst vom gleichnamigen australischen
Geheimdienst/vize/chef, wurde für eine Veröffentlichung 1996
geplant, dann blitzartig zurückgezogen, von Electronic
Frontiers Australia vermittels Freedom of Information Act
gerichtlich angemahnt & im Netze publiziert. In zensurierter
Form, so stellt sich jetzt heraus, nachdem ein Student eines
der Originale von 96 in einer öffentlichen Bibliothek gefunden
hat. Die peinlichen Passagen sind in der "Editio Secunda
Walshii" nunmehr knallrot markiert.
Alles in allem ein ziemlich komisches Beispiel bürokratischer
Inkompetenz, meint Greg Taylor von EFA.

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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: 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 URL.

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 code-breaking.

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 security.
relayed by &

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edited by Harkank
published on: 1999-01-18
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