Sink the Clipper Chip

Columnist William Safire attacked the Clipper Chip in the February 14, 1994, New York Times ("Sink the Clipper Chip").

Safire criticized law enforcement and intelligence officials for using outdated thinking towards new technology. Safire pointed out that the proposal would miss its target because "no self-respecting vice overlord or terrorist or local drug-runner would buy or use clipper-chipped American telecommunications equipment."

Safire criticized the proposal for violating privacy: "In effect, its proposal demands we turn over to Washington a duplicate set of keys to our homes, formerly our castles, where not even the king in olden times could go."

Safire continued:

The "clipper chip" --- aptly named, as it clips the wings of individual liberty --- would encode, for Federal perusal whenever a judge rubber-stamped a warrant, everything we say on a phone, everything we write on a computer, every order we give to a shopping network or bank or 800 or 900 number, every electronic note we leave our spouses or dictate to our personal-digit-assistant genies.

Add to that stack of intimate data the medical information derived from the national "health security card" Mr. Clinton proposes we all carry. Combine it with the travel, shopping and credit data available from all our plastic cards, along with psychological and student test scores. Throw in the confidential tax returns, sealed divorce proceedings, welfare records, field investigations for job applications, raw files and C.I.A. dossiers available to the Feds, and you have the individual citizen standing naked to the nosy bureaucrat.