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Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion, First Edition by Harry Lewis, Ken Ledeen, Hal Abelson

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Chapter 5Secret Bits

How Codes Became Unbreakable

Encryption in the Hands of Terrorists, and Everyone Else

September 13, 2001. Fires were still smoldering in the wreckage of the World Trade Center when Judd Gregg of New Hampshire rose to tell the Senate what had to happen. He recalled the warnings issued by the FBI years before the country had been attacked: the FBI's most serious problem was "the encryption capability of the people who have an intention to hurt America." "It used to be," the senator went on, "that we had the capability to break most codes because of our sophistication." No more. "The technology has outstripped the code breakers," he warned. Even civil libertarian cryptographer Phil Zimmermann, whose encryption software appeared ...

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