T-Shirts To Protest Secrecy

Could excessive government secrecy be the new engine of economic growth? No. But efforts by citizens to challenge what they regard as improper secrecy are generating an impressive array of new goods and services. The latest entry is a T-shirt which features an algorithm that is used to encrypt electronic communications printed on the front. This algorithm, known as RSA and used in the popular Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption program, is considered by the government to be a "munition" and subject to export controls. According to an advertisement on the Internet (http://colossus.net/wepinsto/wshome.html): "Now you can wear a T-shirt that has been classified as a munition by the U.S. Generation. That's right! The U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) makes exporting cryptographic materials illegal..." "If you wear the munitions T-shirt where a non-U.S./Canadian citizen can see it, even if it is inside the U.S., you have just exported cryptographic material (which is already freely available outside the U.S.) and have become a criminal in the eyes of the U.S. Government. Now you too can become an international arms dealer for the price of a T-shirt... If you get arrested for wearing the munitions T-shirt, we'll refund your purchase price." "Wearing the T-shirt is an act of civil disobedience in the finest tradition of freedom-loving individuals," according to the sales pitch. Whether it is an act of civil disobedience or a juvenile prank depends on one's point of view. But what is most noteworthy here is the willful defiance of official information security policies that are perceived to be irrational. After years of abuse, government claims concerning "national security" command less and less respect. For a growing number of people, anything goes -- including deliberately confrontational efforts like this one. Another new anti-secrecy clothing item is the Groom Lake T-shirt, featuring a handsome but unofficial logo for the unacknowledged military facility near Groom Lake, Nevada. Display of the logo in appropriate circumstances has been known to elicit substantive reactions from current and former Groom Lake workers, not to mention intense X-phile types. For a free catalog describing this and related items, contact the Area 51 Research Center, PO Box 448, Rachel, NV 89001 or

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