Encrypted testimony -- Starr may crack Clinton, but at least hackers won't

President Bill Clinton's grand jury testimony Monday -- the first ever by a sitting U.S.

President Bill Clinton's grand jury testimony Monday -- the first ever by a sitting U.S. president -- will be protected from eavesdroppers by sophisticated encryption technology.

But like much else in the saga of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation into possible wrongdoing by Clinton, the details are being kept under wraps. Audio and video of Clinton's testimony will be delivered from the White House Map Room, where cameras will be set up, to the federal courthouse about a mile away, according to a statement from White House officials.

The White House Communications Agency will set up the one-way, live, encrypted, closed-circuit transmission, according to White House officials. The strategy for scrambling the audio and video of Clinton's testimony isn't likely to include any out-of-the-ordinary steps, but the encryption software tool itself will almost certainly be military-grade, according to one expert.

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"What they'll probably do is use link encrypters," which are tools that corporations can buy to scramble broadcasts of videoconference meetings, predicted Tim Matthews, director of product marketing at encryption software maker RSA Data Security Inc. The link encrypters are used to scramble the transmission at its starting point and unscramble it at its destination, Matthews said.

But the software used to scramble the transmission will most likely deploy a much stronger encryption algorithm than what is commercially available, he said.

"As far as the strength of the encryption, that depends upon the length of the key," Matthews said. Military-grade encryption -- the kind used to protect sensitive government data -- uses de-scrambling keys with so many digits that it could take even the most sophisticated crackers months or even years to decode them, he said.

"I'm guessing that whatever encryption used for this would be extremely difficult to crack," Matthews said.

Encrypting voice and video is not more difficult than encrypting data, but it requires more "horsepower," since audio and video contain so many more bits than data, he added.

The White House declined to provide further details about the transmission.


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