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Natsios Young Architects

16 December 2007

Date:	Fri, 14 Dec 2007 18:42:41 -0800
From:	Declan McCullagh <declan[at]>
To:	politech[at]
Subject: [Politech] Judge rules defendant can't be forced to divulge PGP
	passphrase [priv]

I haven't been very prolific with Politech recently, in part because I'm 
  trying to send out only more important items rather than routine news 
stories. This one meets the importance test.

Text of article:

First three grafs:

   A federal judge in Vermont has ruled that prosecutors can't force a
   criminal defendant accused of having illegal images on his hard drive
   to divulge his PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) passphrase.

   U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Niedermeier ruled that a man charged with
   transporting child pornography on his laptop across the Canadian
   border has a Fifth Amendment right not to turn over the
   passphrase to prosecutors. The Fifth Amendment protects the right
   to avoid self-incrimination.

   Niedermeier tossed out a grand jury's subpoena that directed Sebastien
   Boucher to provide "any passwords" used with the Alienware
   laptop. "Compelling Boucher to enter the password forces him to
   produce evidence that could be used to incriminate him," the judge
   wrote in an order dated November 29 that went unnoticed until this
   week. "Producing the password, as if it were a key to a locked
   container, forces Boucher to produce the contents of his laptop."

Link to court opinion:

Orin Kerr's this-ruling-is-wrong post:

Link to Michael Froomkin's old law review article touching on this:


See also Bruce Schneier's Cryptogram of December 15, 2007, which reports on the increasing demands of governments for passwords and phrases: How to Secure Your Computer, Disks, and Portable Drives